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RE: Berms

Ok- now you've all got me reconsidering what to do with an area near my
front door that seem to hold every ounce of water it ever sees.  I have
built it up a little and planted a few odds and ends, but I'm worried all
may drown.  Seems very weird to worried about something drowning in
Sacramento.  I'm going to monitor it this summer and see if it stays that
wet.  I think it must be one giant clump of clay, and may even have  waste
concrete (from when they build the house 12 years ago) or something in it
too.  Also, has a concrete mow strip around it.  So, sort of like a bathtub.
I can't really make a true berm there, because right between it and the
house is a nice raised bed finished with brick (so a hill there would look
very odd).  So, maybe I should consider plant that like wet feet, but also
lots of heat and sun in summer.

I am all ears you wet-feet plant experts!


-----Original Message-----
From: owner-gardenchat@hort.net [mailto:owner-gardenchat@hort.net]On
Behalf Of cathy carpenter
Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2003 7:02 PM
To: gardenchat@hort.net
Subject: Re: [CHAT] Berms

Donna, You might also want to consider some of the many plants that
like wet feet, even if you do use a berm. You would be surprised how
many nice ones are out there. I bet a Button Bush (Cephalanthus
occidentalis) would love that spot even without a berm!

On Tuesday, April 8, 2003, at 10:43 PM, Marge Talt wrote:

> Wouldn't worry about it, Donna.  If the berm was at least a couple of
> feet high, the trees and shrubs are either sending roots sideways, if
> they find the underlying soil too wet, or enjoying the deep moisture
> some of the time.  Most trees and large shrubs have the bulk of their
> roots in the first foot of soil.  Some send down tap roots, but these
> are primarily anchoring devices...and some will send other anchoring
> roots farther down.  But, feeder roots are almost always in the top
> layer of soil, which is the one you need to worry about as far as
> drainage is concerned.
> Problem with planting into poorly draining clay is when a hole is dug
> for the plant without breaking up the soil in a sufficiently large
> circle around the planting spot.  This creates a bathtub into which
> water drains and from which it does not drain fast enough.  The roots
> are pretty much confined to this tub because, in the digging of same,
> the sides of the hole were no doubt smoothed out and possibly
> amendments were mixed into the planting hole and the roots can't or
> are reluctant to try to penetrate into the surrounding natural soil.
> In clay soils, with no hardpan or rock layer immediately under, the
> key is to use a digging fork and dig a circle of soil at least three
> times the rootball diameter to the depth of the rootball.  This area
> should be well broken up and then the hole for the plant scooped out.
>  This allows water to drain all around the plant and makes it easier
> for plant roots to expand out into the surrounding soil.
> Unless the spot has standing water for days after rains, even clay
> that drains slowly will drain with this method.
> Hardpan, shallow underlying rock areas and swamps are another
> matter:-)
> Marge Talt, zone 7 Maryland
> mtalt@hort.net
> Editor:  Gardening in Shade

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