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Harshman Drafting

Baltimore, Maryland
Sole Proprietorship, Mark Harshman, Principal
http://www.mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
http://www.allexperts.com/ep/724-104627/Landscaping-Design/Mark.htm
http://www.liveperson.com/markland
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

The questions below were answered by me:

Index To Questions:
1. Sloped Lake Lot
2. Steepness Of Berm
3. Bedding Sand Type For Patio Pavers
4. Walkway
5. Planting Around Trees
6. Red Apple Ground Cover
7. Sidewalk Slope
8. Help with Design for Walkway
9. Rock Patio Over A Brick Paver Patio
10. Saga Palms
11. Patio
12. English Ivy
13. Flooded Yard
14. Pavers
15. Drainage Issues
16. Securing Railroad Ties Used In Retaining Wall
17. Need A Fast Growing Bush
18. Trees Suitable For Garden Wall
19. Flowers On Berm
20. Redwood Trees in Palo Alto, California
21. Water Usage and Grass
22. Raised Stone Bed
23. Driveway Paving Options
24. Raised Bed Garden
25. Mulch Near House
26. Increase Resale Value of Home
27. New Patio and Snow
28. Puddles On Sides Of House
29. Garage Area Drainage
30. Small Decorative Tree
31. Art For Garage Wall
32. Dog Resistant Front Yard

33. Low Retaining Wall


34. Wooden Fence Rail Length
35. Slab or Basement in Michigan
36. Privacy Hedge
37. High Water Table and Slope Drainage
38. Limestone As Landscape Mulch
39. Laying Pavers On Sand
40. Rock And Sand Surface Over Sod
41. Patio Privacy
42. Brick Walk Installation Over Concrete
43. Landscaping for Retaining Wall
44. Mosquitos and Water in Catch Basins
45. Maple Tree Near Sewer Line
46. Stain for Stone
47. Desert Privacy Hedge

48. Plant to Compliment Blue Spruce and Maple


49. Improving Look of Patio
50. Pavers Over Existing Concrete Slab
51. Privacy Plants For Pool
52. High Water Table And Poor Drainage
53. Limestone Mulch

54. Depth of Bedding Sand For Walkway


55. Sand Over Grass to Create Walking Surface,Eliminate Weeds And Reduce Maintenance
56. Sidewalk Drainage
57. Drainage Around Fence And Raising Fence Boards Off Ground
58. Shade Tree For House
59. Mound In Yard

60. Grading And Cover Around House Wall


61. Mulch Blows Away
62. Control Of Highway Noise
63. Rubber Lining For Planting Bed
64. Drainage of Groundwater
65. Staining Concrete

66. Weed Solarization


67. Weed Barrier Fabric
68. Flooded Driveway
69. How to Plant Shrub

70. Problem Mulberry And Use of Desert Plants


71. Hiding Propane Tank
72. Shrubs for Foundation Wall
73. Dwarf Japanese Maple Appraisal
74. Jasmine Vine Caused Damage To Fence

75. Lawn Shaded By Redwoods


76. Can Tree Roots Be Covered With Soil
77. Downspout Buried in Concrete Patio
78. Deer Fence
79. Watering Basin for Garden
80. Grading of Residential Lot

81. Sod Steps

82. Swimming Pool Heater Noise Suppression


83. Plants for Long Hedge

84. Rubble Left in Swimming Pool


85. Driveway Drainage
86. Staining Stone
87. Desert Privacy Hedge

88. Plants to Complement Blue Spruce Trees


89. Drainage On High Water Table

90. Drainage Around Home


91. Garden Tree Hedge
92. Landscape Contractor Job Pricing
93. Paving To Eliminate Mud
94. Pruning Colorado Blue Spruce
95. Landscape Designer Training
96. Pricing For Landscape Jobs
97. Material Choice For Patio Base
98. Pony Wall
99. Floor And Outside Grade
100. Removal Of Old Retaining Wall
101. Drainage Along Fence With Neighbor
102. Drainage Along Fence With Neighbor
103. Design Of Gate
104. Spring Flooding Property

105. Sump Pump Drainage


106. Grass And Trees For English Garden
107. Decomposed Granite Path
108. Maple Seed Annoyance

109. Cleaning Limestone Patio


110. Tree Appraisal
111. Soil Over Tree Roots

112. Noise Control Barriers


113. Pressure Treated Fence Post Rotting

114. How to Plant A Shrub


115. Drainage For Deck Planters
116. Flooding From Old Wheat Field
117. Plants And Drainage For Wet Ground
118. Can Plants Be Used To Drain Area

119. Drainage For Small Property


120. Willow Tree Poses Potential Nuisance

121. Raised Flower Bed Next To Garage


122. Plants Next To Driveway As Snow Barrier
123. Basement And Perimeter Drainage
124. Foundation Wall Grade And Perimeter Drainage
125. Privacy Without Trees
126. Dry Creek Bed
127. Water On Unistone Pavers
128. Can Drain Pipe Be Placed In Landscape Easement
129. Landscaping As A Profession
130. Stump Removal
131. French Drain For Slope Drainage
132. Flower Bed
133. Bad Drainage From Neighbor
134. Italian Cypress
135. Shade Tree For Pool And Deck
136. Retaining Wall
137. Jacaranda Tree
138. Garden Path Border Plants
139. Shrub Types
140. River Rock CreekBed
141. Drain Pipe Decoration
142. Poplar Roots
143. Will Chlorine Harm Plants
144. Lawn Drainage
145. Shade Tolerant Grass
146. Median Strip Planting
147. Structural Integrity Of Cedar Fence Post
148. Concrete Retaining Wall
149. French Drain For Basement
150. Tree For Small Area
151. Root Barrier
152. Landscaping For Driveway
153. Flower Bed Next To Garage
154. Unsightly Outside Basement Doors
155. Soil On Foundation
156. Unsightly Area On Brick Wall
157. Wet Yard
158. Plants That Absorb Water
159. Flooding
160. Invasive Willow Tree
161. Garden Trees
162. Hardscaping

1. Sloped Lake Lot

We live in central Alabama and bought a lake cabin for summer fun. The lot was overgrown
when we purchased and does not have water access at the moment. The backyard to the lake
is between a 30 to 40 degree slope with 4 hardwoods we would like to save. The rest of the
growth is underbrush and we would like to clear it so we can get to the lake (stairs or tram) and
also have a clearer view. We are worried about what kind of equipment we can use (bobcat?) to
clear and also what to do after we have cleared to prevent erosion. We would be fine with a
natural setting because we do not want to mow grass and have tons of upkeep since it is just a
weekend cabin. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!

Answer:
Doesnt sound like a BobCat could be used on a slope that steep. Some type of hand held brush
mowing machine sounds like a better option,but even that sounds like it could be dangerous on a
slope that steep. Perhaps you should consider using a chain saw or even hand tools. There are
various types of loppers and scythes for cutting brush and of course the machete.

To prevent erosion seed the slope with grass or ground cover. Check with local experts for a
suitable variety. The seeding can be used in conjunction with erosion blankets (organic fiber
blankets reinforced with biodegradable mesh). Jute fiber is a common erosion blanket material
but blankets are also made of materials like coconut fiber,wood and bark fiber. The overlapping
joints on the blankets must be sealed with staples and overall the blankets must have good
ground contact or water will wash under the blankets and erosion will take place underneath.
The tops of the blankets must be keyed into the soil.

