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SGrabs33 Backyard Landscape Reno and Drainage Install

Background:
We moved into our new home in the summer of 2012. Our builder installed the typical NC "builder plants" and beds in the front and side yards with nothing to speak of for the back. We had a fence installed that covers the majority of our backyard (easement excluded) for our little furry friend, Tucker. There is a swale that runs right thru the middle of my backyard which takes the rainwater from my yard and some of my neighbors away from my house and down between me and my neighbors houses.

Reasoning for upgrades:
1. The fence was killing our Bermuda that was near the back of the fence (only gets some afternoon sun) and also one of the interior sides (only gets morning sun)
2. The swale would often times hold water for days making mowing a fairly muddy process
3. We needed to make the back yard look better, plain and simple

We had a landscape consultant come out to the house to give us some ideas for both new plantings and also the possibility of installing a patio. He took pictures around the house and then sketched his ideas over the pictures. Following the meeting I asked him if he could get a quote on the work that he recommended. The low side of his estimate for planting bed install, plants, and a few(4) buried downspouts was 6k (we decided on no patio). Of course that was higher than I expected and I eventually decided to take on the job myself, with the help of my wife and two year old.

Here is the overview of the house before any work was done:



Red - property line
Blue - fence
Purple - swale direction
Yellow - current downspouts

The Plan:
1. Rent a bed edger to make a grass island in the back yard
2. Use the edger to start the lines for the new drainage install
3. Buy and install new plants around the back yard
4. Add flagstone and mulch the beds

Before Pictures:







Step 1 - Rent a bed edger to make a grass island in the back yard

We marked up the lawn with spray-paint the night before to make sure we had the lines where we wanted them. I looked at quite a few different options from our local rental houses but finally decided on an EZ-Trench. I have a truck so it was easy enough for me to run over there and pick it up. I believe the rental was roughly 65 bucks for the day. The unit was pretty easy to maneuver as long as you were on level ground. I had one small area on the side of my house with a descent slope to it and the machine did drift some. I would recommend watering your ground prior to the trenching as the blades did not have an easy time cutting through the soil. The machine would cut off on me if I tried to go too deep. It is probably best to do a few passes at different heights. If I had not run into any issues (like the pull cord breaking with 90% of the digging done) it probably would have taken about 2 or 3 hours to do my whole back yard. One other thing to note is that you need to pull the machine in the correct direction because the blade is tapered to have a more gradual slope for the mulch to sit in.





After the edge was made I made multiple passes with my Chapin sprayer and some Ultra-Kill Weed & Grass Killer Concentrate. I'm sure I will have to use this again this spring but it took less time than renting a sod cutter to take out the grass in the soon to be mulched areas.
One other thing I would like to note is the trench side which the mulch would eventually lay over had a decent drop off and I was afraid that it would be visible thru the mulch (see below, before taper). Because of this I went around the whole outside edge with my flat shovel to taper the edge slightly. This may have not been necessary but I did not want to have to come back and do it after the mulch was installed.



Step 2 - Use the edger to start the lines for the new drainage install

Here is the outline of the drainage lines that I added (in yellow):



The edger worked great as a starting point for the trenches. I did have to use a shovel and pick axe to get the trenches roughly 3 inches deeper than the machine would go. Since the pipe I was getting was 4" I wanted to get the bottom of the trench to around 7-8" so there would be at the very least 3" of soil on top of the pipe. I bought all of my materials for the downspouts from Lowes.

Parts list (in order of install from downspout to output grate):
ADS 4-in Dia Corrugated Downspout Adapter Fitting

ADS 4-in x 100-ft Corrugated Solid Pipe

NDS 3-in or 4-in Dia Adapter

Charlotte Pipe 4-in dia 90-Degree PVC Elbow Fitting

NDS 4-in Dia Round Round Grate

This was needed on the one area to connect two downspouts to one drainage output:
ADS 3-in Dia 45-Degree Corrugated Wye Fitting

The most difficult part was the extra digging that was needed and making sure that the slope of the drainage was tilted away from the house. Though, the tilt wasn't too bad as long as I followed the general slope that the builder had already laid out.



