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There's a hole in my garden ...


I’m having some work done in my garden at the moment. When I moved in earlier this year, the border was the thing I most wanted to get to grips with. This is what it looked like in March:

And more recently:

I had thought I could just take up the weed-control fabric, see what the soil was like, and plant things. Nice and simple … can you tell I’m a beginner?! ;o)

But, of course, it’s not proving to be that straightforward!

The main problem is that in heavy rain, this happens:

Having to pump it out:

So, sorting the drainage out was now my new top priority. As we knew there was an old soakaway in the border, the first task was to get the weed fabric up and investigate.

Out came the smaller plants so a hole could be dug.

Found some clay pipes.

Not much was going to have been draining through these:

But the rods that were stuck down the drain didn’t come out of where the clay pipes had been, but continued to vanish mysteriously … Time to step back and ponder.

Uh-oh, then it rained. The hole became a pond.

It was time to call in some more help. The hole got bigger.

The heucheras had to vacate the shady corner which is now home to 2 tonnes of ‘soil’ (it’s a heavy clay, if I was a plant I wouldn’t particularly want to live in it).

And another 2 tonnes are round the front …

Phew! But at least we’d now found the old soakaway. It wasn’t working very well so it all came out.

… Don’t squash the plants!!!

The first idea was to see if we could break through the clay layer underneath where the old soakaway had been. Unfortunately it turned out there is at least another 6 ft of clay beneath what you can see on the photo, so that was going to be too difficult.

The second idea was to increase the size of the hole to see whether water would slowly soak into the soil above the clay layer. Now I had to wait for some rain to test it. Unbelievably this must’ve been the longest time we’d gone without rain for months!

But eventually it started to fill up …

… and up …

The water level is now up to the pipe, after relatively little rain, and days and days later it doesn’t look like there’s much soaking-away going on there! So the third idea involves re-laying the patio, and putting in perforated piping and gravel at various points around the garden. In the meantime, the hole has been covered …

… and my plants are all waiting very patiently.

To be continued …

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Great blog, Gem.
I've added to GoYpedia.
I hope you manage to sort out the drainage problems !

18 Oct, 2012


Quite a problem there, gg! You certainly need to keep the standing water away from the house walls.
I assume that the soakaway was constructed when the house was built to deal with roof water. You could try a completely new soakaway in a different part of the garden, though that will cause more disruption. How do your neighbours deal with roof water disposal?

18 Oct, 2012


And you wondered why the people you bought the house from wanted to move...
Oh dear, what a job. I'm sure you have everybody's sympathy. Your plants look very happy in their pots fr now though. Hope you don't have to relay the patio as it's so nicely done, but it looks as though it might be the best solution.

18 Oct, 2012


When we moved here we put a post and rails fence in and every hole filled with water so although we live on top of a hill we knew we had a high water table, some years later during a really dry spell ( remember them?) we needed another septic tank so a 12' hole went straight down in the field.... 6" loam and the rest more or less solid yellow clay with just a few rocks and a bit of shale.....putting the drainage fingers across the field was a nightmare for the builders, every time it rained the septic tank filled with rainwater, loads of millwaste in steeper gradients finally solved the problem....
So I do sympathise! Looking at how the neighbours manage the problem could help, water as we all know goes the easiest way......

18 Oct, 2012


what a shame when you had done the border so nicely! Still the important thing is to sort out the drainage especially near the house. We have a soakaway [although don't know where it is!] but it all goes somewhere that's for sure, luckily we do have fast draining sandy soil as well.Clay can be a bit of a nightmare.Good luck.

18 Oct, 2012


It looks like that soakaway was put in to deal with the surface water in the garden because the pipe leading into it comes from a drain in the patio, and the roof drains into something round the side (which is what we're now being advised to see if we can use instead). Having the conservatory built is what probably made the situation worse as the water is now getting trapped in an area that is lower than the patio drain.

The neighbour on one side has similar problems (though not near the house) and uses a pump to get rid of the water, and we're wondering if water from the other neighbour is actually contributing to my problem ... but they're not there at the moment so we can't go round and ask them about it.

In a way (looking for a silver lining in that raincloud!) it's probably been good that we've had a wet summer so I could see it at its worst and do something now ... finding out after I'd done other work out there would've been really frustrating. Plus I'd quite like a new path anyway as my slippers get muddy walking across the grass. Got to put a positive spin on things :o)

18 Oct, 2012


Clay soil is an awful problem. Years ago I read about and made a Roman drain on my other allotment. It involved gathering bundles of branches. Digging a trench and packing them in. Then piling the soil on top.
When the branches went rotten I fell into it.
Not so funny, as I had forgotten it was there !

19 Oct, 2012


While sympathising with you on your drainage problems .... may I ask what the lovely potted plants with tall pink spikes of flowers are? They really took my eye. :o)

19 Oct, 2012


I'm sorry to hear you've got all that work going on, and I hope it can be sorted out ASAP before the winter sets in.

19 Oct, 2012


I hope you didn't hurt yourself Diane?!

Nariz, they're Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Taurus' (red bistort). They're quite vigourous but they flower for ages and insects love them. They're also good for bog gardens which may be just as well considering where I'm going to be planting them! :o)

Thanks Hywel, I've just arranged for someone to come and have another look at it on Monday so fingers crossed ...

19 Oct, 2012


I really hope you get it sorted out, it's sounds like a nightmare!

19 Oct, 2012


No I didnt hurt myself Gem.
Was talking about this today with my Therapist.
He thinks the best way is to have the whole lot of horrible clay soil, as deep as your hole, taken out with a small earth mover, and taken elsewhere.
The fill up the bed three quarters with a lorry load of gravel to give the water clear drainage , with a quarter of new soil on top for plants.
Builders merchants sell prepacked gravel. Some builders sell better quality by the lorry load, loose. So it has to be barrowed in from the road.
A lot of work either way.
Best done slowly.
Dont make yourselves ill over it.

19 Oct, 2012


Gem, hope you resolve your problem soon.....all the best.

20 Oct, 2012


Thanks Diane and Sixpence :)

20 Oct, 2012

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