Use this in conjunction with straw wattles. Straw wattles are tubes about 12 inches in diameter
filled with straw. They are staked at various points along the slope. They slow down the water
long enough for sediment to be deposited behind them. Instead of straw wattles you could use a
silt fence at the foot of the slope and at points on the slope if necessary. A silt fence is a
geotextile material stretched along stakes about three feet high. The material must be keyed into
the ground and backfilled. The wattles must be placed in a shallow trench and staked. They are
biodegradable and can be left in place. Straw wattles will not do well on a slope with heavy rain
runoff,silt fences are more suited to that.

Since this is such a steep slope,a turf reinforcement mat (TRM) sounds like it might be in order.
This type of mesh is non-biodegradable and so provides long lasting erosion control. You will
want to prevent future erosion to the slope. All that dense underbrush that is now on it is doing a
pretty good job of controlling erosion because the root systems are larger and deeper. Look for
plants that provide good erosion control when replanting the slope. Get further advice about TRM
and how it may impact planting and wildlife.

Some things that could reduce costs would be to chip the cleared brush and use that as mulch on
the slope. Cover it with mulch netting. Loose mulch would have to be worked into the soil to
prevent soil from eroding out from under it.
The seed is sown under the mulch and also under erosion control blankets. Straw bales could
be used in place of silt fences or rocks and logs could be used for sediment control.
Wood chips deplete soil of nitrogen. In order for the seedlings to thrive you will have to replace
this nitrogen with a chemical fertilizer or use some kind of organic source. Use twelve pounds of
nitrogen fertilizer per ton of wood chips. Good luck to you. Feel free to ask further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

2. Steepness of Berm:

We are constructing a concrete retainer wall for a fire pit area in our yard, the walls are 48" tall
and we are hoping to berm soil up to the outside of these for landscaping. How much slope is
recommended? We have clay soils like much of western Washington and will add french drains
into the design to help with drainage. I'd like to be able to cover this area with shrubs,
groundcovers and a few small trees(less than 25ft in 10 years).

Answer:

The steepness of the berm should not exceed the angle of repose of the soil. The angle of
repose,also known as angle of rest,is the natural angle the soil material will slump to when
poured in a pile. As a general guide here are some angles of repose for various soil types:

stiff clay: 63 degrees


firm clay: 56 degrees
granular soil (dry): 45 degrees
granular soil (wet) 34 degrees
saturated granular soil: 26 degrees
sand: 33 degrees
dry silt: 25 to 40 degrees

As a general rule, I would not exceed an angle of 30 degrees for the clay you have or for any
other soil type. If possible,backfill the area behind the wall out to eight feet with a better draining
soil. You should take extra steps to increase drainage in clay. While you will want a steeper
slope for clay,you do not want to foster sliding movement against the wall. Sliding movement
increases with an increase in degree of slope. Since clay retains more water than other soil
types,hydrostatic pressure will also be increased behind the wall.

A swale at the top edge of the retaining wall would also be helpful if a suitable outlet for the water
can be found. The french drains also need an outlet in the form of weep holes in the wall or a
drainage pipe embedded in the gravel or both. If you install drain pipe,cover it with filter cloth to
prevent it from clogging. Good luck. Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

3. Bedding Sand Type for Patio Pavers:

We are DIY homeowners installing a paver patio using manufactured stone pavers ranging from
12x12 to 24x24. We already have 1/4 of them down using masonry sand (fine grains) as the
bedding sand. Just realized that concrete sand is preferred. We already had plenty of the
masonry sand delivered. Is the neagatives of the masonry sand strong enough to switch to
concrete sand (to include pulling up the already laid pavers)?

Answer: There is a good chance that the masonry sand you have layed under the pavers
will not drain adequately because of the fine particle size and so yes, concrete sand would be
more suitable for the purpose. My advice would be to take them up and use the masonry sand in
the joints only. The masonry sand is well suited for use on joints as it lowers the amount of water
that gets under the pavers and will not settle out as much as a coarser sand.

The water retention of masonry sand is high because of the tightly interlocking paricles and so if
this water freezes the pavers will be forced out of place. You could also experience flooding
during heavy rain since the infiltration rate of the water will be slowed down.

You will of course have to find a new use for the leftover masonry sand,but I would consider that
better than having drainage problems with your patio.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

4. Walkway:

I have a blacktop walkway in my yard. I would like to cover it with brick. Could I cover it with a
couple of inches of sand and put brick over it, or do I have to remove it and put down gravel first
and then sand? Thanks
Answer:

If you put the bricks over the walkway you will not have adequate drainage and that will result in
damage to the bricks in the form of frost heave and possible flooding of the walkway.

You do not necessarily need a gravel base. Depending on the soil type you may be able to just
use sand as a base. You could just use sand on well drained sandy or loam type soil,but if the
soil is clay or silt,install a gravel base of about eight inches deep.

Sweep masonry sand into the brick joints. This sand is dense and will restrict water movement
into the joints. Good luck. write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

5. Planting Around Trees:

We have an established willow tree and would like to plant some annuals or perrenials around it.
How far out from the tree do we need to be in order not to disturb roots? And what types of
flowers can be planted?

Answer:

Willow tree roots go out a long way,so you cant avoid the roots. Any drought and shade tolerant
plant can be planted under the willow,but the willow roots will compete with them for water and so
you need drought tolerant plants. Some examples of plants that can be used under willows are:

hosta (patriot variety)


pulmonaria (majeste variety)
laminium (nancy variety)
lambs ear
feverfew
viola
foxglove
acuba (shrub)
nandina(shrub)
daphne laureola
spurge laurel (shrub)

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
6. Red Apple Ground Cover:

I have been told that if you plant red apple ground cover on banks that you can expect it to only
last about 12 years and then will need to be re-planted. Is that true? That seems like an
impossible job. I guess I need to be getting someone to replant in the bare areas. I have tried
replanting with the red apple again but it doesn't seem to want to grow. Would I be more
successful filling in with a different type of ice plant ground cover for areas gone bare in the red
apple?

Answer:

Twelve years is a long life span for ground cover and yes,if you want ground cover of this
type,you must replant it about every 8 to 12 years. You could broadcast some kind of grass
seed but that would have a shorter life span.

The various species of sedum are self-propagating and are recommended as ground cover on
banks. Sedum spectabile is a vigorous and aggressive propagator,but is not invasive. It is hardy
and shade and drought tolerant,but I cannot say that using this plant would free you from having
to replant after twelve years. A nurseryman would be a better authority on this subject.

I am not very familiar with the ice plant species. As a group they are called ice plants but this
group is made up of several different species. Once again,this is a question more suitable for a
nurseryman. Has the soil been tested? Did you fertilize? Was wood chip mulch used on the
bank? Wood chip mulch will deplete the soil of nitrogen. Have the soil tested and apply fertilizer
per the recommendations or just use an all purpose fertilizer with a number of about 15-15-15.
These numbers vary but all purpose fertilizers are in the 10 through 20 range.

These numbers are known as the NPK (the first number stands for nitrogen,the second number
stands for phosphorous and the last number stands for potassium). So the first number 15, in
the above ratio would stand for 15 pounds of nitrogen per 100 pounds of the given fertilizer.
Organic fertilizers will have lower numbers. There is still controversy over whether they are as
effective and I cannot advise you on that.

