Expanded vegetable garden with a new path.
A New Bed... and Standing
by Ginny Stibolt
Two months ago we expanded the vegetable garden near
the detached garage. We wanted more room for zucchinis, peppers,
and other veggies. Since this area receives full sun in the
summer, it was the ideal space. As part of our design, we
included a three-foot wide path dividing the garden into two areas.
After removing the sod from the path area, we dug down another two
inches and tamped the path area to make room for about four inches
of wood chip mulch.
After we finished digging and removing the grass in the
new bedding area, we added
compost and composted horse manure to enrich the soil in the
planting area. It was already in pretty good shape with lots
of worms, but in a vegetable patch, richer soil means higher production
for most crops—beans are the exception. Then we let it sit
to let the compost and manure assimilate into the soil. One
afternoon it rained 1.62 inches. There is a slight slope along
the new path toward the far side of the garden and a large puddle
of water collected at the end of the path. We hadn't
put the mulch down at that point, but we could see that if we had,
the wood chips would have floated away in a heavy rain.
We thought we had mostly sandy soil, but that water sat
there for several days. Standing water would conflict with the path
plans even if it were covered with mulch. I first dug a hole directly under the end of the path
for a dry well and found that the soil here was clay—not a big surprise
given the standing water. I also found that this was where the
pipe from the house to the septic tank turns right. There were
also pipes for the irrigation system in the same area. I filled in
the hole. We needed another plan.
a perforated pipe with a drainage sleeve keeps out the dirt and roots.
What do you do when stormwater stands in your landscape for days?
We decided to dig a four-foot by five-foot hole out and away from the end of
the path; this would avoid all the underground pipes. My husband
dug a hole that was four feet deep to see if he could get
through the layer of clay for the best drainage. He didn't find a
sandy layer and the deeper he went, the soggier the clay. Within a few
hours water seeped back in and filled into the hole. We bailed out the water, but it seeped back
in until the hole was half full. It
rained another quarter inch and the water did not collect on the path
but went into the hole. So until the water table sank below the bottom of the
hole, we were at a standstill on this project. After
more than two weeks without any rain, the water receded until it was
just mucky clay in the bottom of the hole. The chances for more rain
increased, so we made our move.
Our goal, given the clay soil, was to create enough open area,
so the water draining from the path would have a place to collect
until it slowly seeps into the surrounding soil. We bought
four ten-foot sections of perforated pipe and their corresponding
sleeves at Home Depot. We thought that this would provide
the enough volume to drain the path. Like a French
drain, the cloth wrapping keeps the soil and most roots from
entering the pipe.
We covered the bottom of the hole with heavy-duty non-woven
weed barrier cloth. We pulled on the sleeves (See photo above.) and attached the ends of
the pipes together. We stacked the four circles of pipe in the
We slid more weed barrier cloth around the outside
of the pipes down to the bottom of the hole and up and over the top pipe
to keep out the dirt. Then we filled the area outside of the pipes
with sandy soil to to evenly shape the drainpipe chamber from top to
bottom. We then filled inside the pipes
with washed river rocks. The rocks were clean with little dirt or other
organic material. The spaces between the rocks will also provide
places for water to flow. We laid two layers of weed barrier cloth
on top of the rocks and pipes. Since we had more rocks,* we used
the rest on top of the weed barrier cloth and then filled with
sandy soil up to
within four inches of the surface.
We let it settle for a few days then we filled in and
leveled where necessary. Last, we replaced the sod on top of most of the
area, but we extended the pathway over the front edge of the hole
so rainwater can roll right in. The end result of all this work is a
Note: You may also find that a high capcity dry well like
this could be used for overflow drainage for a rain
garden with a large amount of water to absorb or one that
is located in a heavy clay soil.
This is an example of a project turning out to be
bigger (and more expensive) than it originally appeared, but then
that's why gardening is an adventure. You just never know what's
*The previous owner had used the river rocks around the swing area near the front pond.
These rocks used as a mulch, were a real pain to maintain there under the shade of a red bay and several water oak trees.
Leaves fall all the time and weeds grew through the old rotting weed barrier cloth. We replaced the
rocks with our chipped wood mulch and circular stepping-stones over 30-year weed barrier.
Now the area looks good because the leaves just blend in with the mulch and the
high quality weed barrier keeps big weeds at bay. We didn't know how we were going to use these
rocks, but they've been sitting in a pile on the edge of the driveway near the rain barrels for more than a year. Now we’ve put
them to good use, and it’s nice to have that area of pavement clear again. There is still a smaller pile of red lava
rock—we'll find a similar use for that one of these days. Gardeners are always stockpiling.
Ginny Stibolt would like to hear from readers who
have suggestions and questions. After all, there are more than a
few transplanted gardeners Florida trying to figure out what works
and what doesn’t in planting zone 8/9. She's wrote, "Sustainable
Gardening for Florida," published by University Press of Florida
that was released in 2009. Now she's written "Organic Methods
for Growing Vegetables in Florida" with Melissa Contreras in
Miami. The new book will be released in Feb 2013. You may contact
her or read extra details on her articles and other information
posted on her website: www.greengardeningmatters.com.
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