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Yard that floods... what can I grow?

 
Jaimee Gleisner
Posts: 60
Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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The back portion of my yard along my fence floods regularly in the winter and spring rains. We're talking like several inches of standing water for hours after a heavy rain and we get some heavy rains here in Illinois. The grass doesn't grow in that area so it's just mud and I want to cover it up with something. I tried covering it with landscaping rocks that I dug out from beds around our house. That allows for islands you can walk on, but it doesn't solve the problem. I'm wondering if wood chips might help the water soak into the ground better? Maybe some combination of rocks and wood chips? Is there any plants that can survive those conditions that I could plant in the wood chips?

Side note: I don't want to build a pond or anything like that.
 
Renate Howard
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Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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Weeping willows suck water out of marshy areas to help them dry out sooner. You could put down some pallets to walk on, make a "bridge" across the area that way, which would keep from compressing the soil to keep it absorbent. Look for the ones with "HT" on them, for "heat treated"; the "MT" ones were treated with Methyl Bromide - very toxic.

There are some gorgeous bog plants that would grow there, in fact some gardeners would envy you your boggy area, because the bog plants are so attractive.
 
Jaimee Gleisner
Posts: 60
Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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I love weeping willows! That is an idea for sure. I wonder, how much water can they really suck out? And do you have any recommendations for bog plants or a suggestion of where to look in these forums?

Thanks!!!
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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If you want food, elderberries are a natural choice. Alder is good too, it is a nitrogen fixer so you could move leaf mulch and chop/drop uphill to use around other plants. I think hazelnuts might also work....the native ones don't seem to mind winter wet....
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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We had the same problem at the old house. Did tall raised beds (like 16-18" high) with mulch and stepping stones around. Worked great.
 
Jaimee Gleisner
Posts: 60
Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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I had actually planned elderberries in part of that area and second guessed myself because of the flooding. So elderberries really can handle standing water for several days?
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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Indeed they can, especially in the winter. Just observe where different things grow in the wild, and you will quickly come up with a list of contenders for that site. Plants that grow in creek and river floodplains are often quite different species than those that grow in higher, drier sites. Where they grow wild is a better guideline....many floodplain plants can tolerate being planted in higher sites....where they appreciate supplemental water. Lots of things come to mind....sycamore, silver and red maples, redtwig dogwood, cottonwood, tamarack, as well as most willows. I was thinking initially of plants with multiple uses, and thus thought of elder, hazel, and alder.....
 
Jaimee Gleisner
Posts: 60
Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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Yes, I appreciate edibles, certainly! I also don't have much room for large trees, maybe one willow. I would love a hedgerow of elderberries and then maybe some lower flowering or ground cover types. Hostas, daylilies, ferns, coneflowers, asters?
 
Renate Howard
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Location: zone 6b
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Mallows would grow there, also sweet flag and sweet grass, cranberries, wild rice maybe.

You know, you can get weeping willow for free, just get a clipping and poke it in the ground. It will root and grow.

I'm looking at river birch for my marshy area - I think you can make birch beer out of the twigs. Sounds fun!
 
allen lumley
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Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Jaimee G. : Follow the money ! No actually follow the water. Are you saying that the lowest spot on your property is at your back fence ? If so you might
work with your neighbor(s) to create a simple drainage ditch to lower ground which should be the shoulder of the road that serves your neighborhood !

You might find a place where the natural slope of the land has been blocked by fill a neighbor has had hauled in. Due to the fact you imply nothing grows
back there i don't think so. However a simple walk around your neighborhood may show you a blocked storm drain or plugged culvert under a road.

You have to determine where your standing water goes to First. Look up PERK TEST,on-line. I'm sure that you know what your soil looks and feels
like down through the first foot or so. You may simply have a cap of clay in that area near your fence line, digging a hole in the area to be tested will
quickly show you how compacted your soil is before treatment. You want to know if simply digging down through the first 18 " or so will allow your soil
to drain.

If you have clay* everywhere and it is too deep to achieve drainage by simply digging down through it, You may have to haul in fill yourself and / or
use raised beds.