If these ice plants have not been successful, consider other ground covers. The following list is
for the east coast,but if you are not on the east coast,some or all of these may be suitable for
your region:

creeping juniper (juniperis horizontalis)


moss pink (phlox sublulata)
baltic english ivy (hedera helix "baltica")
pachysandra ,japanese spurge (pachysandra terminalis)
yucca (yucca filamentosa)
liriope,lilly turf (liriope muscari,L. spicata)
sedum,stone crop (sedum,spp.)
ornamental grasses (numerous genera,species and cultivars)

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
7. Sidewalk Slope:

I have a new sidewalk & steps going down a hill. The plan called for "Steps = 4'6" rise approx.
with a 7' run would give 7 risers of 7 3/4" with a tread width of 14". They made only 5 steps. At
the top of the hill, the sidewalk slopes 3" to 3 1/2" (possibly more) downhill, making it difficult to
walk on, especially when wet. The contractor says the slope is needed for drainage. I have
never seen a sidewalk that was literally on it's side like this. Its concrete stamping. What do you
think?

Answer:

Perhaps you could take out the side walk and install steps at the top of the hill. You did not say
what material the steps and side walk are made of. Perhaps a material with a coarser texture
could be used on the side walk to give better traction or grooved concrete.

Well from a rough sketch I made five steps would give a tread width of about 16 inches which
does seem a bit too wide even for outside. I would have to know more about what the slope
looks like and what surrounds it to make a suggestion. Can you send me a copy of the plan by
email?

I could tell alot more from the plan,but this side walk looks slipppery and what is up with the debri
and the pipes on the side? I dont know what kind of arrangement you had with this
contractor,but perhaps you could get them to address these issues?

The concrete looks like it may have had a waterproof coating applied to it and that can be
slippery,particularly when wet. Removing the coating and making traction lines in the concrete if
necessary, would improve the traction. The concrete should have had a grit applied or broomed
to a rough finish before the coating was applied.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

8. Help with Design for Walkway:

I have pictures of this in the above link.


My husband is a skilled craftsman, but we need help with design for the following:
We added a room to our house. It has a basement with an entrance door... (the door in the
picture is temporary) The idea is to finish it and tie it in with the swimming pool... Eventually we
will have a bathroom so our grandchildren and their friends can use it without having to go into
our house.
Since we cannot afford to hire someone to do this we have to do it ourselves...
We need a walkway to the pool, but we need help... It has a V shape and it slopes in both sides
toward the pool.
I think we need some sort of retaining wall...We would appreciate any help you can provide us...
Some ideas on retaining wall step-back or slope from top to bottom., etc...
Thank you!!!!
Answer:

I would recommend a segmental block retaining wall. These blocks are made of solid concrete
and interlock with a key and groove and some can be fastened to each other by metal pins.
They can also be staggered back. This makes a heavy and strong interlocked wall that will
effectively resist the pressure of the soil. Ordinary concrete block is not recommended because
it is relatively weak and subject to water infiltration.

If these blocks are not available in your area another option would be to make your own concrete
blocks or to use stone if available. Some points to remember about retaining walls are:

Dig a foundation trench for the wall about 1 foot deep.

Make weep holes near the bottom of the wall for water to drain.

Place gravel behind the wall (along with a drainage pipe if needed). Water that accumulates
behind the wall needs an outlet,so determine where the water goes from that slope near the door
and make provisions in your design to direct water from behind the wall to the outlet.

Do not let the slope at the top of the wall exceed 30 degrees.

A swale at the top of the wall can help deflect water away from behind the wall.

Live loads (heavy equipment,vehicles,etc..,on the soil at the top of the wall) will increase pressure
on the wall.

In a do it yourself project,do not construct a retaining wall over 4 feet high. Walls over 4 feet high
are subject to forces that require engineering skills to address.

Curving the ends of the wall (something like the end walls of a culvert),would increase the
strength of the wall and would add to the appearance of the wall. Good luck. Write back if you
have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

9. Rock Patio Over A Brick Paver Patio

What prepartion do I need to do & how do I do it: I have a brick paver patio & want to install some
rock, (flat rock that I had left over from building a fireplace inside), & I am not sure how to do it.
Can you give me some simple instructions or where to go on the internet for it. For instance DO I
HAVE TO DO ANYTHING SPECIAL TO THE BRICK PAVERS BEFORE I START ON
INSTALLING THE ROCK OVER IT? Any help would be great!
Thanks so much,
Brenda

Answer:

Installing the rocks over the pavers would not be recommended because you will then not have
good drainage. Good drainage is very important for paving. Without good drainage damage can
occur from freezing and flooding.

Install the rocks over a sand base at least 4 inches thick. Use concrete sand. Do not use
masonry sand as it is too fine and will not give good drainage,although it would be good swept
into the joints between the rocks,if you intend to use swept joints,as it will repel water to some
degree. Use a gravel sub base,8 inches thick,if you have poor draining soil such as clay or silt.
Place filter fabric between the sand and gravel to prevent the sand from infiltrating into the gravel.
I do not know of any particular internet sites that would be of special help. Just google the
subject and see what comes up. Good luck. Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

10. Saga Palms

We just bought two Saga palms in gallon containers. We live in Tempe/Phoenix. I would like to
plant them in the full sun but the tag says part shade. It would seem that, since they are palms,
they could take the full sun, especially now.

Answer:

The sago palm is not a true palm. It is a cone bearing fern. Full sun is best,but it can tolerate
partial shade. The writing on the tag means it can tolerate partial shade.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
11. Patio

I just purchased a house at which the previous owner installed slate around the trees and plant
beds. This is not really mine or my husbands taste. We were thinking of dismantling the beds
and reusing them to make a patio. The pieces are jagged and uneven not tiled like most patio
slate. Would you suggest doing this? Is there anything we should do differently before starting? I
just think it's better to reuse the materials we have already.

Answer:

Using the slate you already have sounds like an excellent idea. Slate is best layed on a mortar
bed. Use these guidelines:

Slate tile of 30mm or less;lay on 35mm to 50mm of a very stiff class 4 mortar over a prepared
base.
Slate flags of 30mm to 65mm; lay on a 35mm to 50mm of a 10:1 semi dry bedding mix of
grit,sand and cement.

Slate blocks of 65mm or more; lay on a 35mm to 50mm of semi dry bedding mix.

A semi dry mortar mix contains little or no water. Its water content comes from water in the sand,
in the air and in the soil below it. This increases the time it can be worked,typically about 8
hours. It will not cure to the hardness of ordinary mortar or concrete,but this is not necessary for
a slate patio.

If your slate is not gauged (the pieces were not shaped to the same thickness),back butter the
uneven pieces (apply mortar to the underside of the piece to make it match the other pieces in
thickness).

Place the mortar bed and slate over a sand base of about 6 inches thick. Use concrete sand. Do
not use masonry sand. Masonry sand is too fine and will not drain properly. Good luck. Write
back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

12. English Ivy

Can English Ivy kill a tree if the ivy grows up the tree? I live in Northwest Arkansas and was told
that it could. Can you help clarify this?

Answer:

Opinions are divided as to whether english ivy can kill a tree,but english ivy can cause structural
damage to a tree by weighing down branches. Since english ivy prefers shade some experts are
of the opinion that it does not interfere with the leaves of the tree getting enough sunlight.
Another problem some think english ivy may cause is competing with the tree for nutrients,but
this too has not been scientifically proven. So there are 3 things that some think may be a
problem with english ivy in regard to trees:

1) Interference with sunlight to the leaves of the tree.

2) Competes with the tree for nutrients.

3) Causes physical damage to the tree.

