Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Spring (official) is fast approaching...

People "up North" might argue that deep in coastal Texas we do not have winter, but various stages of their fall and spring.  That might be true, in a general sense, but I would counter and argue that it only gets 18 F (-8 C) in WINTER, which is what we experienced in January.  We lost some plants, but that is all behind us now.  We are rapidly approaching the first day of Spring, and with it comes preparations for green and growth.

Just for the record, any link I post here is for informational purposes only: I do not profit in any way, and have included the 'nofollow' tag as well.

I have already cleared the beds of the fallen leaves of autumn, and the pre-emergent is down to thwart wild grasses and other unwanted annoyances from taking over the beds.  I have walked around with Grampa's Weeder and plucked scores (if not hundreds) of crabgrass remnants, dandelion, and other center-tap weeds and grasses out by the roots.  This is one of the best and most useful tools in my garage.  I have sharpened my reel mower, guided by the video found here (I have the same mower).  I have re-worked/repaired some of the bullrock in our high-water drain areas, and made adjustments adjacent to to the house.  All of the lantana, irises, and muhly have been cut back and fed to facilitate new growth.  There remains the trimming of the boxwood and dwarf yaupon, which will happen over the next couple of days.

The Texoka buffalograss seed has been ordered, along with some blue grama.  I have a couple of pounds of wildflower seeds arriving in the same order.  I have begun monitoring soil temperature to make sure I do not plant the grass seeds too early.  Warm-weather grass seeds need to be sown when ground temperatures are staying above 60 F (15.5 C).  I am in the process of leveling the ground in our "turf" areas next to the house.  These are the areas of which we want a manicured lawn look as opposed to functional lawn areas or areas simply left native.  In the functional lawn areas, there is a lot of clay and therefore bare spots.  I have ordered (and expect this week) a lawn plug aerator so that I can get soil conditioning treatments and grass seed into the ground.

We have planted eight Pink Muhly plants and one White Cloud Muhly.  The Pink Muhly is planted in a bed adjacent to the garage and lanai; a bed which is still in the design fulfillment stage.  It presently contains the eight Pink Muhly and a large urn containing bougainvillea.  We will add another urn and bougainvillea, and as finances permit, a two-tier fountain.

Our most anticipated project of the spring is putting trails in our forest.  It is still too wet -- about the time we are almost dry enough, it rains again.  But we have a contractor and a bid in-hand.  In addition to making the trails, they will remove some fallen trees and clear a couple of areas we want to use for fire pits.  Our goal is to have our entire property (five acres/two hectares) accessible (while leaving it as natural as possible).  We do have a couple of low areas in the forest which will likely require bridges to maintain ready access.

By the end of this summer, I hope to have the fountain, trails, and bridges in-place, and all the bare areas of the functional lawn covered in grass.  Achieving that end starts now, before official Spring arrives, because it is Spring-enough here in Hockley, Texas.  If I can accomplish these goals, it would imply that year three will be devoted to maintenance and selective adding of ornamentals.  That will be a very good feeling.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A big rain and a new year about to begin...

Our first year in this house, so far as move-in is concerned, is January 15, 2017.  As you can tell from the blog posts, a lot of work has gone into making our home and the property more finished and functional.  To be sure, there is more to do: finishing the bougainvillea bed and fountain, adding more pegboard in the garages, overseeding the grass in our "turf" areas, and creating trails and social spaces in our woods.

Yesterday morning we had very intense rain.  It rained at a rate of one inch (2.54 cm) per hour for two hours.  This was approximately the same rate as we experienced last spring, but it only lasted a couple of hours instead of 20 hours.  This was by far the biggest test for our landscape engineering, and I was curious to see how well our combination of bullrock-work and French drains worked.  The pictures which follow are shown in time-lapse order.  Note that we would have standing water for at least two or three days prior to doing our hardscape work.

One can see that the "dry creek bed" is flowing water which is draining from
the culvert (upper center) and our property area to the left.  The flow is slowed
which causes pooling as the bed turns into the drain channel (center right). The
water coming from the driveway to the left and through the front grove is
pooling as the drains and the pipe are completely in overflow condition.

The picture was taken just a few minutes after the rain subsided to a
very light drizzle.  The culvert area is clearing and water levels are receding.

This picture was taken about five minutes after the previous photo..While the
drain channel (center right) is still full, the water is receding rapidly.

Another five minutes, and the standing water in the lower left is almost gone,
and pooling in the dry creek bed is more isolated.  The purpose of the dry creek
bed is to slow the water passing through it, which reduces the impact of erosion.
The French drains are capturing the water which would build up in the area
between the front grove of trees, the grass, and the driveway.  It is draining so
well because we used six-inch diameter pipe instead of the standard four-inch
pipe.  This gives us a little over twice the volume over a standard install and
is highly effective for us.

Ten more minutes have passed, and the standing water is all but gone.  The
drain channel is significantly lower, also.  Prior to this effort, we would have had
standing water for two or three days after the rains stopped, and it would be
soggy for a couple of days thereafter.  We are at the above state 30 minutes after
the rain relented.  Today, I was walking in the area and not getting muddy.