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next steps to help this problem area?

Posted by bigmoof 9 CA, Sunset zone 15 (My Page) on
Sun, Jun 24, 12 at 1:25

hi! i just moved to a new home and the whole front yard was previously used for parking! so, i immediately reclaimed an asphalt driveway and parking strip in the front of my house for planting. (see photo: i've circled the two areas i'm referring to.) it was a huge job to remove the top surfaces of the two areas. i had about 3 to 5 inches of whatever was on the top hauled away, and then i had someone loosen what was remaining to about 1 to 1.5 feet down. but the soil is still really packed hard under the newly dug up soil. and now... well, i don't know what to do next! my gut instinct is to have someone haul away another 1 to 2 feet of the crud that is still there, "fluff up" what remains underneath when the crud is gone, and then bring fresh soil in. the result would be 50% of whatever the compacted stuff is and 50% of new soil or amendment. then mix it together well. or should i first do a soil test of what is there now before doing anything else? it looks nasty to me now: subsoil, perhaps?? also, if i have soil brought in, will i be able to grow california native plants? i've heard that california natives don't like soil that is not, um, native. or should i try to "match" the same soil that is in the neighborhood? ... find similar soil and have it brought in to create a more native-friendly site? help please!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

You might want to invest in a soil test first to see if you really need to go to the expense and bother of removing more soil.
front yard

I have natives and other drought tolerant plants.
whatzgrowinon.blogspot.com

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil testing


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

  • Posted by bigmoof 9 CA, Sunset zone 15 (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 24, 12 at 15:06

thanks for the advice! i will do the soil test before beginning anything else. if the soil is OK, should i be concerned about the compressed soil underneath since these were two areas where cars were parked? or will that just determine which plants i should choose for the location?

you have such large, beautiful plants. ...an inspiration!


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

  • Posted by hoovb z9 Southern CA (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 24, 12 at 18:32

If the soil drains okay, don't worry about compression. Test by digging a hole and filling it with water, letting it drain empty, then filling it again and seeing how long the second filling takes to empty. If it empties within a couple of hours, the plant roots will be fine.

Most plant roots are in the top 12" of soil, and the majority of that in the top view inches.

You can also take advantage of soil mixed in with gravel--many plants like and want that type of situation, including some CA natives.


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

Your house is beautiful. Congratulations. I can't wait to see it planted- please post photos.


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

  • Posted by wcgypsy 10 / Sunset 23 (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 24, 12 at 21:57

I agree! Very nice structural 'bones' and the surrounding trees in the background. Unusual to see something that looks good even bare without 'dressing up'. A trim of natives and grasses should be the clincher.....


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

  • Posted by bigmoof 9 CA, Sunset zone 15 (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 25, 12 at 18:57

what wonderful comments from you all about the house! wow. i'm planning on moving the entrance gate to the front and moving the fence to the left of the garage a few feet. the front of the property looks like a fortress to me right now (although taking all that asphalt out helped a lot). i've included a photo here that i did in Photoshop. it is my vision OF HOW THE NEW STRUCTURE COULD LOOK. although all the plants will be very different (natives, etc.) - it helps me visualize what will look good there! WELL, the fence issue is for another forum...

i ordered the ph kit recommended on the website. so thanks, lgteacher! and i'll do the draining exercise this weekend.

ABOUT IRRIGATION. i may be doing it myself. is there a better forum for discussing irrigation?? but more importantly, people talk about drip as being the answer to all our irrigation problems. so on drip, how do you determine how long and how much for each plant? can i find that info online somewhere? any tips about irrigation are welcome!


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

This is MUCH more inviting, and oddly, it looks like it will provide more privacy.

People have very strong opinions on irrigation systems. I hate them all, as my name indicates. I want to move to England where I will never ever have to adjust a sprinkler again. Read on if you are bored and have nothing better to do.

You do not have to use drip. I've been told that many native plants will not tolerate drip irrigation. So you may want a bit of a plan before you even start laying pipe.

I hate drip systems because you can only water individual plants. The rodents eat through it and I don't notice and my plants die. They clog. I can't figure out how long or at what rate to water things. The parts are cheap and break easily. Drip is my most hated irrigation system after the garden hose (you can read about that by clicking on my name).

I really hate in-ground sprinklers. They are expensive. You can't change your garden or plants and the sprinklers dictate where you can put things and how tall you can let them grow. The sprinklers never cover everything right: they over water some things and don't reach others, requiring hand-watering. Rats eat the heads of the plastic ones. Earwigs nest in them and clog them. You have to dig trenches and holes to fix them. You forget to turn them off. You buy expensive timing systems that you cannot program, which water your yard when it rains. The cheap heads will not adjust right so you water the house, the fence, the driveway, and the concrete. The water pressure changes and plants go unwatered, so you have to adjust them endlessly. Buy a wetsuit.