I would not recommend letting english ivy grow on a tree just for the potential maintenance
problems it could cause with broken branches. Good luck. Write back if you have further
questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

13. Flooded Yard

My house sits on about an acre. Behind my house is a wheat field (not being used now) that is
higher than my yard. When we get lots of rain, it floods my yard. I was told to put berms in and
did but the water seems to seep underground into my yard. My biggest problem is that I have a
septic tank and lines in the back yard and the water flood them--making my housing plumbing
unusable. Two years ago my house looked like it was sitting in a lake. With the berms, most of
the water has be rerouted but still my back yard floods. Any suggestions?

Answer:

You need to install drainage ditches. You should have a pecolation test (test to measure at what
rate water soaks into the soil) done, to help determine the size and type of drainage system. You
may need subsurface drainage (perforated drainage pipe) in addition to drainage ditches.
A percolation test should be standard procedure when installing a septic system. Plant
vegetation on the sides of the drainage ditches to control erosion. Good luck. Write back if you
have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

14. Pavers

I am installing pavers around my home. A suggestion was made to me to make the pavers on the
side of my home higher in the middle, sloping to the sides, and hilly with a curvy wavy up and
down flow. I replied that I wanted a flat finish with a slight slope away from the home. Can you tell
me what is correct.

Answer:

I suppose pavers could be installed in this way,but this sounds more suitable for a road or path.
You also do not want the pavers to drain water toward your home. The main idea would be to
keep the water draining away from your home,so I would not go with the crowned (higher in the
middle) idea. Good luck. Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

15. Drainage Issues

We have a big problem and are not sure where to go for help. During the fall, winter and spring
months our yard is very wet and a ton of water collects in our basement sump pump. The pump
turns on every hour and appears to pump out gallons of water at a time. My first question is, what
can we do to dry up our yard and divert the water away from the house? Is there a drainage
system we can put in to keep the ground from getting so saturated? Also, our pump now empties
onto the street so the water freezes when it is cold outside and ices over for most of the winter.
Should we install drywells to catch the pump water, and if so, how big and deep would they have
to be, and how far from our foundation should we dig? Finally, should we work with a landscaper,
plumber, or some kind of engineer on this issue? We have no idea where to start. We live in
Connecticut.
Thank you for your time.

Answer:

Drywells sound like they might be useful in this situation. The drywells may require pumping.
The sizing of the wells depends on how fast the water percolates through the soil,the volume and
speed of the water flow within the wells catchment area,the level of the water table and on any
additional water loads from your roof and sump pump. The most important criteria for sizing of
the wells is the percolation test. The office of a residential engineer or engineering technician
may be able to perform this service for you. Other than that,I do not see where you would have
to work with any professional (other than perhaps a plumber as noted below) unless you want to.
You could do the work yourself,if that is what you want. You can purchase drywell kits.
Plumbers do handle this kind of work,but a landscaper or some other contractor could do it less
expensively.

Check with your local municipality to see if a permit is required for the wells and the french drains.
If a permit is required you may need to submit some kind of plan of your site showing the
proposed work.

I would suggest using a perimeter french drain around your house,kept a minimum of 10 feet from
the foundation walls and tied into the dry wells,discharging directly into the storm drain. Keep the
drywells a minimum of 10 feet from the foundation walls. Check your local building code to see if
draining directly into the storm drain is allowed. If its allowed there will be a permit fee and some
municipalities require a licensed plumber to do the hookup.
A french drain is a gravel filled trench,2 feet deep by 6 inches wide,containing a perforated pipe at
the bottom. The top of the trench is covered with an inch or two of sod. One or more loops of the
drains may be required around your house. In addition,a foundation drain,consisting of a
perforated pipe encased in gravel may be desired,assuming one is not already in place. Your
rain gutter should also discharge to an outlet away from your house. Perhaps it could drain into
the french drain or dry well. The sump pump should also discharge somewhere directly into the
storm drain. Sounds like most of this water needs to be pumped out. The situation you have
described gives me the impression that the soil gets pretty saturated,so draining the water to dry
wells to soak into the ground does not sound like an option. Good luck. Write back if you have
further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
16. Securing Railroad Ties Used In Retaining Wall:

I have started to build a retaining wall and the highest part will be about 6' high. It is now only
about 4' high and now I am concerned about the possibly of the wall falling over and killing
someone. We secured the RR ties together with 12" rebar staggering each one. My question is,
is there a way to secure the ties into the embankment to keep from possibly falling over? If so,
what and how should we do it. I have some ideas, but would like a professional opinion. If you do
not have an answer, could you pass this question on to someone who may have a solution!
Thank you.

Answer:

This is why a do it yourselfer should never construct a retaining wall over 4 feet high. Any wall
over 4 feet high is subject to forces that must be addressed by an engineer. I cannot give advice
on any wall over 4 feet high. If you want a retaining wall 6 feet high you must have it designed
by an engineer and built by a qualified contractor. Building retaining walls over 4 feet high is very
dangerous,as evidenced by the fact that you are afraid it might fall over and kill someone and it
just might. I do not know what your training is,but engineering students with knowledge of
engineering have been injured and killed with structures they designed,so have this retaining wall
designed by a licensed engineer if you are going to 6 feet.

Railroad ties are not a good choice for a retaining wall. If possible,go with a stronger and more
durable material like poured concrete or concrete segmental retaining wall blocks. This material
is heavy and forms a "gravity wall",that holds the soil back by the weight of the wall. In addition
there are various anchoring schemes and cantilever walls that give greater holding capacity to the
wall. Segmental blocks fit together by key and groove,can be staggered and can be held
together by metal pins. Railroad ties would have to be anchored back with "deadmen" to be
effective. The absence of deadmen anchors is probably why your wall is not secure. Railroad
ties are just too light to act as a gravity wall. Sloping the railroad ties back at an angle would also
improve their holding capacity.

The tiebacks,which are sometimes referred to as "deadmen" (actually the deadmen are weights
that anchor the ties in the soil behind the retaining wall, but sometimes the ties and anchors
together are called deadmen) can be steel cables,treated timber or reinforced geotextile mesh.
The geotextile is a sheet running the length of the wall horizontally,sometimes anchored by steel
cable and concrete weights. The rule with cable is one cable for every 16 square feet of wall.
Place the cable through the face of the railroad tie and back to the deadman,which would be a
concrete block a minimum of 1 foot square.

The ties must go beyond the fill area behind the wall a minimum of 2 feet. They must go back to
undisturbed soil. Keep the cables at least 12 to 18 inches below the surface of the ground on the
top of the retaining wall.

Staggering the railroad ties does not sound like a good idea. Try to tie them stacked. Use as
long a bar as possible to go through each course of ties. I am giving you this advice in case you
decide to decrease the height of the wall to a maximum of 4 feet. While a railroad tie wall of over
4 feet would still employ the same building principles,the forces acting on the wall will change and
will require the services of an engineer. Good luck. Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comments by Questioner:

I asked for suggestions on how to secure the RR ties to make them more secure, I wasn't
expecting a lecture and degrading comments on why I shouldn't have built the wall over 4' and I
should have gotten an engineer to evaluate the situation. I made the question as simple as
possible thinking I could get a simple answer, not a lecture on why I shouldn't have built the wall
etc, etc.. I don't know why so called experts seem to think they have a license to chastize people
when all they are doing is asking for some help!!

