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Newbie- help with earthworks! Permaculture in 7b GA, red clay, HOA

 
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I’m needing some help determining appropriate options when it comes to earthworks on one section of my acre property in a new construction HOA suburban neighborhood in 7b Georgia. The section I’m having difficulty with runs approx NW to E which spans along the side of my home. The eastern side of the section: exposed red clay, full sun, steep gradient flowing from the street down, leveling off to a much slighter  gradient midway. The westerly side: a small triangle section of now edge woods (w/ hickory, oak, pine, tulip poplar, etc.) & flanked by a pipeline right of way.

Water harvesting earthworks have me puzzled. Parts of swale, terracing, and hugelkulter make sense for my space, but I just don’t have enough experience to know how to fit them all together... or not. There are many different contours, seemingly competing. As you can imagine, water flows quickly from the upper E side walk/driveway/steep gradient... down the side of the strip of land and my house, gaining more water on the way. See pictures for reference.

My current (subject to change!) plan is to have a hugel-type raised section along the curving, bottom most NW tip for strawberries, herbs. Continuing to the section of wood, I am going to thin out any competing or damaged trees, plant three fruit trees, sheet mulch this fall, & in the spring plant berries, native herbs & understory plants. Moving East, I will eventually have a small shed in the middle section (only good place to put on the property) hopefully helping to create a zone 8 microclimate for the full sun section which will have at least another fruit tree & varied guild (this sections plan is more hazy, will do next year.)

I want to maintain the full sun to mostly shade spread through the section, & build up my soil through sheet mulching... Given my zone, contours you can see through pictures, drainage issues, and current “food forest” goals... what in the world do I do for earthworks?!

Rainfall: 3-5in per month
Temps: mid to high 80s w/ average humidity around 68%

The sun intensity here is extreme, and I want to do my best to prepare this area to hold as much of its own water as possible. Any and all thoughts welcome. 😊

Thank you,
Cassie
DA733FB5-10C0-4061-BA86-51F38BE4981D.jpeg
NW on left. Red line denotes parallel pipeline right of way... and neighbors property line.
NW on left. Red line denotes parallel pipeline right of way... and neighbors property line.
972EFC65-0C5B-4ED5-8FA7-7F5CD161F4B0.jpeg
Mid section. Red: property line. Yellow: future shed. Blue: water drain path moving left. Black: contours.
Mid section. Red: property line. Yellow: future shed. Blue: water drain path moving left. Black: contours.
00406F58-5A8F-4159-8564-C3C7D0D40A59.jpeg
Eastern section. Hard, barren red clay from new development.
Eastern section. Hard, barren red clay from new development.
9FCBF661-FFE9-430F-A6C4-F94A7AACE31A.jpeg
Eastern slope gradient. Right: street, sidewalk. Red: property line.
Eastern slope gradient. Right: street, sidewalk. Red: property line.
FF63F1E7-D0B5-4FA5-B37C-0B3F66CEE428.jpeg
View towards NW
View towards NW
A3EBEC03-62FD-4908-9933-238C33D7E0E6.jpeg
View towards E
View towards E
 
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Hi Cassie, welcome to Permies!

Does the water coming down the driveway head into this area as well?  I hope it doesn't run into the garage...

I'm dealing with a lot of sand so I'm not sure if this question makes sense...  With heavy clay, how much infiltration is even possible?

Do you have a basement or crawlspace on that side of the house?
 
pollinator
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Why do you want to do earthworks?
You are in a HOA community, their is a limit to how much the neighbors will take, sometimes it comes down to either earthworks or fruit trees but not both before xyz gets pissed off and report you.

Be very careful able drainage near the house. I would stop any swale/etc at least 12ft away from the house. Can you post an aerial/overhead/googlemap view of the property? That would give us a better idea of your site.


You bought 1 acres aka 44,000sqft. I assume 2,000 is the house and maybe another 10,000 is lawn/tree. That still leaves 32,000sqft.
How much of that do you plan on turning into a food forest/garden. With 15ft centers you can plant 142 fruit trees. I recommend not planting stone fruits or apples, they have too much pest and need too much attention.
You might have to wait until a 'hurricane' comes through before you can cut down some of those existing trees with the HOA around.

 
Cassie Nunan
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Mike Haasl wrote:Hi Cassie, welcome to Permies!

Does the water coming down the driveway head into this area as well?  I hope it doesn't run into the garage...

I'm dealing with a lot of sand so I'm not sure if this question makes sense...  With heavy clay, how much infiltration is even possible?

Do you have a basement or crawlspace on that side of the house?



Thank you! The water coming down the driveway does flow off into that area as well (thankfully).