I'd go on to how much I hate Rainbirds and hose-end sprinklers, but your yard looks too small for those.


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

bigmoof, your concept is beautiful. Hope you can stand back and enjoy it in the not too distant future!


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

  • Posted by wcgypsy 10 / Sunset 23 (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 25, 12 at 20:53

lol...I agree with absolutely everything Renee said about irrigation....the only issue not covered is how when you have to be gone for a couple of weeks your husband puts in drip lines and spinners to help you out and with the mulch and all, you keep cutting through lines with the shovel....
of course, this is why I'd already told him I didn't want them in the first place.........


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

I would lay down shredded redwood mulch over the area you want to plant, then water it well, then keep it moist beneath the mulch. This is from Las Pilitas' site:

Three inches of mulch on top does more than six inches tilled in over a 5 year period to improve the soil's health. On sites with compacted soil the texture, drainage and fertility of the soil was is completly changed after mulching heavily (it took a couple of months for the worms, fungi and microfauna to start working).

http://www.laspilitas.com/easy/easysoils.htm

I'm a fan of dripworks.com, their systems have made my life so much easier. Not all my natives are on sprayers, just the ones that like moist soil, but their sprayers are totally appropriate for natives that need regular watering.

Have fun!


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

  • Posted by bigmoof 9 CA, Sunset zone 15 (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 27, 12 at 22:42

oh boy... no irrigation system??? all those delicate new roots are likely to die right in front of my nose. i'm feeling a little overwhelmed in my life right now. but maybe if i had a husband, and didn't have a full-time job, or some version of that scenario. i hardly ever see my house in the light of day because of work! lol.

i'm excited about the mulch idea: i've heard that there is no way to improve clay, so this mulch information is heartening. i will be sure to report back when i have some specific news about the project. thanks everyone!

oh - by the way. are most of the people in this forum from southern california?


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

It's not that you can't irrigate natives, you just don't want drip type irrigation. Instead, something that is similar to rain, like sprayers. Just position them to spray into the drip line and not to the trunk.


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

  • Posted by bigmoof 10 CA, Sunset zone 1 (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 28, 12 at 0:58

Las Pilitas Nursery! i have heard of it -- have even read plant descriptions on their site -- but i had no idea is was such a wonderful, thoughtful source. i am going to climb in bed right now with my laptop and read read read!


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

  • Posted by wcgypsy 10 / Sunset 23 (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 28, 12 at 21:17

SoCal here....


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 29, 12 at 2:30

Northern California here, East Bay Area. I find it humorous to hear all this hate for irrigation systems, I work with, design and install both conventional spray and drip irrigation systems, and have used both with native plant gardens. Drip irrigation would be my personal preference when starting from scratch. Run times really depend on the type of system, soil type, your microclimate and the needs of the plants. Plants which prefer more moisture should be grouped on their own valve, separate from plants which need less water. Some natives should not receive spray irrigation in warmer
months if you want to avoid foliage fungal problems, particularly manzanitas.

A well thought out irrigation system coordinated with the planting plan doesn't have to be complicated or difficult to maintain, but cheap parts don't hold up. I've not had problems with animals damaging drip irrigation, but if this known to be a problem, there are different ways to design a drip system to minimize problems. If you are the type of gardener who loves to move plants around and can't remember where lines are located, you shouldn't be using flexible drip tubing where you are likely to slice them. I generally only shallow bury drip lines or set them at grade and cover with mulch. No complaints from clients, with some installed systems going on 15 years now.

Good luck with your new landscaping, and I wouldn't consider various complaints about irrigation systems as gospel. It sounds more like systems installed without good parts, smart layout and sufficient thought about how the owner's gardening style should influence the irrigation design and layout. A good landscape designer/contractor who is familiar with native plant/drought tolerant garden design should be able to walk you through the process and help select an appropriate irrigation design for your conditions.


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 29, 12 at 2:30

Northern California here, East Bay Area. I find it humorous to hear all this hate for irrigation systems, I work with, design and install both conventional spray and drip irrigation systems, and have used both with native plant gardens. Drip irrigation would be my personal preference when starting from scratch. Run times really depend on the type of system, soil type, your microclimate and the needs of the plants. Plants which prefer more moisture should be grouped on their own valve, separate from plants which need less water. Some natives should not receive spray irrigation in warmer
months if you want to avoid foliage fungal problems, particularly manzanitas.

