Creation of a Desert Alpine Garden in Texas

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Manfroni
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Joined: 2011-06-02
Creation of a Desert Alpine Garden in Texas

Here we go! We finally started to tackle the rock garden project! This is the house we bought... until recently we had to stripe off the paint with a sander from all the panels on the front side of the house, and it really wore us out. As you can see, the striping is not completely finished, but we finally decided we would hire somebody to do the final sanding, this requiring a more professional hand...

Now the first step is to consider all the past, present, and future problems that may arise with building a berm. We found out that the main problem with berms is that they allow water to drain both to the front and to the back of them. For this reason, we had to create a french draining system that would convey the water from the foundation of the house back to the street. Me (and my back) volunteered to take care of the problem...






This digging took about three days, and I still feel pain!!! ahah!

Then we considered making it an easy job by laying those gravel-less french draining pipes named "EZ-Flow" that we found at the Home Depot. Tomorrow we will level the pipes to make sure the water will drain off to the street, and then we will proceed with calling the first truck load of gravel, sand and boulders!!!! I used the soil that we dug out of the drains to make a base-layer for the berm (which would actually save me money on the amount of sand I will have to purchase later!)

More pictures to come very soon!

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

It's looking good, Manfroni!  Looks like a very nice house, that will be enhanced by an interesting yard!  Looking forward to the next steps. 

I don't envy all the effort but when the going gets tough, just think of all the neat stuff you'll be able to grow!  :)

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

I just learned about that EZ-flow product last week.  It is a HUGE time and money saver, and if it ever needs to be changed or added to, this system makes it a whole lot easier.  Unfortunately, we don't carry at the Minnesota Home Depots. Maybe it will be coming in the future. 

You sure work fast, Rino!  (Ahh, to be young again...)  Some cities here in Minnesota don't allow a drain directly into the street.  Others do.  I too am looking forward to your future installments on the forum. 

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Hoy
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Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

How did you cross those steps, Manfroni? Was it possible to dig under them?

Btw I need to dig a deep hole later this summer. Do you want the job ;)

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Manfroni
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Joined: 2011-06-02

Hoy wrote:

How did you cross those steps, Manfroni? Was it possible to dig under them?

Btw I need to dig a deep hole later this summer. Do you want the job ;)

I had to use a garden spade to dig under the steps. It was possible to dig under them, but I had to make a hole that was about 2 feet deep to actually dig under the concrete. As for the second question, my answer is NOOOOO! ahah! I can't bear doing this digging again!!! I think I will not do this anymore for a very long time, if not years!

We finished to grade the draining pipes and now they drain water wonderfully! I am still waiting for the weed fabric to be delivered this week. When I will receive it, I will use it to cover the pipes and then we will be able to fill the trenches with gravel.

Meanwhile, I leveled all the ground we piled up while digging the trench and I created a base for the berm.

And today, I went to the Home Depot and I purchased the parts I need to create the fountain I will integrate within the rock garden! I bought a hard pond liner that I will top with a grill, which will further be topped with rocks and gravel to create a bottom-less fountain! It will look awesome, I promise! I also bought the pump and the plumbing necessary.

I know, we do not have a truck, but my convertible was just right... even though people were laughing at me down the street on my way home from the Home Depot!!!

Rino, zone 7/8a Dallas TX, rainfall 38 inch or 1 meter per year (highest rainfall in May with 5.29in/134mm, March with 4.34in/110mm and October with 4.21in/107mm), mild winters with 1-2 days of snow (Record low -1F/-18C) and hot, semi-humid summers (Reco

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

I thought the whole idea of the EZ-flow tiling is that gravel is NOT needed.  Do you really get that much rainfall in Dallas?

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Manfroni wrote:

Hoy wrote:

How did you cross those steps, Manfroni? Was it possible to dig under them?

Btw I need to dig a deep hole later this summer. Do you want the job ;)

I had to use a garden spade to dig under the steps. It was possible to dig under them, but I had to make a hole that was about 2 feet deep to actually dig under the concrete. As for the second question, my answer is NOOOOO! ahah! I can't bear doing this digging again!!! I think I will not do this anymore for a very long time, if not years!

