Let the flow go

DRAINAGE, drainage, drainage- it’s just so important in backyards.

So important in fact, I’ve repeated the word three times in the first sentence of this article. (See first sentence.)

If you don’t have good drainage, you haven’t got a good yard, and if you haven’t got a good yard, nobody likes you - it’s as simple as that.

Drainage has become a bit of a modern term in gardening circles. Gardens of older homes installed pre-1980 will most likely just have been shoved in with no concerns as to where the water will run.

As many owners have found out since, the water tends to run right through the house if there is a big downpour.

It’s all about knowing what water will do and where it will go. Sort of like an ex-wife who still has your credit card, except that water won’t ring up crying on the phone and analysing where “we went wrong”.

Always remember to dial before you dig. It also pays to listen to the advice they give you once dialling because saying that you definitely “dialled” before you punctured the gas mains five times will not be a suitable defence when the council takes you to court, trust me.

A novel way of recycling water and solving drainage problems is to install a pool at the very lowest part of your backyard.

Rain and excessive irrigation water will flow down and into the pool. Now it may create a murky body of water, perhaps full of run-off chemicals, plant stimulants and washed-away reptiles, but you’ll halve your water bill, that’s for sure.

I installed a system exactly as described for a client at Tum Tum Tooree in the Northern Territory.

Although he doesn’t get to swim as much as he used to, having gone blind and contracted a severe skin condition, he certainly saw how the system made sense during the drought.

Irrigation systems always waste a lot of water. How many times have you turned on the automatic sprinkler system before leaving for your two-day Japanese calligraphy and coal walking course, only to return home to the Great Lakes? Yep, we’ve all been there.

Don’t put all your faith in mechanised sprinkler systems. It doesn’t hurt to ask the neighbour to turn off the tap or get a rellie to call round and do it.

A word of warning though – avoid giving too much access to relatives though. What may start with a daily “watering of the plants” could soon turn into a daily “selling your entire VHS collection on eBay and stealing the insulation batts in your ceiling” routine.

Take to the problem before the problem takes you. When purchasing a new house, flood the backyard somehow (I recommend using the in-ground fire hydrant in the front street or running a hose from the neighbours’ at night) just once to see where the low spots are and exactly how much your yard can take before it becomes a native wetland.

Flood water, whether it’s man-made or forced on you by nature, usually takes a while to run away.

For a faster clean up, it pays to keep a few rolls of carpet in the garden shed, along with some second-hand chamois cloths (or the plural, “chamoy”) to spread around the yard to soak it up.

These can then be ringed out into the storm water drain or squeezed out over your guttering to collect that precious resource into your tanks.

So take the time to investigate your drainage.

And if you don’t think it’s important, check the first sentence.

Tip of the Month: Use an oxy cutter for large pruning jobs. This will create a nice campfire aroma while working.

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READER COMMENTS

Trugger
29/04/2012 4:25:04 PM

Another tip of the month for Gherkin Jarvis. When needing a large hole in the ground for tree planting when it is too compacted or rocky, use two plugs of gelignite. The residue from the resultant explosion is rich in nitrates which will save you money on fertilizer when you plant your new orange tree. Another tip of the month is to ensure you use adequate blast mats and check your insurance covers this sort of tree planting activity.
Better Backyards with Gherkin JarvisSelf-proclaimed gardening expert and carpet enthusiast, Gherkin Jarvis, brings you his thoughts on Australia’s great lifestyle tradition, the backyard.

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