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Thursday, February 4, 2016

CREEKSIDE PROJECT - HOW TO TURN A DRAINAGE DITCH INTO A DRY CREEK - PHASE I

I thought I had better get to writing about this project since Phase I is already two years in the making!

I live 500 feet up a Kentucky ridge and my lot is divided by a small drainage gully scattered with a few large rocks and chunks of concrete.  Before I lived here, the ditch had become overgrown with trees, weeds and bramble.  Old yard junk was thrown in, as well, I suppose to halt erosion.  This gully feeds into a ditch that eventually drains into a lake.
The black lab is snuffling where Phase II will begin
My goal is to turn the gully into an attractive dry creek in my landscape.  More importantly, the redesign will prevent further erosion and the added rocks and plants will help to filter the water as it moves through.  Grass, bushes and flowers will help support the wildlife, birds and pollinators.

PHASE I

Removal of the overgrowth and junk was exhausting and rewarding.  Once the mess was out of the way, I was able to see what I had to work with.

Cursed Pipe Riser
Going with the natural flow of the water, I added waterfalls.  The pools under their spillways help to retain water.  I basically just embellished the waterways that were already in place.

Two waterfalls in
I cleared the ground around the creek down to the soil and existing grass.  Since the large cottonwood, an old redbud, and persimmon trees create a considerable amount of shade, I seeded with a sun and shade blend.  Although a little slow to germinate, the seed did very well for a while but proved to be a bit too tender and susceptible to drought.  

In the Fall, I switched to a Kentucky fescue which sprouted fast! This fescue grass tolerates shade and drought.  I believe it will prove to be just what is needed for the shady clay soil.

Seeded just in time for a nice rain
The east bank and island are seeded with sun and shade
More patching...
At a local landscaping establishment, I purchased wide flat rocks for the spillways.  Pea gravel came from a local hardware store and I bought the creek pebbles from a local gravel distributor which, by the five gallon bucket, was very cheap.  I gathered the rest of the rocks alongside roads under limestone cliffs.  This hardscape will continue to be added until all of the phases are complete.

One of Kentucky's best natural resources
This year I will add softscape with plants that are deer resistant and tolerant to shade.  While keeping my focus on native plants that support birds and pollinators, I also have to keep in mind that I live in a community where I can't just let everything go wild.

New Guinea impatiens add a deep exotic color but the deer LOVE it.  I do think that ferns and azaleas have a place here.  I will be posting a separate blog later with my plant list and the research that guides my choices for Phase I.  

The maintenance issues and ongoing lessons that I have encountered include erosion from upstream, adjusting the rocks and slabs from the torrential force of water, replacing annuals due to munching deer and, of course, weeding.  

I do not use glyphosate or other chemicals, I don't like them.  This is a waterway that feeds a lake and chemicals don't belong here.  So, I hand pull weeds and when my hands and my back and my body hurt, I just think about the rabbits, birds, bugs, turtles, toads and frogs that live in this place.  It is, after all, their home.

Baby painted turtle
American Toad
Warbling Vireo feeding young
Here are a few"after" photos and a short video of a trip "up the creek".  A Warbling Vireo sings in the background.  I hope you enjoy it!

Standpipe is covered and grass is coming in
Waterfalls are in place, a total of six

Waterfall with catch basin for water retention

A NOTE ON PHASE II

This phase is beginning and includes building a dam, a frog pond, and removal of two cedar trees which will allow me to include a stumpery project.  It will also give the redbud and white ash some breathing room while letting a bit more sunlight in.

Until next time, happy winter planning - Spring arrives in seven weeks! 

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