We finished to grade the draining pipes and now they drain water wonderfully! I am still waiting for the weed fabric to be delivered this week. When I will receive it, I will use it to cover the pipes and then we will be able to fill the trenches with gravel.

I am sorry you don't want the job! I really need a handyman ;D

How about tree roots interfering with the drain pipe? I know of experience that tree roots can be very aggressive and damage pipes in a short time by growing thru (small draining) holes and blocking the water stream.

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Manfroni
Manfroni's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2011-06-02

Ok the statement gravel-less made by ez-flow is per se misleading. the fact is that you actually do not need gravel, but the instructions say to fill the trench  :'(with garden soil. Garden soil is much more draining than any clay soil and therefore it drives water toward the trench where the pipes are located. By filling the trench with the same clay soil, water would not even be able to reach the pipes because this soil we have is horrible, we tried to fill a hole with water and it filled like it was a lined pond, and the water stayed there at the same level for the entire day. Then when it dries in this heat it becomes as hard as a rock.
E-z flow clairly states in the instructions to either use very well-draining soil to cover the pipes, or rely on gravel. Since we are getting lots of gravel for the front yard from the local quarry, a few more cubic yards would save on the freight and we will also have a quantity discount.

As for the roots, we really have cut all the big trees here, so there should not be a big problem with cloogging roots. If ever that happens, there are tools that are specifically designed to unclog draining pipes. My biggest concern is really not roots, but clay soil infiltrating through the pipes and critters nesting in them.

Rino, zone 7/8a Dallas TX, rainfall 38 inch or 1 meter per year (highest rainfall in May with 5.29in/134mm, March with 4.34in/110mm and October with 4.21in/107mm), mild winters with 1-2 days of snow (Record low -1F/-18C) and hot, semi-humid summers (Reco

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

Then using gravel is a wise decision. :)

Tree roots are specially problematic in septic system pipes, where constant moisture and nutrients attract and encourage growth of opportunistic roots.  Assuming Rino's drain pipe has a constant grade downward that would not pool water underground, I don't think tree roots would ever become a nuisance.

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

RickR wrote:

Then using gravel is a wise decision. :)

Tree roots are specially problematic in septic system pipes, where constant moisture and nutrients attract and encourage growth of opportunistic roots.  Assuming Rino's drain pipe has a constant grade downward that would not pool water underground, I don't think tree roots would ever become a nuisance.

If you say so, Rick! Here drain pipes often are conducting water ;)

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Manfroni
Manfroni's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2011-06-02

Well, today we continued with building some more basics for the berm! We dug the hole for the pond (actually fountain... or better... "Natural spring water fountain representation," and we started to build the water supply plumbing that will connect the fountain to the water line. This also includes a system that automatically refills the water inside the pond whenever it goes lower than a certain level.

And this is Todd digging under the walkway to make room for the garden plumbing...

Quote:

If you say so, Rick! Here drain pipes often are conducting water ;)

Drainage pipes do not contain water 24/7. They contain water only when it rains and then they let it drain out to the street, or wherever the water is allowed to go. Tree roots are a big problem for household plumbing that connects the city water line to the house. If underground household plumbing leaks, trees would be bound to grow toward where there is a constant supply of water, thus growing inside the tube and breaking it. Because regular water pipes also contain water inside of them technically all the time, they also have the added problem of breaking if exposed to freezing temperatures in the winter, when the water turns into ice and expands its volume until it breaks the pipe.

These problems are related to french draining pipes to a significantily lower level of risk.

Rino, zone 7/8a Dallas TX, rainfall 38 inch or 1 meter per year (highest rainfall in May with 5.29in/134mm, March with 4.34in/110mm and October with 4.21in/107mm), mild winters with 1-2 days of snow (Record low -1F/-18C) and hot, semi-humid summers (Reco

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