Monday, January 5, 2015

Indian Burial Mounds

Some mounds before planting.
My son came home from college right after I installed my garden.  He was not impressed.  "What are those Indian burial mounds doing in our yard?"  He was referring to the sandy soil I had gently mounded in order to improve drainage in my clay-and-bedrock soil.

A little drainage helps natives weather summer water.  It means the difference between life and death for many natives.  My yard doesn't have it.  Back when I planted roses, I did the drainage test as specified in the Sunset Garden Book:  dig a planting hole, fill it with water, and see how long it takes to drain.  After a few hours I gave up waiting.

When I decided to go native, I knew I needed raised beds for drainage.  I copied my next door neighbor Tomaz and had sandy soil delivered from the building supply company.

Some mounds just after planting.
My landscape architect friend Cheryl Fields convinced me that sloped mounds would look more natural than raised beds edged in rocks.  She was right– everyone comments on the effect, though as the plants grow taller it is less striking.

About that added soil.  8 cubic yards was dumped in my court. I have no driveway.  Thank you forbearing neighbors.  I did the math, but I forgot to figure in the swales that lead to the drains.  Too much dirt!  So...some of my mounds are too high.  If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't go higher than 12 or 18 inches; the tops of the mounds get very dry.

"Mounding" was the most labor-intensive part of my installation.  (My kind gardener and his son may have other opinions; they removed the lawn and bushes.)  I could have stuck with a palette of natives that tolerate clay.  I'm glad I didn't.  It is SOOO easy to dig in these sandy mounds.
Can you see the mounds now?

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