Clay soil and drainage

The soil on our lot is predominantly clay, with a very thin layer of good soil above it. A water easement runs down the one side of the property, and the easement has to be kept clear at all times to ensure that the clear passage of water down to the bottom of the garden.

Clump of palm trees in front garden

When we first moved in to the property, there was a large clump of golden cane palms right at the top of the water easement, as a raised garden bed edged with large rocks. The palm roots were so dense that virtually no other plants could grow in the bed. When I cleared a large patch of bromeliads (Guzmania species) from the front garden bed, I placed some of them on the surface of the palm bed. As the bromeliads do not have large root systems, having them on top of the palm roots worked well and added some much needed colour to the area beneath the palms. You can see the bromeliads beneath the palms in the photo below.

The bed of palms had pieces of Ag-pipe running through the bed which were supposed to assist with the drainage of water allowing it to flow under the palms from the front garden to the back garden. However, the palm roots had clogged up the Ag-pipe and resulted in ponding of water in the front garden after heavy rain. We decided that the best thing to do would be to have the palms removed, and then to swale the area to direct the water across the front garden and down along the water easement.

Clump of palms in front garden looking down towards the back garden. The watercourse runs down to the left.

We managed to find a local contractor who said that he would do the job. He was able to schedule our small job in between some of the larger jobs during a spell of heavy rain. He arrived with his excavator and manoeuvred it in between the tap and other garden beds, and removed the palms in the front and side of the garden, placed the rocks into a pile, and loaded up the resultant debris into his tipper truck for removal to the dump. He also kindly scraped out a rough watercourse across the front garden for us, and then wished us well and left!

Excavator removing the clump of palms from the front garden
Removing the clump of palms at the side of the house
The aftermath – both clumps of palms removed
Devastation!
All the debris loaded up ready to be taken to the dump for green waste

What devastation!! Of course it rained soon after the clumps were removed, and we had water ponding everywhere! But this was good in that we could see where the water flowed and where it collected, and the path it took to get to the drain. Once the rain subsided, and the area had dried out a bit, we were able to remove the remaining debris and start to swale the area. It rained again after this initial exercise, and it was good to see that with a little more refining of the swale, we would probably resolve the ponding issue in the front garden!

The ponding of rain water in the front garden where the palms were removed
Front path will be redone to include a bridge of a little dry river bed

Because of the weight of the excavator, our front path became dislodged, so we removed the dislodged bricks and Steve set about re-laying the path from the house to where the excavator tracks went through the drain under the path. It was at that point that we decided to put in a simple bridge and create a dry river bed along the first section of the water course.

Meanwhile, work in the side bed outside the dining room progressed with me digging it over, removing the remaining palm roots and preparing that bed for roses and herbs. More on both these projects later!

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