I know, I know. Drainage concerns are about as fascinating as watching paint dry, just less so. In my frantic efforts in this blog to allow you all to peer over the shoulder of what a landscape designer/installer faces however, I would certainly be remiss in not giving this “take”. In any thorough look at landscaping, omitting this issue of how we face and what we do with the accumulated water from rainfall (and other sources) on the strips of land as large as we deal with would be pretty uncivilized, frankly. The fact is, it is the first thing we ever look at. Bar none. So bear with a shovel-wielding, backhoe-driving contractor for yet another teeth-grinding trip through the uber-fascinating world of drain water. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.
The creek bed drain below is taken from the same example project I featured in Part I. As mentioned, these items posed a pretty splendid solution to the larger issues of how to deal with rainfall on the landscape. Generally sloped to receive runoff, these channels allow water to leave the project, en route to safer and less destructive places.
Other projects also have in-built reasons for drains and, frankly, most of them we won’t see. The issue is to either make a drain system organic with the design or to hide them. Since drainage is a strictly functional problem, and landscaping designs are such cosmetic enterprises, it is often better not seen nor heard.
The point with all this is to appreciate the respect one needs to maintain towards rain, snow and all the potential problems they can present. Water trapped under a home can bleed it’s humid evaporation upwards, causing mildews and molds which are unhealthy and foul-smelling. And, unfortunately, not all homes are constructed with adequate drain systems surrounding their foundations, another vulnerable point in water issues. What I have found is that we landscapers have become one of the rectifiers of these problems – and, as time has gone on, perhaps the only possible ones outside of calling the home builder back to reshape the entire property.
So it became something I consider almost foremost when I analyze the possibilities and challenges of any project. Generally, of course, we slope all patio and walkway surfaces appropriately, usually at a 1-2% slope. This takes the water outwards away from problems. But what then? Taking the water away from a home is important as it can be, but what about when water is directed away from a structure towards another structure, such as a free-standing wall?
The amount of pipe under this entire edifice shown above and below, from the two waterfall systems to dealing with both walls, measures in the hundreds of feet. The hidden drains and their sources measure in the smallest percentiles of slope but are enough for water to find and then get conducted away. We managed to hide the collection points for runoff possibilities in this project well enough. After all, rocks can hide a multitude of things. But there is another entire problem facing the catchments – its final emergence. Where does it go, if not the street? What we found on this project was that we had to disperse the runoff enough to keep from eroding the hillside to the rear. That required yet another measure of construction all on its own.
Some drains are as straightforward as they can be. We will often just simply run a water test and see where it tends to go. Who woulda thought??? 😉 On the creek bed below, we found an easy solution that looks good and actually adds something to the landscape, generated from the driveway behind it and its collection point. Simply put and very obviously, this one just runs off onto the street.
Other factors requiring drainage thought: water features. Nearly all of my water features have an in-built automatic fill system. Requiring a homeowner to get his hose out and go fill up the daggone pond is sometimes done – if they ask for it. But I have found the auto-fill to be simple and effective and – generally – pain free. But, things happen. If an “auto-fill” is run off the irrigation clock for example, the possibilities for mistakes are fairly numerous. Someone could forget the difference between AM and PM, for example. (Are you listening Mark? :-)). This meant 12 good solid hours of a 3/4″ pipe’s worth of water streaming into his pond and overflowing. Or, a guy could have the TV set to some compelling ball game and simply forget about that hose he set in the pond to fill it up. So we drain them as well. This is call an “overflow” drain and should be essential in any water feature, form the smallest to the very largest. These can come in straightforward and simple methods, combined with offering surface draining as well:
This one above, taken in early Spring, shows just how effective it was judging by the discoloration of the dried mud on the creek rocks. Below, we have a successfully-hidden drainage point, well-planted with swampy sorts of grasses which offer a congruency with the pond itself. It drains forward – when necessary – and onto a constructed cement drainage ‘swale’ that courses down the backs of all these properties nearby:
That about wraps up my drainage spiel. I have some fresh paint on our fence out back I need to get back to watching dry. God, this is a great day! Where’s my beer? Roovveerrrrr!! Darn that dog.
Incidentally, here are some shots of the more severe-looking landscape above. The first is from its onset:
The next gives a picture from the neighbor’s perspective and shows in better detail not only the killer view these guys have of Reno, Nevada but also the slope which we built on top of and which we had to somehow protect:
And here’s a few of those pipes I talked about, during construction: