Last spring I was reading the flyer that came in our (gulp) utilities bill. It mentioned an experimental plan offered by the city to pay us (pennies on the dollar!) to get rid of our lawn and plant a native landscape instead. This was on the heels of the Year of Fire and Brimstone, so I thought the idea was brilliant. After all, we’re spending way too much money and using way too much precious water to keep our hideous lawn alive.
But where will the kids play? Well, keep in mind that Texas grass has large (of course) rough blades, and is often full of stabby bitey things. It’s not the lovely cool soft grass I ran barefoot in my whole childhood. Plus, our southern facing, treeless backyard is just too damn hot and infested with fire ants for the kids to spend much time there. And after visiting East Side Patch, Violet and Graham realized there was more to life than lawn. They’re on board with the plan. When asked what they will do if they miss the grass, they looked at me like I was stupid, “Um… we’ll go to the front yard.”
So, I drew up a plan, sent it in to the city, and took “before” photos. I also had to promise not to water my backyard lawn ever again. Deal.
The first step was to dig dry creek beds to catch the water from the downspouts. Our property slopes gently away from the house, so when we get our Texas-sized gully-washers, the water sheets down our yard and into the neighbors’. But I want to keep it. One of the ways hold onto it is to basically dig a long trench and fill it with rocks: a dry creek bed. When it rains, the water collects in these trenches, slows down, and is given time to soak into the earth rather than run down the storm drain.
So one week last fall, after our first of only two rains that season, I laid out the hose to outline the meandering bed. Then I dug. And dug and dug and dug. I dumped the dirt into the chicken run, which was like Christmas for them. (Although the fact that half the “dirt” was rocks may have ruffled their feathers, because they stopped laying for a long while.) By the end, the entire floor of the run had risen at least 3 inches.
The main creek bed is about 1.5 feet deep and 3 feet across, and the smaller trench that meets it halfway is about 2×2.
After those were dug, I covered the bottom and sides with landscape cloth, and ordered river rocks. Then we hauled. And hauled and hauled and hauled. I also placed a few bigger stones for “crossing the river” to the playground.
The second (and last) rain of the fall proved that our smaller bed was too shallow. It overflowed its banks almost immediately. So we had to remove rocks, dig deeper, add more landscape cloth and rocks, and pray we would never lift a shovelful of stone again.
This morning it rained pretty hard for the first time this year. Banks holding. Plan moving along.
Stay tuned for part 2.