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Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Oct 4, 2015 12:38 AM CST
I inherited a few raised beds that are located along the foundation of the house with a brick front wall of them. There are no weep holes in the brick wall. The beds are about 2 feet in depth and 3 feet wide.

None of the beds are well sited. In the summer they get hot, hot afternoon sun and since they are located under the eves of the house, anything planted there would have to be watered periodically during the winter months.

The corner bed seems to be fine. I have a rose planted there and some thread leaf coreopsis and they are healthy plants, which tells me they have good drainage.

In the most western facing bed, I planted some black eyed susans this year, and they handled the summer heat and reflected heat from the wall very well. Again, I think the bed is draining properly.

It's the bed next to the patio that is the problem bed. Everything I have planted there has died. Since I was guessing that drainage might be the issue, I dug it out today. There is no drainage. So watering that bed is like pouring water into a bucket with no drainage holes. That doesn't work well for plants.

The bed was filled with almost pure clay soil, which only made things worse.

Is there any way I can prepare this bed and plant shallow rooted plants that can handle the heat or does the lack of true drainage make that impossible ? I am certain I need to remove all of the clay soil, but don't know what kind of soil I should use for this bed.

All suggestions are both needed and very welcome.

Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Skåne, Sweden (Zone 7b)
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William
Oct 4, 2015 3:15 AM CST
Lyn, my suggestion would be to go in the complete different direction and investigate pond plants, in particular those that can grow in the edge zone and that doesn't need to be submerged in water. They would love the extra water and there should be plenty that would also love full sun. Unfortunately I wouldn't be of any help with specific plant choices being located in Sweden, but it shouldn't be a big problem finding some. Now if you think that the bed would be too dry at times for pond plants, (perhaps there is still some drainage?), then I'd use a pond liner, just to keep the water in and fill the whole thing back with soil. Clay soil should be suitable for many pond plants.
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Oct 4, 2015 5:29 AM CST
I love the answer that William gave; creative thinking at its best. Thumbs up

It might be interesting to see a photo of the bed in question and its location near the patio. I have an idea but not sure it if would look good. My idea is labor intensive, involves removing all the clay soil, digging deep enough to allow drainage, installing an arbor which will prevent some of the harshest sun, refilling the space with proper medium and planting vining plants for the arbor and low growers beneath.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
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chelle
Oct 4, 2015 6:21 AM CST
You might be able to add weep holes with a masonry drill bit.
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Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Oct 4, 2015 10:55 AM CST
@William .... what a creative idea. Thank you. My biggest concern is keeping that much water next to the foundation of the house, even with a pond liner. I do check the other beds I have already planted for water damage to the wall, but so far, I've been OK as I've placed the plants away from the wall and don't water next to the wall.

@greene ... I think an arbor would be overkill, but I know you are right about creating shade. I have only removed half of the soil from the bed so far. The soil is dead. No worms or other signs of life, I don't mind using it in other spots in the garden to fill low spots once I have amended it.

The bed does get shade from the eves of the house, but in the afternoon, really most of the day during summer, it gets direct sunlight from the west. If I can solve the drainage problem, I might be able to anchor a lattice panel and plant some kind of vine on that side to block the sun. Also, I have to find a vine that can handle that kind of heat in an arid climate. Summer temps are in the high 90s to low 100s during the summer months. A drop to 90F is considered a cooling period.

It's when I hit hard pan at the bottom of the bed that I realized I had a problem and was headed in the wrong direction.

I'll dig out more soil today and take photos when I have cleared the bed out.

@chelle ... I doubt if weep holes in the brick will solve the drainage problem. The level of the soil on the garden side of the brick wall is only 10" lower than the top of the wall. The depth of bed is much deeper. Maybe I could do a rock garden kind of thing. Do I need excellent drainage all the way down for something like that ?

Thank you all for the suggestions. I didn't expect fixing this bed to be such a big deal.

Lyn



I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Oct 4, 2015 6:17 PM CST
I couldn't do any more digging today as my back was in full protest about the digging I did yesterday. So it goes. I did get to take some photos.

It doesn't look like I removed much soil, but I've taken out two wheel barrow loads of soil just on that one end of the bed. The loose soil you see in the photos rolled down to the bottom of the bed where I reached soil I couldn't break up with a hand mattock.

There is a space blocked out of the beds to allow air to go through the air vents under the house. Yeah, I need to clean that out, too.

I hope these photos give you a clearer idea of what I am dealing with and can help me come up with a plan.

Thanks in advance for looking and all suggestions.

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Lyn

I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Oct 4, 2015 9:44 PM CST
I like the pond plants idea best, and you could plant things like water iris that don't need to be growing in water all the time, but they do like wet feet just fine. But you're right, your main concern no matter what you do is to keep moisture away from the wall of the house.