If your perk test shows you that you can make 'soil amendments' and you don't have the lowest piece of ground for miles, you can start looking for
organic mater w/out extra clay to add to your soil in your problem area, Probably the very best soil amendment for your problem will be Very Old
sawdust with very old wood chips being a close second - the whole pile of sawdust/wood chips not just the top 2'' should be a uniform black in color !

Because you have such a problem, i would steer away from more top soil or hardwood leaves, in this case sticks smaller that a pencil with the bark on
will work for you !

If you determine that you can gain drainage by adding drainage materials like old wood chips try free cycle, crags list, and your local highway dept.
who may have a hugh pile out in back of the Departments' Garage !Also good are Arborist/tree trimers, and horse bedding with lots of wood shavings/
sawdust.

Willows and Elderberries are two really good choices, as are any plant with deep tap roots, (think dandelions).

*If as I believe you have a low spot, and a deep layer of clay, you might post a note here at Permies in the Energy/Rocket Stoves threads, you might
find some one who would be willing to remove part of your problem -several 5 gall buckets worth !

Be Safe,keep Warm, PYRO magically - Big Al
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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How many days out of the year is this place flooded? Which parts of the year? If this is the lowest spot on property I'd put a lot of shrubs and trees that won't mind and can be coppiced. Willow and mulberry would be my first choices given the limited details. Coppiced trees and shrubs would provide an excellent resource and a end of the property nutrient trap.

I'd try and think If the reason it doesn't have anything growing is from something other than the water. I purposely create spots like this to improve the moisture come summer. And it's lush all winter, now rake into account it's different species than the high ground that's for sure though.
 
Eddie Johnson
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Have you considered creating a rain garden in this area?
 
Jaimee Gleisner
Posts: 60
Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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Wow, so many great ideas! Thanks everyone!

Jordan Lowery wrote:How many days out of the year is this place flooded? Which parts of the year? If this is the lowest spot on property I'd put a lot of shrubs and trees that won't mind and can be coppiced. Willow and mulberry would be my first choices given the limited details. Coppiced trees and shrubs would provide an excellent resource and a end of the property nutrient trap.


It's only after snow melt or heavy rain. For us that is typically end of winter-early spring and it dries up within a day of the rains ending (or snow melting). I actually forget about the drainage issue for most of the year other than the fact that the area doesn't get much growing on it. The grass never manages to fill in and other ground covers take over until they get flooded out or killed off by the cold. The soil is mostly clay and I'm sure quite compacted. The depression along the edge of our property was perhaps purposeful when they built the housing complex. It provides a river bed from the higher areas of the housing complex down to the lowest part of the complex, which is the park area complete with water retention depressions. But the water must make it through numerous yards, across streets, up curbs, etc. such that I don't think it ever makes it there and instead pools up in our yards. I recently built several hugel mounds in my yard and covered up the grass surrounding the mounds with local wood chips. One of my neighbors thinks I've disrupted the natural flow of water and have made the pooling worse this year. I don't think that is the case at all and neither do my other neighbors. I simply think we have gotten a crazy, crazy amount of rain over the last week. But, I would like to try and do something to capture the rainwater if possible.

So, this idea of a rain garden is intriguing. But I am entirely clueless how to begin such a project. Would I dig the depressions in my yard deeper to prevent the water from flowing through my yard and into my neighbors' yards? It would be a serious pond and I'm not sure I want that. One, I don't want a pond for safety reasons with my little children, two I would worry about standing water breeding more mosquitoes than we already have, and three, when the water dries up for most of the year I would have these large depressions with nothing in them. I can get a willow branch from a neighbor and when I have more funds I could plant some of the other species mentioned. But I'm really nervous about digging deeper depressions. Maybe someone with more experience could help me envision this better?



 
Eddie Johnson
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Rain gardens are not ponds. They look like nicely landscaped beds. They are low areas where stormwater is diverted or caught naturally and planted with plants and shrubs (even trees) to filter pollutants and recharge the ground water supply. You will find a lot of info online that is really geared towards engineers and landscape architects that can overwhelm you with calculations and detail that you won't need. The following link is geared a little towards homeowners and also provides links to some of the more detailed info. http://www.catawbariverkeeper.org/issues/stormwater/rain-gardens
 
leila hamaya
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Posts: 1106
Location: northern northern california
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you wouldnt neccessarily have to dig, you could just build up different levels and heights. just keep throwing more stuff on top of it as you go and make it much higher. it would require a lot of material to make it hilly there and then the water flow would change as you went.

