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New Project: Backyard Mini-Meadow

One of the things I’ve felt guilty about is that, with how our house & lot is set up, our backyard is just basically a concrete dog run.  Actually, I don’t feel guilty about that, that’s just how it is. But it is where Rigel goes out to go to the bathroom.

(ETA pic, and boy does that look dismal when seen in a photo!)

What I worry about is that we have to hose it down daily, which creates multiple problems:

  1. waste of water
  2. run off of dog waste into the street (into the drains, into the ocean  (in which I swim, though it’s not just about me))
  3. run off of anything we use to clean the concrete (into the drains, into the ocean, yadda yadda)
  4. odor that lingers even after rinsing, cleaning and scrubbing
  5. run off under our fence into our (new) neighbor’s side yard (and, apparently, under his house — the old neighbors, even when we asked if all was okay, either hadn’t noticed or cared)

Because of #5 (which we just found out Saturday) we’re sharing the cost of a new concrete/masonry fence between our two properties, which should stop the run off into our neighbor’s property.  The old/ current fence is very old & rickety and has a lot of termite damage;  replacing it was going to happen sooner or later.

However, problems 1-4 are still an issue.

I’ve thought for a long time about breaking up the concrete  and putting in a combo of plants & flagstones, something that will be more permeable to mitigate all the run off issues.

Problems inherent in this:

  1. ripping out the concrete
  2. identifying native plants that do okay in mostly shade and can handle a bit more water that can tolerate dog urine

Hopefully we can have Daniel, who is going to do the fence, break up the concrete.  We can reuse the concrete for the walls of raised beds for veggies (I’ve been planning on making a couple more raised beds near the fruit trees anyway).

I emailed Bert as Las Pilitas (info included our zip, location re: the beach, amount of watering, guestimate on the soil type, mostly shade, dog urine — Las Pilitas has a fantastic garden planning program that uses all that info except the dog urine issue), who got right back to me with the following advice and plant list:

ok, you’ll probably have to use that much water to mitigate the urine on the plants, that’s called a marsh or pond, it would actually look more like a meadow.  Leave some of the concrete to give the dogs ‘steps’ between the plants.  Bidens, Lobelia(s) (another here), Yarrow, Mimulus cardinalis, a Bird bath, Danthonia californica (the dogs will love it), Elymnus tricicoides (dogs love), Zauschneria ‘Mattole River,  and maybe Fragaria californica.  A small wetland for the birds and dogs, and you can ignore some of the mess as the plants will ‘eat it up’

We have plenty of flagstones in the front that we can move to the back, and have been wanting a bird bath/ fountain.  Las Pilitas has a lot of those plants available through their online store, so we could order & plant as soon as we get concrete plans to rip out the concrete (hah).

I’ve also emailed Tree of Life but haven’t heard back, and have yet to check with Theodore Payne.

Speaking of Theodore Payne — we’re going to be on the garden tour next year, woo hoo!  I’ve been wanting to participate and we couldn’t last year because it was the same time as spring break.


3 comments… add one
  • Rosemary June 30, 2009, 12:14 pm

    Wow! Can’t wait to see it! I’m sure it will be lovely once it is all finished!!

  • Rosemary June 30, 2009, 12:26 pm

    On the Garden Tour – another Wow!!!

  • Kathy June 30, 2009, 12:48 pm

    Well after what I’ve seen of your front yard, I know your back yard will be exceptionally beautiful (and functional) as well.
    It must be nice to be able to plan and execute your landscapes year-round where you live. Here, the landscapers are so slammed by summertime, none of them answer calls or emails.
    I would so love to come to Cali to see your garden on the tour. Keep us posted.

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