The other option not mentioned yet would be to just remove the brick wall of the bed completely. In your pictures it looks like it's not in that great shape anyway. Is there a young man with a strong back you could hire? If you must have it there to keep the look of the house symmetrical, maybe re-build the brick wall of the bed with some drain pipes under the wall, heading out away from the house.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Oct 4, 2015 11:49 PM CST
Elaine ... Thanks for responding.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this project. I thought I was going to remove about 10" of soil, find out what the drainage problem was and fix it, then amend the soil and let the organics decompose over the winter and plant something next spring. HA ! The bed is much deeper than I thought.

You are right about the condition of the brick wall. The house pad was cut out of a slope which breathes depending upon how much rain we get in the winter. Brick is not the best material to use in this type of situation.

With your comment about keeping moisture away from the wall, I've started wondering if I should plant anything in that bed, even if I could afford to have the brick removed. I know it's not in this year's budget.

I just don't know how to go forward.
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Oct 5, 2015 6:37 AM CST
Lyn, if you don't water that bed, will it stay dry? It sure looks pretty dry in your pictures. Thinking maybe you could try growing a cactus garden or succulents there - something that doesn't need hardly any water? Fill the bed with a gritty cactus mix.

It seems a bit funny to me that we are talking about a flower bed in California staying too wet here, given your drought situation.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
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Weedwhacker
Oct 5, 2015 7:14 AM CST
Maybe a good place for a couple of big pots with sun- and heat-loving plants in them?

(I almost wrote "...for a couple of big pot plants" but that didn't exactly convey what I meant to say! Hilarious! )
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springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
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Frillylily
Oct 5, 2015 8:00 AM CST

Add lots of compost and then mulch it heavily after you plant in it. Plant shallow rooted things that like sun. Zinnias, marrigolds, petunias. After a few years of adding compost and mulch, the soil should improve alot. Do you see any earthworms in it at all when you dig?

You could also consider adding some interesting rocks, just pile them up and then plant a rock garden on top. Like sedums, hens and chicks, rock moss, agave, yucca maybe mini or border iris would do ok.

Long Island, NY (Zone 6b)
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MargieNY
Oct 5, 2015 9:02 AM CST
I have/had a similar problem. My home was built on clay soil that had been brought in deliberately. When I dig down into the soil, the first few inches are topsoil, than about 18 + inches of clay and than sandy soil. I tried different amendments to break up the clay like gypsum etc. I found the best thing was to mix in perlite and compost with the clay. If you want to plant let's say a rose bush in that bed, you are going to have to dig down very deep and amend all that soil. On the other hand, do you really want plants located near your house foundation that require a lot of water? I don't think so. Personally, I would dig and amend a foot deep of soil and plant things with shallow roots that are "drought resistant" plants like irises, sedum, hens and chicks, lavender, portuluca (moss rose). Plants that reseed would be a plus.
Skåne, Sweden (Zone 7b)
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William
Oct 5, 2015 11:36 AM CST
After seeing your pictures - in particular looking at what appears to be just pieces of wood that are meant to keep the soil of the airvents - I come to wonder if this raised bed is a later construction than your house. It just doesn't feel like a well thought out construction and looks much more like a later add on, but I don't know the history of your house.
It doesn't look completely healthy and I didn't initially realize how far up the foundation the bed really went.
I think Elaine is on to something with removing the beds. If that's not in the budget, I think you at least should hold of on filling back the soil for now. Perhaps better to play it safe here.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
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Frillylily
Oct 5, 2015 11:57 AM CST
It appears that your house is plaster (stucco) for siding? With other siding like wood or vinyl you can see where the foundation of the house comes together to the framework (wood). It is a very bad idea to put any type of flower bed (soil or mulch) any higher than that point where the wood starts. This will bring in rot or termites. With stucco it can be difficult to see that spot. Some homes have deeper crawl areas and tall foundation walls, but other homes sit practically on the ground. Those are usually older homes.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Oct 5, 2015 12:13 PM CST
@dyzzypyxxy, Elaine

We are kind of on the same page there. However the succulents I planted there in the past fried in the summer heat. The bed does stay dry if I don't water it except for the corner near the patio. When it rains up here, it rains HARD and the gutters overflow. That corner of the bed gets hit hard.

I have both perlite and gypsum on hand. I also have gravel ... larger than pea gravel and decomposed granite on hand. I purchased some Bumper Crop Soil Conditioner to add the organics. I can vary the amount of grit as I go across the bed with the amended soil.

I didn't have to worry about the drought in my part of California this year. We almost got our normal rainfall last winter. Even after the State's water grab, we had sufficient water for my part of the State. However, it does look like this winter will be another dry year.

@Weedwhacker, Sandy ... using containers is the approach I have been using, BUT it's been hard to keep the plants moist enough to keep them happy during the summer even with the containers lined with bubble wrap. Also, I have been using foam containers so that they don't suck up heat. Maybe I have been choosing the wrong plants.