This was the most difficult area to maneuver, where two downspout drainage lines merged and also went thru the grass island edge.





After the trenches were dug I laid the pipe with the fittings mentioned above. To make sure the pieces stayed together I used Gorilla Tape(underground). I know this might not be best option for the job but it worked for me.
If you look at the above picture you can see that the vertical drainage line ends in an area wider than the rest of the trench. The wideness is not necessary but I wanted to mention that the drainage pop up is going to come up around rocks, not mulch. This is the section of the yard where the swale goes out the side yard under the fence. If I was to use mulch there all of it would get washed out during a large storm. Apologies but I didn't seem to take any pictures of the pipe before I covered it in the soil and sand mixture. I will continue to use sand to level out the area above the pipes. I will also use extra fertilizer to encourage the area to grow in.
You can see in the below picture that when the drainage trenches go thru the bed edges it is important to rebuild the area which you want grass to grow back. I just used some of the old dirt mixed with water to make a nice mud pie and wedge it in the area (it's the light brown area in the sand line).









Step 3 - Buy and install new plants around the back yard

We bought our plants from a local supplier. Most of the plants that we used were on the recommendation of the consultant that we had previously spoken with. We dug the holes and installed them ourselves. Here are some of the plants we used:

Wintergreen Boxwood
Spartan Juniper Evergreen
Morning light maiden grass
Obsession Nandina
Limelight Hydrangea
Dwarf Burning Bush
East Bay ligustrum
Variegated liropie

I would again recommend watering the areas before digging. I think the goal is to get the top of the root ball just above the ground level. For many of the holes we had to dig a little, fill the whole with water to soften the soil, and then dig the remainder of the hole. When installing the plants I added a little Milorganite (Milo) and used some fresh planting soil to mix with the current soil. I do not have any specific planting pictures but you can see some of the installed plants above and below.

Step 4 - Add flagstone and mulch the beds

For the areas where we would be stepping in the mulch we decided to add flagstone. I looked around town and decided to use SuperSod because the location was the closest to my house and all of the places I looked had comparable pricing. I think the color that we decided on was Mojave and the cost of the pallet was around $300. We did not need a full pallet (2000 pounds) but the price was comparable to the cost of the per pound # of pieces we estimated for the project. We do have about 15 pieces left over for future use.



The pallet sure did weight down my truck but it made it the 5 or so mile trip to my house just fine. There was not much prep before laying down the flagstone because the area was either bare dirt or dead grass. Some of the pieces do wobble a bit when they are walked on but I just need to add a little sand underneath to level them out.





The final element was mulch! I have laid a few yards of mulch in my day but this project called for more than a few and I was already tired from all of the other work. We found a local guy who would buy the mulch, deliver it, and spread it for around $10 more per yard than it would have cost me to buy it on my own. That seemed like a great deal. He came out to the house and estimated around 17 yards. He ended up needing around 20 so he gave the last three yards @ cost.

Here is the final product:











Both the wife and I were very happy with the end result! We may add a few planter boxes down the road and I am sure we will be switching/swapping out plants depending on how they grow in the different areas. I am most happy that I will hopefully have a lot less water to deal with when I am cutting the back yard. I tested out a friends True-Cut C27 (with front roller) during this year's scalp on the back yard. The front roller is going to provide a huge benefit going around the outside edges so I will most likely be getting one of those at some point for my H20.

If you plan on completing a project like this feel free to ask any questions. I know probably forgot many of the details, as I did this last fall, but I'm sure some of them will come back to me if there are any specific questions. I will also update the post to clarify anything that I remember.

Thanks for reading!
 

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Tifgrand—7,500 sq/ft—Baroness LM56
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Looks like all your hard work is paying off!! I really like what you did with your drainage. I don't know if I missed or not but did you run a drainage pipe from one end of your lawn to the other where the "swale" was at to help drain the standing water?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks MQ! I did not run a pipe along the swale because that would have involved quite a bit more work. I am hoping that just diverting the water from the two main backyard downspouts will help with my water issues back there. If it does not, I will look into putting a french drain along the swale as you mentioned. The system seems to have helped so far but they have not been tested with our large April showers yet. Only time will tell...
 