...hard to say exactly how you could shape it without seeing it, but if you started building up organic material of some kind- mulch, straw, leaves, wood, maybe some sheet mulching lasagna style...and then just letting it take shape as you go.. maybe sort of U-shaped or some steps that lead up a small hill. or possibly build some kind of raised bed along the fence and then plant in there.

i live in a super boggy wet place, rainforest...and i did this in a lot of different spots. i did eventually dig drainage ditches and then fill them with rocks and sand..but mostly along walking paths that i built up.

its possible you might find out something is below it...like a sidewalk or something....in some spots here that were the worst thats what was below it that had gotten covered by dirt long ago. it used to be hard to walk around here without getting covered with mud...but its gotten a lot better though its a slow process to get the water flowing well....

and yep yep - WILLOWS love excessive water...if you can get some willow cuttings get a bunch.
here we have so many blackberries, they also seem to thrive in the too much water condition, but i wouldnt recommend putting them in cause they are insane with their world domination plans ! native blackberry proper is a lot better than the hymalayans....
i also have lots elderberries, thimbleberries, lots of viola, artichokes. nasturtiums seem to love tons of water....theres more for sure...anything that grows here has to love excessive water...except for the areas that are raised up and hilly where i can plant other stuff....
 
Alder Burns
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Posts: 1331
Location: northern California
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Blackberries might be a great choice for her, especially now I read how little time the area actually spends flooded. Leila....the blackberries in the East are tame compared to the Himalayan you've got....maybe head-tall at most.
 
leila hamaya
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Posts: 1106
Location: northern northern california
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gotta love the blackberries, even though they are so out of control.
even the himalayans, i have to appreciate them for their abundance and being able to grow in the worst spots.....the birds love them and they do make a good hedge. i wouldnt plant them somewhere though, but they have already taken over this entire area.

perhaps their claim for world domination is more justified than most who would seek such =)

and totally, all the other types of blackberries are much better choice, and dont spread so far.

theres three kinds of blackberries right here, a nice thornless blackberry of some kind, himalayans which spread extremely fast and abundantly, and native blackberry proper.

the native blackberry is beautiful purple color, really thorny and has a good flavor. it spreads slowly, but its much more compact, doesnt spread out so far.

the himalayans, which grow on the willows like a trellis, get 15++ feet tall!!! using the willows to boost higher up.

you could try to put in blackberries with the roots enclosed in something to try and stop them from spreading too far.
 
leila hamaya
pollinator
Posts: 1106
Location: northern northern california
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another idea i have been playing with lately, though this may not be needed in this case, is digging trenches and then putting boards and pallets and such over them and then building a bed on top of the whole thing.

so the trench actually runs through the middle underneath it all. eventually it would fall in some...but it would still make it fluffier and have left some channels for water after it falls in and reshapes.

or just digging a trench around the bed, and then cutting up pallets and boards and basically embedding them in the surrounding trench so you can still walk into the garden...to stand on them while the trench is filled on the bottom with water.

maybe your neighbor would like that kind of idea....
even without seeing it i think your neighbor is wrong that you made it worse making beds ...but its hard to figure it all out till you do it...how you will change the water flow....and then keep readjusting till it works good. and maybe most people would think first of trenches and digging...but if you put more stuff there it would actually absorb more...but then shift the paths of the water.....
 
Jaimee Gleisner
Posts: 60
Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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Okay, I'm really trying to figure out how this could work and convince my husband that we need to take on this project! I'm concerned that the sheer volume of water that flows through my yard would be difficult to catch with just a shallow rain garden basin. Picture a small, shallow river flowing along the fence. In a few places it pools up against obstacles, but there's still a steady flow through the yard until it soaks in enough and then there are just pools. I would literally be damming the river and creating a lake. It's a serious amount of water. If the rain garden area couldn't hold it all it would then over flow into my neighbor's yard and that would not be good. I'd need a back up plan in place for over flow to make sure it didn't flood out my neighbor. Does this seem like the right way to go?
 
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