My Comments:

My answer was given for the benefit of all my readers,so I sought to illustrate why a homeowner
should not attempt to build a retaining wall over 4 feet high. My comments were not intended to
be demeaning to the reader in any way. Further,it is illegal in all jurisdictions to build a retaining
wall over 4 feet high without engineering and the builder of such a wall can be fined. Not only
does the law require that a retaining wall over 4 feet high be designed by an engineer, in some
cases it specifies that the wall must be inspected by an engineer and erected by a contractor
qualified to build retaining walls. Just think of a construction trench cave-in and you will get some
idea of how dangerous a retaining wall can be.

17. Need A Fast Growing Bush:

I Have 2 windows at the end of my house facing west. Sun in the afternoon is horribly hot and
would like to plant fast growing shrubs of some sort to shade these windows. Do you have any
recommendations?
Thanks

Answer:

I would suggest crape myrtle ( Lagerstroemia). This is a tree like deciduous (sheds leaves in fall)
shrub that comes in a wide variety of sizes. It tolerates poor soil, is disease resistant and doesnt
require alot of maintenance. Good luck. Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

18. Trees Suitable For Garden Wall:

I am designing a very large rectangular garden 100 meters x


40 meters. I want to plant trees around the whole garden
wall in order to shelter the garden from outside elements.
I want to plant the trees as close to the outside wall as
possible. What trees would be most suitable and least
damaging to the wall? The weather is very warm and sunny in
the Spring and Summer time but very cold in the winter.

Answer:

For a windbreak use a combination of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs. On the side
of the prevailing winter wind (typically northwest),use evergreen plantings such as
arborvitae,junipers and spruces. On the south side use deciduous trees such as
cottonwood,silver maple,hackberry and green ash. Slower growing deciduous trees include; red
oak,bur oak,white oak,black walnut and white ash. Deciduous trees on the south side will allow
winter and spring sun in to warm the ground. This list is a suggestion only. Check with a nursery
for varieties suitable for your area.
Do not plant one variety of plant of either evergreen or deciduous in the windbreak. Mix two or
three varieties together. This is useful in case disease strikes. If disease strikes,it will most likely
effect one of the plant species and thus the chances of the entire windbreak being destroyed will
be lowered.

The windbreak protection zone extends 8 to 10 times the height of the windbreak trees. From
the dimensions you gave,this means the trees should on average about 15 to 20 feet high. If you
have space,use a two or three row windbreak. This will be more effective in breaking the force of
the wind. You might also consider planting a row of shrubs up to about 50 feet from the windward
side of the windbreak to act as a snow drift barrier. Position the trees as perpendicular to the
prevailing wind as possible. The length of the windbreak should be ten times greater than the
height to minimize air turbulence around the windbreak.

One Row Windbreak:

* For field or orchard protection,snow trip or in urban setting with little space;uses little
land;limited value to wildlife.

* Densely planted for maximum effect.

* Maintenance and replanting essential to avoid gaps from dead or weak trees.

* Use shrubs,dense evergreens that retain lower limbs and foliage,such as junipers,spruces and
arborvitaes (for moister sites) ,or densely branched deciduous trees,preferably with narrow
crowns.

Two Row Windbreak:

* For field or orchard protection,barn or urban setting;some wildlife value.

* Densely planted as with 1 row above.

* Twin row high density has trees planted alternatively,with a spruce in one row,filled by a tree in
the other row; rows close together; use junipers,spruces and arborvitaes (for moister sites) or
austrian pine.

* Standard two row (two rows separated by a space) uses two rows of dense evergreens
(juniper,etc..) or one evergreen and one shrub or deciduous tree row.
As long as the root spreads are kept away from the wall no damage should occur to the wall.
Good luck. Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

19. Flowers On Berm:

I have a troublesome berm. I want it to be vibrant with colorful plants, either


perennials or annuals or both. It is about 80' long. The berm is at a 45
degree slope and about 12'. It divides my property and a city walkway. What
ever I do the weeds are abundant. I have tried tilling, roundup (a lot of),
pulling weeds even total vegetation kill, which killed some of my plants. All
to no avail. I have heard of using cardboard or newspaper then a thick base
of shredded bark. This area gets plenty of water from my sprinkler system.
Fabric is to much of a problem. What do I do to keep the weeds from
growing? I live in michigan and I am getting ready to attack this.

Answer:

A low growing ground cover may provide some control and mulch is a good weed control
measure. You might also want to consider using an inorganic mulch like pea gravel. Good luck.
Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up: I need a little bit more advice. I want to plant colorful flowers or plants. The slope is
at a 45 degree angle so pea stone won't work. And what to
do about the weeds that keep growing back?

Answer:

As I mentioned before,consider using a low growing ground cover and use mulch. There is no
way to avoid all weeds and so you will have to do some weeding by hand. The best alternative is
to weed by hand and try to make the weeds work for you by using them for compost and then use
the compost as a mulch to prevent more weeds. This is sometimes a more attractive alternative
than using the various conventional control measures,which often turn out to be a waste of
money and labor.

Another alternative is to eliminate the plants altogether and use some type of dry landscape or
other structure.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

20. Redwood Trees in Palo Alto, California:


I have three mature redwood trees in my front yard, and put river rock around
them, to keep the weeds down and for decorative look, I was told by a friend
that it was a bad idea and that the trees will die, should I pull up the river rock?
I love my trees.

Answer:

The rock is not good for the tree roots and the weight of the rocks may also compact the soil
around the roots and that is also not good for the roots. It cuts off oxygen to the roots. Those
rocks could kill the trees.

Use an organic mulch to control weeds. Organic mulch allows water and oxygen to get to the tree
roots and retains moisture. Do not apply a layer of mulch over 4 inches thick. Organic mulches
include wood chips,pine needles,bark and compost.

An inorganic mulch such as pea gravel can also be used but inorganic mulches do not have as
many benefits as organic mulch. An inorganic mulch like pea gravel will keep the weeds down
and retain some moisture,but thats about all. Organic mulch adds nutrients to the soil. The major
benefit of inorganic mulch is that it does not need to be replenished.

Do not stack the mulch against the tree trunks. Keep the mulch about a foot away from the trunk
and extend the mulch out to the dripline of the tree (imagine a circular line created by the
outermost line of the tree canopy on the ground. That is the dripline). Good luck. Write back if you
have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

21. Water Usage and Grass:

I have a raised ranch in MA. My home is on the bend of a street. So my land looks like a pie
shape. Problem. Too much grass. I replaced it so many times and water bills are crazy. The
sun beats on this property all day long. On each side of the main walkway, in the middle of the
grass is a maple tree on each side. They are about 8 feet tall now. They are doing great. I also
have a driveway on each side of the house with a walkway coming from each one. so when you
are standing in the street the three walkways look time the letter T. There is a post and rail only
in front of the land on the street. Nothing on sides where driveways are. Please help me with
ideas. The grass is just too much for me to handle. Any ideas. If you need me to I can take a pic
and email it to you. Please please help. I cannot deal with the burnt grass anymore or the high
water bills. Thanks so much.

Answer:

You might want to look into a rain harvesting system. This would reduce or eliminate the amount
of municipal water you use for your plants. A rain harvesting system consists of things like rain
barrels fed from roof gutters,water fed into diversion channels from your roof and then to planted
areas and bermed or concave holding areas.

In many cases a large rainwater holding tank can be used to irrigate the entire property by
running drip irrigation lines from it or a battery of conncected smaller rain barrels can be used.
Plastic garbage cans can be used for rain barrels,but they should not be used for drinking water.