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Bermudagrass, 3.75 acres, Arkansas
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I really like the 'turf island' you created in the back. That will make it much easier to maneuver a greens mower back there if you ever decide to go that direction. :thumbup:
 

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Tifgrand—7,500 sq/ft—Baroness LM56
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SGrabs, is your back fence on the South side of your property? Is that where you were having shade issues? I'm curious because I have the same issue on my lawn and eventually want to covert the back fence to a planting bed and I was wondering what plants you used back there. Thanks!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thank you all for the kind words. These type of projects always take longer than expected but we are really happy how everything turned out.

Mightyquinn said:
SGrabs, is your back fence on the South side of your property? Is that where you were having shade issues? I'm curious because I have the same issue on my lawn and eventually want to covert the back fence to a planting bed and I was wondering what plants you used back there. Thanks!!!
MQ... the back fence is South-East. I think I remember you being in the Air Force so I thought the below may help better than my description:



I mentioned a few of the plants under step 3 above but I am pretty sure the designer gave us a few more. I have the list on my work computer and should be able to post those at some point tomorrow.

Ware said:
I really like the 'turf island' you created in the back. That will make it much easier to maneuver a greens mower back there if you ever decide to go that direction. :thumbup:
I would definitely be interested in this but I have a hell of a hill in my front yard. :roll:
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Mightyquinn said:
I'm curious because I have the same issue on my lawn and eventually want to covert the back fence to a planting bed and I was wondering what plants you used back there. Thanks!!!
One of the other main reasons for this project was to reduce the amount weed-wacking. Having beds all along our fence should help with that.

Here is the full list of recommendations from our landscape consultant:
Karl Forester Grass
Dallas Blues Grass
Little Gem Magnolia (we decided on evergreens instead)
Loropetallum
Limelight Hydrangia
Abelia
Goshiki Osmanthus
Perennials
Distylumn
Obsession Nandina
Dwarf Burning Bush
Darkfire Loropetallum

We had added this one to the list on the recommendation of a local friend: East Bay ligustrum

Hopefully ones we ended up choosing work well!
 

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Bermudagrass, 3.75 acres, Arkansas
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We have some Loropetalum. I really like the deep purple color and the bright pink blooms, but man do they grow fast. I'm thinking about hitting them with some Primo Maxx this year. :D

 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Ware said:
but man do they grow fast. I'm thinking about hitting them with some Primo Maxx this year. :D
Ha, we have a few in our front that have just started to get going(only 3 feet tall or so). They began flowering about a week ago or so.
 

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Tifgrand—7,500 sq/ft—Baroness LM56
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Ware said:
We have some Loropetalum. I really like the deep purple color and the bright pink blooms, but man do they grow fast. I'm thinking about hitting them with some Primo Maxx this year. :D

I have two of these on the East side of my house and I agree that I really like the blooms and the color but mine have not grown that fast and they are very mature. I'm wondering what could be holding them back?
 

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Tifgrand—7,500 sq/ft—Baroness LM56
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SGrabs33 said:
Mightyquinn said:
I'm curious because I have the same issue on my lawn and eventually want to covert the back fence to a planting bed and I was wondering what plants you used back there. Thanks!!!
One of the other main reasons for this project was to reduce the amount weed-wacking. Having beds all along our fence should help with that.

Here is the full list of recommendations from our landscape consultant:
Karl Forester Grass
Dallas Blues Grass
Little Gem Magnolia (we decided on evergreens instead)
Loropetallum
Limelight Hydrangia
Abelia
Goshiki Osmanthus
Perennials
Distylumn
Obsession Nandina
Dwarf Burning Bush
Darkfire Loropetallum

We had added this one to the list on the recommendation of a local friend: East Bay ligustrum

Hopefully ones we ended up choosing work well!
Thank You for the list!! I will have to reference it when I do the backyard.
 
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