Thursday, October 3, 2013

And finally on to the BIG rain garden!

The rain garden retaining wall almost finished.
After my marathon re-landscaping project last year, I had planned to relax a bit this summer, do some minor fiddling with the native gardens I planted last year as part of the Slow the Flow grant, and enjoy the compliments of my neighbors. (I would not be surprised if cardinal flower and Joe Pye weed popped up in many of their yards next year, they all love mine and want it now too!) But, yeah, who was I kidding? Relax!? The reality is I've been working on this area of the backyard (left) for the last two months.

The rain garden area in November 2011, before any work was done

After staring at this last, ugly,
barren, plastic landscape cloth-lined section (right) of our backyard all spring I couldn't take it anymore and I picked up a shovel. This section of the backyard was an old cesspool until about 15 years ago when the previous owners had the new septic built in the front yard. The area was filled in with gravel, lined with plastic landscape cloth, and covered in mulch.

Our Conservation Commission approved plan was to dig out the three beech trees that were getting slowly buried by the eroding slope behind the house, terrace the whole area with rocks, add steps down the side, and make it a rain garden. I was going to do it next summer but between the ugliness and the fact that we added two more new gutters to the back of the house, concentrating runoff that could make the erosion worse, it needed to be done. My only problem was I needed rocks, a pallet can go for about $400! And then I met a nice family in town who needed to get rid of A LOT of rocks from a building project and I was all set to go!

Digging the beech trees out was the hardest. They were buried by almost three feet (left) on the high side. Luckily no strangler roots had formed yet, I was just in time. And now they have a nice wall to hold back the slope. 

My kids will no longer have to scramble down the old steep slope (left) to get to the wild part of the backyard. They love these new steps (right) and it's now a nice place to sit and look at the river. 


This was most of the area (left) just when I started the work. You can see where the water from the main house gutter will drain into the rain garden through the 6" black hose. A second black hose was added for the new gutter on the family room roof, and both were buried under a new pathway (below).

Right after I buried them, and dug out a temporary small bowl for runoff to collect in, we had a big rain storm. The bowl filled up nicely and not a drop ran down straight to the river. I can't wait to see what happens when it's all landscaped with cardinal flower, ferns and sweet pepper bush, but THAT will definitely have to wait until next spring. With winter coming Mother Nature is preventing me from planting, which is probably a good thing, I really should take a break!


  1. Bravo! This is quite a feat!

  2. Thanks Kate for this great summary blog! We are really excited to have you speak at the Ipswich River Watershed Association (143 County Road, Ipswich) next Thursday October 10th at 7pm. Everyone should come out and hear first hand Kate speak about her amazing accomplishments!

  3. thanks! let's just say I'm REALLY sore today! Moving rocks is hard work!


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