Catchment areas for water can be something other than the roof. Other catchment areas could
be paving,such as a driveway,a hillside or a swale.

Collecting rainwater could help you keep your grass,but if you do not want grass, look into
alternative drought resistant plants. Consider planting a rain garden where the lawn is. You
would have to construct a concave water collecting area for this. A dry landscape consists of
rocks of various sizes and shaped into an attractive curved form. This protects the soil from
weeds and erosion,but eliminates the maintenance and other problems associated with a planted
area. A dry landscape could also be used to collect water for another area. French drains can
also be used to collect water for plantings,either by directly collecting rainwater or by storing
rainwater from a roof or other catchment area. Ornamental grasses and sometimes semi-aquatic
plants can sometimes be used for rain gardens.

The texture of the soil also affects water usage. Loam soils have a greater water holding capacity
than clay or sand soils,so you might want to consider adding organic material to your soil.

Send the pic and I will try to make additional comments. Good luck.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

My Comment:

Judging from the pic,looks like you would have two good spots out front for a rain garden or a dry
landscape. The two lawn spaces are already sunken,so you probably wouldnt even have to
excavate for a rain garden. Have you fertilized the grass? That could be a reason your grass is
doing so poorly.

You would have to do a perc test (basically dig a hole in the ground,fill it with water and then
observe how fast the water soaks into the soil) to determine how fast water soaks into the soil
before you installed a rain garden. Water must soak into the soil of a rain garden within about 24
hours. Since you have clay soil,there might be a problem,but simply adding organic matter would
be a solution. Another requirement is that a rain garden must be kept a minimum of ten feet from
the foundation. From a rough guess,looks like those sunken areas are ten feet from your
foundation.
Well,good luck with whatever you choose.

22. Raised Stone Bed:

I live in a rural setting in a center hall colonial home. I am looking to create a front foundation bed
planting area constructed stacked stone approx 20' long x 8' wide. The area gets full sun, is level
and has regular grass planted there.

My question is, I would like to bring in topsoil and create a raised bed approx 1-2 feet in height
with a low stacked stone wall border. My neighbor has a large amount of field stone on their
property that they are willing to donate to my project. (YEAH)

So, do I creat the wll first then fill in with dirt or do I bring in the dirt, get it to the height I want then
dry stack the stone? Or any directions or pointers you can give me.

Looking to create a low maintaince perrenial garden.

Answer:

Its more convenient to place the stone first. When the stone is placed first you can judge the
height of the soil more easily and you can judge the soil level better.

Raised beds involve a bit more maintenance because they dry out faster than ground level beds
and so require more watering,but they do warm up better in spring and retain more heat in fall
than ground level beds.

You might want to choose drought tolerant plants to reduce watering and choose disease
resistant plants whenever possible. Wild plants often meet these requirements.

If you want to be able to reach into the bed without walking in it,limit the width to 3 or 4 feet. You
might want to break the 20 feet length up into 3 or 4 feet wide segments or reduce the overall
width to 3 or 4 feet. Otherwise,to gain access to the bed,you will have to step up 1 or 2 feet onto
the soil and generally its not good to be walking on garden soil because this causes compaction
around the plant roots.

Sometimes garden soil can be obtained by "borrowing" it from other areas on the property. The
soil can be scraped off other areas in thin layers and then the areas can for instance,be planted
with grass or used for some other purpose. For instance,if you built a pond or did excavation for
a path,you could use the soil from that for another purpose,such as making a raised garden bed.
Good luck. Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment From Questioner:

Thank you for the help. You rock ! (no pun intended)

23. Driveway Paving Options:

Hi, I live in Michigan. We have a problem with flooding in our driveway. It is a dirt drive, about
300-400 feet long. We have lived here for 6 years and have not done anything to it in that time.
When it rains, the whole thing gets muddy--too muddy to drive on. We end up driving on the lawn
so we don't get stuck. What do you recommend that we add to it to help reduce the flooding? We
were thinking of adding more dirt (?) to it this spring. What type of dirt/rock/?? should we look into
and how thick a layer is best?
Answer:

You might want to consider using soil cement. This paving is formed by mixing portland cement
with the soil on the site. Heavy clay and highly organic soils do not make good soil cement,but
soil cement can be made from a wide variety of soil types. The soil must be tested to determine
the proper cement and water ratio. This ratio is critical for constructing a successful soil cement
pavement. Soil cement would be cheaper than concrete or asphalt. It is durable and highly
resistant to water and frost heave. It is sometimes used as an underlying base for highways and
other types of pavements.

Another option would be to simply use a layer of gravel about 4 inches deep. You might have to
excavate soil for this or perhaps you could construct a curb to contain the gravel. Concrete or
asphalt would require an underlying drainage base of gravel and for your length of driveway may
prove very expensive.

Stone may be an option if its cheaply available,but stone is usually a very expensive option. It
must be layed on a gravel base. The thickness of the stone must be at least 4 inches and it must
be layed on a gravel base of at least 4 inches thick.

The driveway must be properly drained to protect the paving material and so steps must be taken
to achieve adequate drainage such as crowning (making the driveway higher in the center) or
constructing drainage ditches on the side.

Macadam (also known as tar and chip) paving is cheaper than concrete or asphalt. This is a bed
of crushed stone or gravel that then has a layer of asphalt poured over it. A thin layer of stone is
then rolled into the surface to fill voids.

A recycled asphalt product (RAP) would be even cheaper than Macadam. This consists of
crushed asphalt,crushed concrete and crushed brick.

I do not think adding more soil to the driveway will solve the problem. That soil would also get
muddy,although perhaps a bit less.

Gravel would probably be the least expensive option and after that,soil cement. Soil cement
would be more labor intensive than gravel. Basically the gravel would just have to be layed and
rolled,but the cost of bringing it to the site may cost more than transporting the portland cement
needed for the soil cement. However,the recycled asphalt may prove to be more economical
than soil cement since it may be more durable. Good luck. Write back if you have further
questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment From Questioner:

Mark was very complete in his answer. Now all I have to do is call around for prices and I am
ready. Mark was my research. Thanks!

24. Raised Bed Garden:

I'm new at gardening, and attempted to build a low wall for my garden with rough flat pieces of
stone. The garden we have is now hidden behind the 2' wall, and I would like to raise the level of
the soil & plants. What is the best way to do this? (Do I have to somehow rake up the mulch, dig
up my plants, and add garden soil?) When should I begin? I have perennials for a shady garden,
and I live in zone 6. Thanks so much for your help!

Answer:

If you are going to raise the soil level by 2 feet,then you will have to remove the existing plants
and replant them in the raised bed. Garden soil can be built up substantially with organic matter
such as leaves,mulch and green manure plants (plants grown for the organic content they add to
the soil). Other materials such as sand and clay are desirable to add to the mix.
This process can take quite awhile so you might want to have topsoil brought in,although this
option is more expensive. If you have the topsoil readily available,you could be up and ready by
this spring,but building the soil up from organic material could take several years. You will have
to amend the soil with the necessary mineral and organic matter to get the right mix for your
particular plants and then fertilize.

Although raised beds warm up better,they dry out faster than soil at ground level and so require
more watering.
Good luck. Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up: Thanks - this is helpful. So if I decide to build up the level over several years by
adding organic matter, then should I still dig up the plants and replant after adding the other
materials, or can I just add them on top? Thanks again!

