I’m not one to reward myself with instant gratification very often but when it comes to the recent transformation to our yard, I have no regrets.
If you read the last blog then you know about our erosion problem on the south and west sides of our lot. After struggling unsuccessfully with this problem for over 18 months, we finally solicited the help of a local landscaping company, who provided both the plan and execution of a pretty fabulous makeover. I won’t lie – watching this all transpire over the course of 36 hours – was pretty thrilling. Kind of made me feel like we were on an episode of Extreme Makeover.
The landscaper arrived on a Friday morning with a tractor-trailer full of heavy equipment that does the heavy work of twenty men in one quarter the time. Within a few hours they dug the south and west slope of our yard, spread a thick bed of compost material, and tilled it all into our rock hard yard. Afterward, my husband and I helped rake a few thousand square feet of bed surface smooth. (This, btw, qualifies as a full aerobic workout.)
By afternoon, we had eliminated all the sloped turf areas of our yard and made way for an enormous plant bed and rock terrace which would include an assortment of drought tolerant trees, plants and shrubs – almost all of which are native to North Carolina.
The landscaper showed up bright and early the next morning, as did eight teenage boys from my son’s soccer team. (Thanks GCUF United!) The boys, along with my husband and me, worked steadily under the direction of the landscaper, putting over 100 plants in the ground and building a lovely rock terrace using leftover rock from the construction of our home.
We paid the boys the going rate for teenage labor, plus a lot of pizza and hydration. In return we got several hours of hard work, right up until digestion impaired their ability to listen or obey. It was good to see these “city boys” get something other than soccer field dirt beneath their fingernails. (Note to parents: This is actually a pretty good idea for a school or team fundraiser. I know a lot of parents would gladly pay to have a few hours of young labor at their disposal and still benefit the school club or team.)
By 3PM, we were all exhausted, including my daughter who dutifully carried water to the boys throughout the day. Best of all, the landscaping looked amazing!
Rock Terrace that Incorporates Rain Garden Principles
The crown jewel of this makeover is a rock terrace that addressed our drainage problem. This area was already badly eroded, so the landscaper decided to work with the existing contours to build a staggered terrace to slow down the velocity of water, allowing more to seep into the soil before reaching the storm drain. Louisiana Irises, ornamental grasses, and other plant material accent the area. We chose these plants because they tolerate wet as well as dry conditions.
This is all typical of a rain garden, which is a functional planted area that allows rainwater from areas like roofs, driveways, walkways, and compacted lawn areas the opportunity to be absorbed into the ground. Our terrace isn’t exactly a rain garden, which is typically planted on a flat or perhaps slightly depressed area of a lawn, but it applies all the same principles, including drought/rain tolerant native plants to help capture excessive runoff and prevent erosion and storm water pollution.
Keeping it Alive
The plants (all 100+ of them) will require almost daily watering for the next several weeks but after that the entire area will be pretty much maintenance free, save the occasional mulching and weeding. This, of course, is where we’ve failed miserably in the past. But there’s something very motivating about laying out a lot of money for plants all at once that ups your dedication to their survival.
To date, we’ve not lost a single plant. I’ve come up with all kinds of ways to multi-task while accomplishing this daily task. I weed. I do plyometrics. I make phone calls. Sometimes I enjoy the occasional adult beverage with a friendly neighbor, who can attest to our dedication. Most of them have paused on their evening walks or morning commutes to complement the transformation. According to a few, we’ve improved the looks of entire neighborhood.
The landscaping as even helped us earn some LEED credits because we eliminated the use of turf (grass) on sloped areas, reduced our irrigation demand, and used 80% drought tolerant plants.
Most important, we’re enjoying our yard a lot more. We look forward to watching the area thrive, offering us little seasonal bursts of color. My sincere thanks to our friends who loaned us their kids for a day, and our neighbors for all the nice compliments.