@Frillylily ... No worms. I was going to throw some in when I find them while weeding under the river rock borders after I amended the soil. I do have some hardy hens and chicks that have outgrown their container, but as I said above, they do need more shade than I have provided in the past. I do have lots and lots of rocks.

@MargieNY ...An iris planted on the west end of the bed would provide some shade as suggested by @greene. No, I hadn't planned on planting a rose in that bed. It would get the west heat during the summer months and the reflected heat from the wall. Not good. The mini-flora I rose planted in the part of the bed that goes around the corner of the house west of the air spacer gets good air circulation and is very heat tolerant. That part of the bed drains well.

Thumb of 2015-10-05/RoseBlush1/a3f71d Thumb of 2015-10-05/RoseBlush1/68f1dc


How much room would I have to leave for the iris ?

I also have a dwarf lavender that has outgrown it's container called 'Thumbelina". It's supposed to grow 12-15" tall x 18" wide.

http://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/955/thumbelina-...

Thank you all for coming up with possible solutions I can use. Last night I was feeling kind defeated.

Back to bed prep. Should I put a layer of gravel between the clay at the bottom of the bed and the amended soil. The bed may not drain well down there, but if I am not watering deeply, it may not get too wet. And, again, how deep should I dig down before I add the amended soil.

Smiles,
Lyn





I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Oct 5, 2015 12:17 PM CST
Then I think the idea of some big pots might be workable. Start watching your local swap meets and garage sales!

What about just filling up that bed with rock, and setting big containers with good soil in them on top of the rock? It would act like a terrace, the water from the containers would percolate down through the rock and dissipate somewhat, and when you get heavy rain that rock would act sort of like a French drain.

That's "The Real Solution" for a spot like that - a French drain. But you'd have to dig out enough soil to install the porous pipe so that it could drain out underneath the wall. An awful lot of work for you, or expensive to get someone else to do it. (I know, we had to install one all along a wall of the house the first summer we were here).
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
[Last edited by dyzzypyxxy - Oct 5, 2015 12:23 PM (+)]
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Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Oct 5, 2015 12:35 PM CST
@Frillylily ...

Yes, this is an older home. It was built in the 1960s. I think the deep foundation is built with blocks with lots and lots of rebar in it because the house pad was cut out of the slope.

This is a photo of the front of the house ... please ignore the grass. The blue portion is block and the yellow is painted redwood siding.

Thumb of 2015-10-05/RoseBlush1/518a2a

Although you can't see it because of the sealer Mr. J put on the wall, the portion of the wall behind the bed is also block.

The house has a huge crawl space and there is a sump pump under that end of the house because there was a water problem from the slope behind the house draining under the house. I put in a french drain in front of the slope and that seems to have stopped water from draining under the house. I also had to re-direct the down spout. It just went straight down to the crawl space under the house with no provision to handle the water that flowed through it. I haven't a clue as to why he did this, but I didn't think it was a good idea.

Thanks for the warning.

Lyn



I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Ken
East S.F. Bay Area (Zone 9a)
Region: California
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CaliFlowers
Oct 5, 2015 3:04 PM CST
I have to go out right now, and don't have time to read most of the recent posts, but there are two points I'd like to make before you start constructing anything.

First, never add rocks of any kind to soil. They all inhibit drainage. They're impervious to water, and will reduce the area of soil available for percolation.

Secondly, never place soil against stucco, even if the stucco appears to be below the level of the concrete foundation. Stucco is porous, and it will carry moisture upward similar to a sponge. Build in some sort of air gap between your bed and anything that is not bare concrete.

I'll check back and read more when I return home - I did see that someone addressed the stucco issue to some degree.

Ken

Don't
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Oct 5, 2015 5:54 PM CST
ok well hard to see in a pic, looks like what I thought was stucco is the texture of cement block -that is her foundation. If that is the case, then you should be ok to have the bed up next to that.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Oct 5, 2015 8:10 PM CST
I had to go out, too, and get some work done. While I was outside, I checked another air vent spacer which I had already cleaned out and, yes, the block goes up one row above the air vent spacer, then it is stucco. The stucco going down to soil level of the bed is decorative covering that last row of block.

On the other parts of the bed, which are planted, I placed sheet metal between the soil and the stucco. I can do the same for this bed. I did this without knowing the "why" of it because that is what had been done on the side of the house where the soil met the stucco. Thank you, Ken, for explaining the "why" of it for me.

@CaliFlowers, Ken .... Are you saying I should not put a layer of gravel between the clay at the base of the bed and the amended soil ? It would be next to the block wall.

I am not doing anything to that bed until I have a definite plan.

Thanks to all again for all of your help and support.

Lyn

I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.

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