Answer:

You cannot add two feet of soil to your existing plants. That would smother the roots and kill the
plants. Plant roots need to be a certain depth from the surface to perform their functions for the
plant. Even if you were to place this soil on the plants,walking in the garden would compact the
soil around the plants and kill the roots in that way.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment From Questioner:

Whew! Very thorough. Thanks!

25. Mulch Near House:

I've heard that pine bark and redwood mulch next to a house attracts insects. If this is true, what
type of mulch should be used?

Answer:

I would not use any type of mulch near the house. It appears that any type of mulch used near
the house is a risk factor for attracting termites and other types of insects and although wood like
redwood and cedar are naturally insect repelling,I would not assume that the chemicals in those
types of wood would not leach out over time and thus allow an invasion of insects. Good luck.
Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

26. Increase Resale Value of Home:

My husband and I are trying to sell our house. We have a drainage ditch that runs through our
back yard to a big culvert in our side yard. This is turning potential sellers off. Even when there
are periods of heavy rain, it hardly has any water that runs through it. Is there a way we can
beautify this to make it less unappealing to potential buyers.

Answer:

I would suggest ornamental grass. These grasses range from 2 feet tall,up to 16 feet in height
and resemble wheat and marsh grass. They prefer moist soil,so the ditch would be a good
location for ornamental grass.

Some species of ornamental grass are:

Calamagrostis (Upright,wheatlike appearance. Grows 4 feet to 6 feet high.)

Pampas Grass (Contains a dwarf species. Grows to 8 feet high. Wheatlike appearance.)

Panicum. Switch Grass (Upright,wheatlike appearance.Grows to 4 feet high. Drought and salt
tolerant.)

Plant the tall grass along the sides of the ditch and around the culvert to block these structures
from view. In addition,lower growing plants,as listed below,can be used in front of the tall grass
and in or around the ditch and culvert as the need may arise. Check to see if these plants will
grow in your area.

List of Low Growing Cover Plants:

Daylily (Low growing,flowering plant with spiked,oblong leaves.)

Creeping Sedum (Six inches high,drought tolerant.)

Lemon Grass (Two feet high. Oblong,pointy pale green leaves.)


Mophead Sedge (Wide,grasslike leaves.)

Knockout Rose (Spreading landscape rose. Grows to 3 feet high.)

Good luck. Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

27. New Patio and Snow:

I put in a 16/20 brickpaver patio this past summer and it came out real nice.However the syracuse
winter may have taken a toll on it.After e recent thaw I noticed my nice new patio was heaving in
the middle below the covered patiotable.Is this because the weight of snow on the rest of
patio(had over 130 in. so far)?.Is this typical? I know my brick entry sometimes heaves a little
during the winter but not like this. Please tell me I won't have to replace the entire patio, but if I
do ,how can I prevent this from happening again? Thanks in advance.

Answer:

Sounds like frost heave (when water freezes under the surface of the paving and then
expands,causing the pavement to heave up). Your patio may have poor drainage. This can be
caused by not using the right drainage material under the patio or laying the paving over an
expansive soil like clay without drainage material. The weight of the snow has nothing to do with
this. It would take many tons of pressure to effect the brick.

The brick should be layed on a 4 inch layer of concrete sand. This is a relatively coarse sand that
allows water to more easily run through it. Masonry sand is often used for this purpose,but it is
much too fine and will cause drainage problems. Under the sand,a course of gravel should be
installed.

The grade is also important. The patio must be sufficiently pitched to allow water to run off. In
addition,making the surface as resistant to water penetration as possible is important. Using
masonry sand to fill the gaps in the bricks will give more resistance to water penetration as the
fine grain of this sand will not allow water to easily pass.

The fact that this heaving has happened after only one season indicates that there is a problem.
After many years of heave/thaw (freezing and then heating in the summer) the paving materials
become weakened and slowly heave up little by little,regardless of the underlying drainage
material,which often becomes clogged with finer silty particles.

In your case it sounds like an impervious paving surface would serve you better. I would suggest
you consider installing the bricks over a reinforced concrete slab with mortar joints for the bricks
and then use a sealant over the bricks. With this design,most of the water will simply drain off
the surface and not get under the brick. The reinforced concrete slab will resist frost heave to a
high degree. You could reinforce the slab with rebar,wire or fiber.

I cannot tell you if you will have to reinstall the patio. Perhaps the heave is just in the spot you
mentioned. But if you do have to reinstall the patio use good underlying drainage material or use
the concrete slab design. If you go with the concrete slab,I would also recommend using gravel
drainage under that. Good luck. Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

28. Puddles On Sides Of House:

Whenever we get heavy rains (which is about 4x year only :)), I notice that on certain sides of our
house, we get small puddles of water forming. My worry is that this may be damaging the
foundation of our house.

Currently, we just have grass on the sides. Any suggestions on what we can add to prevent
water damage and add to the aesthetic value as well?

Answer:

I would suggest installing a sheet of heavy plastic held down with concrete
pavers,stones,bricks,etc..,around the perimeter of your foundation. This will keep the water from
infiltrating around the foundation. Extend this barrier out 6 feet from the foundation.
Alternatively,the plastic could be buried a few inches below the soil.

With the above ground plastic,planters of various shapes and sizes could be used to break up the
monotony.

If you would like to test to see if water is getting around your foundation,make a piezometer. This
device will measure the level of the groundwater around your foundation. It works on the same
principle as an automobile dipstick. Obtain a 10 feet long,1 inch diameter pvc pipe. Slot the
bottom 5 feet with a hacksaw. Insert this pipe into a 10 feet deep,6 inch diameter hole. Backfill
this hole with sand and seal the top 3 inches with clay. Insert a tape measure (dipstick)to see
what depth of water is in the pipe. If you consistently get water around your foundation,then you
will know you must install some kind of subsurface drainage. Good luck. Write back if you have
further questions.

A better,but more expensive solution would be to install a concrete or some other impervious
apron around the perimeter of the foundation. Stone or rubble set in concrete could be used as
such an apron. Grade away from the building whenever possible. Plastic and rubber sheeting is
subject to puncture.

Use 20mm plastic or rubber. This thickness is typically used for pond liners. Join sheets with a
high quality adhesive,such as silicon or use a high quality double sided tape. Seal the sheets to
the side of the foundation with high quality adhesive. This seal must not allow water to leak
through.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

29. Garage Area Drainage:


My dad's house has a breezeway & garage at one end that sits lower than the rest of the house.
For some reason, over the years it has gotten to the point where even moderately heavy rainfall
pools in front of the garage (on the blacktop driveway), floods the garage, and then eventually
floods the breezeway.

A little ways behind the house the ground begins to slope downward to a wooded ravine also on
his property, so if we could just get the water from around the front to the back we have a ready
place to channel it.

I've tried digging a channel around the side of the house, which helps a little, but it doesn't stop
the water from pooling on the asphalt driveway.

Any suggestions? Thanks!

Answer:

Install a catch basin in front of the garage. This is a box (typically made of plastic) with outlet
pipes,that collects the water as it pools. Flexible corrugated pipe (a type suitable for burial or
ordinary corrugated pipe if you wish to run the line on the surface) can be used to run a line from
the catch basin to the ravine.

One catch basin of 1 cubic foot size should drain an average driveway. These basins are
available at Lowes and Home Depot. Good luck. Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up: I presume since the catch basin has to be at the level of the driveway, that I'd need
to dig up the blacktop there to install it?