To be totally honest I am 100% new to working with clay... I’m from zone 6, with actual soil. I stumbled upon permaculture while researching what options I had to start working my little slice of earth. But from reading others who have worked with clay, it does seem like infiltration is only minimally possible?

I am open to suggestions. I hate watching all that water run off into the creek behind us.. thinking of all the watering I’ll have to do next year between rains!

& no the home is on a concrete slab.
 
Cassie Nunan
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S Bengi wrote:Why do you want to do earthworks?
You are in a HOA community, their is a limit to how much the neighbors will take, sometimes it comes down to either earthworks or fruit trees but not both before xyz gets pissed off and report you.

Be very careful able drainage near the house. I would stop any swale/etc at least 12ft away from the house. Can you post an aerial/overhead/googlemap view of the property? That would give us a better idea of your site.


You bought 1 acres aka 44,000sqft. I assume 2,000 is the house and maybe another 10,000 is lawn/tree. That still leaves 32,000sqft.
How much of that do you plan on turning into a food forest/garden. With 15ft centers you can plant 142 fruit trees. I recommend not planting stone fruits or apples, they have too much pest and need too much attention.
You might have to wait until a 'hurricane' comes through before you can cut down some of those existing trees with the HOA around.



I would like a solution to the water run off, and also would like that solution to help the water needs in the garden space. So to me that pointed to earthworks. Unless you see another solution?

I will keep that in mind about stone fruit trees. That’s definitely how I was leaning. Trying to include some hardy, disease resistant fruits that only require a minimum of care.

I have a list of priorities for the lot, but the hoa did tell us we can do whatever we want in the back. So that’s encouraging. They seem pretty relaxed for an hoa, and mostly are stingy about out buildings. I’m going to try to have an “apologize later” mentality... we’ll see how that goes haha.

The front section as seen in the pic is the most problematic. The steepness from the sidewalk down to the first tree on the left is more than on the other side of the drive. Not planning anything on that, but the water run off (combined with drains and such) creates some problem areas marked with X.

Water ultimately all flows into the creek at the top left corner of the pic. The pipeline is the area outlined in red. So once it reaches that there’s nothing I can do. (Hoping for approval for a sort of semi-movable greenhouse structure also, since I can’t have anything permanent on the pipeline. But that’s a whole other thread I’m sure.)

I highlighted the most workable areas in purple. I’m definitely starting off the pack patio and basically going clockwise around the house as I have time & energy.

Hope this helps clarify!
FF44583F-6484-4399-B336-9387A00CB2B3.jpeg
[Thumbnail for FF44583F-6484-4399-B336-9387A00CB2B3.jpeg]
1D336DB0-9647-45A2-9FC7-FF1E6139B912.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 1D336DB0-9647-45A2-9FC7-FF1E6139B912.jpeg]
 
Mike Haasl
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To have water for the garden, it might be easier to do rainwater collection and storage.  With your rain amounts you should be able to collect more than you could ever store.  If a tank on the back side of the house is ok, I'd be leaning that way on the water storage front.

For the water on the ground department, unless it's causing a problem, I might just let it be.  Or do little things but nothing huge.  But I'm a long way away so I don't really know your situation...
 
Cassie Nunan
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Mike Haasl wrote:To have water for the garden, it might be easier to do rainwater collection and storage.  With your rain amounts you should be able to collect more than you could ever store.  If a tank on the back side of the house is ok, I'd be leaning that way on the water storage front.

For the water on the ground department, unless it's causing a problem, I might just let it be.  Or do little things but nothing huge.  But I'm a long way away so I don't really know your situation...



That does sound like an easier route... thanks for sharing your perspective! Definitely helps for the short term. I’m thinking once I try planting and building up soil on the E slope, I may have some issues. I’ve seen folks on here use terracing for similar problem areas...  
 
S Bengi
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Those aerial pictures helped me to visualize things.

Is it possible for you to get free/cheap mulch. I think that would help alot.

For the problem spots marked with the X you can add stones/gravel to help with the erosion too.

I like these "straw log" for directing water, stopping erosion and building up soil. (you can also use real logs/branches too)
https://www.ecologyartisans.com/blog/effective-erosion-control-straw-wattle
 
Cassie Nunan
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S Bengi wrote:Those aerial pictures helped me to visualize things.

Is it possible for you to get free/cheap mulch. I think that would help alot.

For the problem spots marked with the X you can add stones/gravel to help with the erosion too.

I like these "straw log" for directing water, stopping erosion and building up soil. (you can also use real logs/branches too)



I haven’t seen these before, I’ll check them out! I actually have access to a lot of mulched wood. When the pipeline came though they mulched a bunch of trees and left it all on the back of my neighbor and I’s lot. There are quite a few weak and downed trees also, so that’s definitely something I could implement pretty easily. Thanks!
 
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