The Evolution of our Front Yard
Have you ever started a project with the intention of just completing it and getting on with life? That is what I planned to do during the spring of 2015. I live in North Texas and we had an extremely wet spring. When I bought my zero lot line house 30 years ago it was in a new development. I picked the lot that was the highest in the neighborhood as a safeguard against flooding.
Fast Forward 15 years
Everything was fine for about 15 years. I was talking to my then neighbor and he mentioned that water levels were getting close to the back door. I also noticed the water was taking longer to drain out of my backyard. I decided to install 4 surface drains at the low areas with a pipe to the street to move the water out faster. This took care of both of our concerns.
I don’t seem to have any photos of the flooded front yard. But the backyard drains into the front. I know this is a horrible photo, but it was a horrible night…..
Fast forward 13 years and I was finding that between the dogs and the chickens the drain pipes were getting clogged with dirt and not functioning well. I decided to install a French drain with gravel and landscape fabric (next to old drain) to improve the drainage. FYI, this is not inexpensive both in energy expended as well as money (we live with clay soil).
The Pile in the Driveway
I ordered 4 tons of river rock gravel which was too much, but a blessing in disguise. I think I overestimated the actual size and volume of the trough. Once the drain was in and covered with the rock (but not dirt at this point), my wife and I saw how beautiful the rock actually was as a path. By utilizing the excess gravel as a path we could create a low, low maintenance yard.
This photo does not do this pile justice…my back will tell you that the pile was much bigger. I moved the rock in 5 gallon buckets in a two wheel dolly barrel. Many buckets!
Coming out of a severe drought, this sounded like the responsible way to go. I should point out that for 30 years I have tried many different yard styles (mostly different types of grass with NO luck) because this area is heavily shaded with oak trees. So this really solved many different issues for us.
You can see from the “before” photo that there were no elevations and not much interest in the yard. Just lirope and the cannas during the summer.
Two years ago I tried to cover the yard with lirope just to give the yard some life and even that failed. I got a few patches to grow, but nothing attractive. The only thing that grew well was the cannas. Time to start thinking outside the ’neighborhood’ box, everyone had some type grass yard and I wanted something different.
Digging the Trench
The very first thing we did was call 811 before we started to dig and waited for them come out and mark all of our lines.
Utility Marking…different colors are for different types of lines.
With the digging of the trench, there was a lot of dirt in piles that started to take of a life of their own. Instead of piles of dirt they created different elevations to plant on. The clumps of lirope stayed in their oasis as did the cannas.
After I dug the trench, I put down landscape cloth and a layer of the river rock.
Then I laid in the covered pipe and tied in drains where I knew the water really pooled.
I used zip ties to attach the pipes to the drains and put the covers on the keep the rocks out of the pipes.
I covered the pipe with landscape cloth and covered it with the river rock.
A number of years ago we bought field stone to outline some of the paths and borders we tried to create. We had a lot that no longer defined anything and some were buried. It became a treasure hunt to find the rocks. We then started to move the stones around and redefined the yard.
With the drain installed I decided that the excess gravel would be used to create the path over the drain pipe thereby eliminating the need to add dirt back over the pipe and help increase the water flow into the drain.
This last weekend we had 7 inches of rain in three days and I must say that there was very little water pooling and that was only when we had an inch drop in 15 minutes. I think this can be attributed to the fact that I used flexible corrugated pipe with slits in it instead of rigid pipe with ½” holes.
The Cost Rundown
What did this cost? The biggest expense was the drain system which includes the gravel-around $300. The plants and mulch another $75. So for under $400 we now have very nice place to sit outside and enjoy our little slice of heaven.