Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Wet Coast: Swampy Yards & Big Decisions

I have a lot of catching up to do with some of my fall chores! I'm trying out some new things & working on others, but this month, we've been under an almost constant rain cloud & there are damaged areas now starting to show.

Firstly - my swamped front yard.


This is our second winter in the new house & last year, the swamped part of the yard was off to the far left... Now, our septic field in in the front yard (the pipes ending just before the flower bed) & has been in place on the property for over 10 years - without being used & with having the field on top kept clear of trees, shrubs & the like.

We are fearing the worst this year. We inspected the distribution box coming out of the holding tank & separating off into 8 pipes (our community does not have a sewage treatment plant; it's either the traditional septic field or the even older, straight flush into the ocean). We saw that over the years, the distribution box had settled a bit uneven & the waste water was not flowing down the center pipes. We fixed that & now look...

 We aren't too sure if it's the many inches of rain we've had fall in a very short period of time, but my husband has decided that my beautiful brick edging on my re-vamped lily bed, are stopping the natural flow of the water.
In June, my lily bed looked like this (on the left) & by the middle of July, I had cleaned it up & laid brick along the edge (on the right).
This is what my flower bed looks like now - trenched & soggy & probably drowning my beautiful Oriental & Asiatic lilies & daylilies that I've been collecting. I know I've also lost some tiger lilies, but since they were just little bulbs that I shoved in the ground all summer long, they weren't yet true plants. All the crocus & daffodils naturalized in the yard in front of the bed are definately lost as they've been under water for almost 3 weeks now... what a shame!

So, the big garden project for next spring is: dig up all my lilies & bulbs & plants (torch lily, mullien, wandering onions, sedum...), remove all 230 bricks, put the extra dirt into buckets & find a new bed for my plants. I'm not sure where on the property I want to put them! This is going to be a very tough decision & I will have a couple of months to plan it out - this dilemma doesn't fit into my 5-year landscaping plan. The solution that we've come up with (the one that doesn't involve $15,000 & a new septic field) is to plant 3 gunnera plants in small mounds where the lily bed is now.


This is a shot of my mom in 2007 when my folks were out for a visit. Gunnera plants are such an interesting plant - monsters with structure & the potential to overwhelm the yard. One must not be a timid gardener around these plants!

But, that's not the only massive garden structural project in the works for next spring - unfortunately...

My purple herb garden is also swamped:


This is another one of my very first flower beds created on the property & every year I am rewarded with lavender, rosemary, thyme, chives, anise hyssop, mullien & sedum that seem to enjoy being neglected except for the occational session of buttercup irradication.

But there is something wrong now & we have decided that along with removing the entire lily bed, we are going to have to make my purple herb garden a raised garden. This should be extremely interesting as this bed is about 15 feet long! I might have to make it into 2 beds - but they need to be at least 18 inches deep & they aren't all that wide - maybe 1 1/2 feet, but that means a lot of soil. A lot...

Under all that water is my lovage plant. An excellent savory herb for soups or stews (reminiscent of celery with a bite) & it grows to be over 6 feet tall in my mother's garden. Here, I'm lucky to see it grow over 1 foot - but that's because I think I have it in the wrong spot - I'll be lucky if it returns next year after this submertion in water.

Our last (sic) bit of concern is our short-cut path that cuts across the yard. It too is swamped & actually looks like a swamp:

We had noticed there was patches of this strange looking 'grass' & it was near impossible to kill. We tried digging it out (which left craters in the yard), we tried covering it with buckets to kill it (but buckets decorating the yard isn't too attractive), we tried mowing it down on a regular basis (but that just gave us clumps of crew-cuts about the yard). They are the only spark of green in our otherwise dormant yard at this time of year. The ground is no longer safe to walk on either! It's like soggy pudding & feels like it's floating on top of all the water soaking down...

I'm not sure digging little drainage ditches is going to be much help as that removes any chance of the water naturally finding it's way out. I had hoped that the grass would grow in that part of the yard (it wasn't too healthy at the beginning of the year) & that the lily bed would take off & produce monster daylilies to also help remove the surplus water.

Or maybe this is what we are going to have to live with each winter. It at least doesn't have a questionable smell. For that I'm grateful, although every once in a while there is an oily sheen to the water & when I walked by the other day during a brief stop in the rain, there was a tell-tale odour of rotting leaves/grass or soil.

Well, just when I thought my gardening to-do list was cleared for a few months, I've had to start a new one for work beginning in February!