A well thought out irrigation system coordinated with the planting plan doesn't have to be complicated or difficult to maintain, but cheap parts don't hold up. I've not had problems with animals damaging drip irrigation, but if this known to be a problem, there are different ways to design a drip system to minimize problems. If you are the type of gardener who loves to move plants around and can't remember where lines are located, you shouldn't be using flexible drip tubing where you are likely to slice them. I generally only shallow bury drip lines or set them at grade and cover with mulch. No complaints from clients, with some installed systems going on 15 years now.

Good luck with your new landscaping, and I wouldn't consider various complaints about irrigation systems as gospel. It sounds more like systems installed without good parts, smart layout and sufficient thought about how the owner's gardening style should influence the irrigation design and layout. A good landscape designer/contractor who is familiar with native plant/drought tolerant garden design should be able to walk you through the process and help select an appropriate irrigation design for your conditions.


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

Bahia! You described my irrigation system to a tee!

Next he'll be telling us he likes garden hoses because we're lucky we don't have to walk a mile to the well to get water. Oh, wait, that's what I say to myself whenever I start to curse the hose for tripping me...


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 1, 12 at 2:02

Professional irrigation installation by someone who listens to the owner's preferences and gardening style, and designed and installed by someone who really knows their plants and their water preferences can be worth its weight in gold. Unfortunately it does cost more to install upfront, and can take more time to install as well. On the other hand, you only need to do it once, and it shouldn't be frustrating you if it is done right. Specialized experienced expertise is worth it if you can just relac and enjoy your garden rather than resent the irrigation life support system. I see so many poorly designed systems using cheap parts and plants that fail to thrive. It needn't be so, but don't try to do it on the cheap as a DIY project or by hiring the cheapest bidder without good references or experience...


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

Bahia, please tell me you do Solano county!


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

so it's april of 2013 and with everyone's help here i was finally able to commit to a plan. i had the asphalt and all of the soil that was under the two parking strips taken away. there were no nutrients left in it at all. none. it took four men and a jackhammer about 4 days to prep the location but i was finally able to plant in october of last year. the drought tolerant plants went in one week before our winter rains began (mill valley, california -- just north of san francisco) and i haven't had to water yet. i plan to deep water irrigate via hose for the first year only when necessary. after that if a plant doesn't live i'm not going to nurse it. i also moved the entrance gate to the front of the house and purchased 5 very large boulders native to the area to add to the natural effect. i'm posting a photo, but the website link has more images as well as the plant list.

Here is a link that might be useful: garden before & after pics


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

That looks great! Love the bells. They're a very nice touch. Planning on a flowering vine for the trellis above the gate?


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

  • Posted by hoovb z9 Southern CA (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 29, 13 at 1:50

That looks nice. Have you got anything for height? I liked the little tree in your concept picture of last year. I would paint or stain the fence also. The design itself is good but the wood looks shabby.

You may need to give supplemental water for the first summer or two, even if you planted last autumn. Plants often need more than a few months to get established.

This post was edited by hoovb on Mon, Apr 29, 13 at 1:53


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RE: next steps to help this problem area?

  • Posted by bigmoof 9 CA, Sunset zone 15 (My Page) on
    Thu, May 2, 13 at 17:05

FLOWERING VINE: yes! i did plant a flowering vine: Wisteria frutescens 'Amethyst Falls'. it is native to north america and less agressive than the chinese or japanese wisteria. it is planted to the left of the gate and should climb to the arbor pretty easily since the sun comes from that direction.

HEIGHT: i decided to not plant a tree in that area because there are two mature live oak trees toward the back of the property with beautiful canopies. originally a small flowering plum tree grew behind the fence but close to the house and front door. it had been very poorly pruned (emphasize poorly, and very) and was unhealthy so it had to come down. taking it down allowed this fantastic view of the two oaks and also let light into the bedroom, which faces northwest. all that being said, i have planted some taller shrubs in front of the gate for hight: 4 Rhamnus californica 'Eve Case' (up to 6 feet tall), Ceanothus Celestial Blue (up to 5 feet tall), and Rosmarinus officinalis 'Tuscan Blue' (compact 2 feet wide x 4-6 feet tall). then, the gate is flanked by 2 Ribes sanguineum ‘King Edward VII’ (deciduous and autumn color! at 3 feet wide x 5-6 feet tall. then the wisteria will climb over the arbor. i hope these shrubs - combined with the lower shrubs and perennials - will compensate somewhat for that missing tree and let light into the house from that open area. the complete planting list is on the website link i have posted -- the list is at the bottom of the page so probably lost to most viewers. i've included the link here again.

FENCE:
i would dearly love to paint the whole fence black like the gate. it is in poor condition and will be replaced it if/when i have the $$. the plants, of course, will eventually camouflage it somewhat but right now it is painful to view!

Here is a link that might be useful: garden before & after pics


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