Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's not a water slide for the ducks

Today I laid the 110th piece of sod on the top half of the swale I dug to give the neighborhood storm runoff a direct route to the lake, rather than the "natural" route over our gardens in the back yard.

On the far side of the swale, I'm extending the sod to the existing grass, covering some bare spots that our contractor created while grading to assure drainage away from the house.  He got things pretty well smoothed out and contoured when the worst rains in decades hit our area and washed most of the loose soil on the slope down over the gardens.

On the near side of the swale, we're leaving the ground bare until the deck is replaced in three weeks.  Kathy's going to cover that bare spot with straw to help deal with the slipperiness of the clay when even a little water gets onto it.

I was driving home about a month ago when one of those epic rains hit around lunch time, and I got to our street just as the worst had passed by, so I saw the water run off the higher properties in sheets, across the street, and onto my front lawn.  On the right side, the sheets of water ran over my two curved daylily beds and on down the hill, carving a scale model of some lovely canyon into the bare soil that covered a recently-buried extension of the rain gutter system.

Another big storm at the end of June readjusted my landscaping priorities.  I was going to try to get the sea of mud off the grass in the back yard until that rain showed me the folly of attempting any cleanup before taking care of the source of all the mess.

So I spent three or four work sessions with my spade and carved out a curved depression about 33 inches wide.  We had a palette of sod -- 100 pieces -- delivered last Thursday morning, moved it to the big bare spot behind the house and watered it well as I fussed over fine-tuning the contours where the swale would make a slight S-curve.  We started to lay in the pieces on Saturday and Sunday, took Monday off because of killer heat, and finished the 100 pieces yesterday afternoon when the temperature and humidity both dropped in the afternoon.

This morning I drove the two miles to the nursery and bought 10 more pieces.  That's about the capacity of the trunk of my car, and I wouldn't want to put much more weight in there anyway, because they were dripping wet from irrigation.  Before I went there, I used my straight-edged shovel to scrape off enough dirt in my work area so the sod pieces would have their outer edges nestled into the existing lawn without sticking above the soil level and thereby drying out.  I dug and scraped for an hour, cooled off inside for a while, put on a dry tee shirt, and picked up the sod.  Because of the need to cut various pieces to fit, it took another hour to set in the ten pieces and then more time to set up a sprinkler for maximum coverage.  In short, it was a morning's work to finish the far edge of the swale with ten pieces of sod.

I can lay down about 20 pieces in an hour if there is not much cutting to do, but only 10 pieces if I have to make every piece fit into the "puzzle" of the previous work session.

The top part will require an extension of about twelve feet after I lay sod onto the lower half of the swale, but for now I've got the top even with the bare spot beyond it, so water will run onto and not around the grassy beginning of the "water slide" for ducks.

Tonight before sunset I'll go out and improve the slope and contour of the lower part so that I'll be ready to lay more sod in the morning if it doesn't rain.

At the moment I'm running a slow drip hose on my new Redbud trees on a berm on the right side.  The berm holds moisture pretty well, but the trees are looking stressed.  I should have done the drip line whether they seemed to need it or not.  That's my self-indictment of the day and I'm sticking to it.

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