Answer:

Yes,the basin has to be installed under the blacktop,but if you use a one cubic foot basin that is
not much area to dig up. The outlet pipe would also have to be installed under the driveway,but
that pipe is only 4 to 6 inches in diameter. The lip of the basin has to be level with the surface of
the driveway. It will require regular cleaning as it will accumulate leaves and dirt and water may
stand in it.

Or you could use a trench drain installed right outside the garage instead of a catch basin. A
trench drain is a steel or plastic channel encased in concrete with a grate over it and it is pitched
to allow water to flow out of it into an outlet pipe. The trench drain will intercept water before it
gets in the garage,while the basin is more suited to draining an area from its low point (the catch
basin is located at the lowest point of the driveway where the water is ponding). An 8 inch wide
trench drain should be adequate. Run it the entire width of the driveway.

If necessary the trench drain and catch basin could be used in combination. Outlet pipes for both
could be connected to one line running to the ravine. Good luck.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
30. Small Decorative Tree:

I am looking for a flowering tree to plant in my front yard in western (but not coastal Oregon). I
have a two story Victorian house that I do not want to obscure. With the yard dimensions and
placement of the house I don't want the tree to be wider (at maturity) than 15 or so feet. Height is
not as crucial. We have wet mild winters and very dry summers. Mostly clay soil. Are there
dogwoods that would fit this width? What else might work? Thanks.

Answer:

Here are several species of dogwood that would fit your requirements:

Japanese Cornelian Cherry Dogwood


Height: 16 feet
Spread: 10 feet

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus Florida)


Height: 20 to 30 feet
Spread: 20 to 30 feet

Kousa Dogwood:
Height: 20 to 30 feet
Spread: 20 to 30 feet

Pagoda Dogwood:
Height: 20 feet
Spread: 20 feet

A woody shrub like common juniper might also work. The dogwood is an excellent compact tree.
Hope this helps. Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

31. Art For Garage Wall:

We have a small formal garden in the backyard. There is a fountain that is in front of a brick wall
(Garage). For the last few years we have had Ivy covering that wall and it looked nice but we
were constantly pruning it to keep it off the gutters. So today we removed it-all. Now we need
something to replace it that will look formal and not be as time consuming to care for. Any
suggestions would be quite helpful. Thank you.

Answer:

I would suggest a wall trellis using the plants listed in the table I have included instead of the ivy
or perhaps a decorative trellis without plants. Another idea would be wall planters. Wall planters
are half portruding relief type planters,similar to sculpture. They are made in a variety of
materials,including; stoneware,stainless steel,copper,marble,resin,acrylic,wood,cement and
glass. Another idea would be wall art. This consists of relief type sculptures,plaques and wall
paintings.
The wall trellis could be made of wrought iron,steel,vinyl,copper or wood. Of these,vinyl is the
least attractive,but would be suitable if the trellis was to be covered by plants year round.
Wrought iron is very attractive in my opinion and next to wrought iron I would consider copper to
be the most attractive. Some suggested trellis styles would be a plain square design,an arched
design and a fan design. The members of the fan design radiate out from a central point at the
bottom. This design suggests an oriental flavor.

Keep a space of about 1 foot in back of the trellis to allow for growth and air circulation. If you
use a deciduous (drops leaves in fall) trellis planting,you will allow the winter sun through to add
some warmth to the wall and in summer you will have the cooling effect of the planting against
the wall. Redwood and cedar are preferred for a wood trellis,but pressure treated wood can be
used. Use at least a 3/4 inch thickness of wood for a wood trellis to insure the trellis will be strong
enough to support the weight of the plants.

Suitable Trellis Climbing Plants:

Ok in Semi-Shade:
Hoya
Manettia
Billardiera
Hardenbergia
Clerodendron
Dilpadenia
Cissus

Needs Some Sun:


Rose
Clematis
Thunbergia
Hardenbergia
Pandorea
Solanum
Bignonia

Dense Foliage:
Pelargonium
Trachelospermum
Thunbergia
Pyrostegia
Lonicera
Senecio
Parthenocissus
Petrea

Deciduous:
Rose
Wisteria
Bougainvillea
Mandevilla
Akebia
Campsis
Plants With Damaging Clinging Parts:
Hedera (Ivy)
Ficus pumila (Creeping Fig)
Vitis (Grape Vine)

Too Vigorous:
Lonicera (Honeysuckle)
Jasminum polyanthum (Jasmine)
Ipomoea (Morning Glory)
Passiflora (Passionfruit)
Actinidia (Chinese Gooseberry)
Monstera
Thunbergia grandiflora
Alamanda

Small Growing Climbers:


Clianthus
Ficus pumila
Humulus
Jasminum (some)
Lathyrus
Hardenbergia
Cissus (some)
Tropaeolum (some)
Clematis (some)
Ficus pumila
Humulus
Jasminum (some)
Lathyrus
Hardenbergia
Cissus (some)

Hope this helps. Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment From Questioner:

Mark, Thank you so much for responding so quickly and your advice was exactly fitting to our
scheme. It's as though you have seen our garden.We are into the Tuscan, Italian theme and love
incorporating the wrought iron. Thanks again and will highly recommend you.
32. Dog Resistant Front Yard:

We reside in Northern California where summer highs can reach 100 and winter lows dip into the
40s; freezing, although very infrequent, does occur on occasion. We have a small fenced front
yard, more specifically, two 12'x 12' (+) dead grass squares, divided by a cement walkway from
the front door to the gate and bordered by a concrete drive on one side. The yard is situated on
the north side of the house with limited full sun. It is a high traffic area for dogs and people. We
are seeking landscaping suggestions and specific full shade and partial shade plant ideas.

Answer:

I would suggest a fenced dog run. The fence can be either chain link or solid wood,depending on
what kind of privacy you want from the dog. If the dog will only be in the run for short periods and
you do not need to view the dog from outside,a wood fence would have more eye appeal,but if
you spend alot of time in the yard and the dog is in the run for a long time,a chain link fence
would be better to prevent the dog from feeling isolated. Or,perhaps a wood fence could be
constructed,but with lattice or mesh panels to allow the dog to look out and to allow more sunlight
to enter and for greater ventilation.

Provide shelter for the dog. If the dog will remain in the run for long periods in winter,provide a
dog house. Pave the run with gravel to absorb urine and to make a more comfortable surface for
the dog.

Use a full shade grass and/or full shade traffic tolerant (can be walked on) ground cover. Send a
photo of the property and I will see if I can make better suggestions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

33. Low Retaining Wall:


My house is on a small city lot (37.5x100). The house probably sits about 8 feet above the street.
Accessed by two sets of steps, at the sidewalk and then at the porch. There is a generous slope
to the lawn that is very difficult to mow. I would like to install a low retaining wall at the sidewalk.
I'm interested in using a "Trex" decking type of wood to weave in and out of posts set in the
ground. Is that a good application for that material? Expensive? Do you have a better idea? I
am concerned with durability and costs. Must be a wood type product, no stone or brick. Thank-
you for your time and patience.

Answer:

Use heavy railroad tie type timbers,at least 8" X 8".


Do not use "trex" and do not use any wood in the way you described (weaved between posts).
This design will not work for a retaining wall.
Also,do not use landscape timbers. They are too light and often not suitably treated for retaining
wall use. Trex decking is not suitably treated for retaining wall use. Creosote treated or railroad
ties treated with ACQ (Alkaline Copper Quaternary) are suitable for the ground contact of
retaining walls. ACQ treated wood requires galvanized or stainless steel fasteners and should
not come in contact with aluminum. It will eat ordinary steel fasteners quickly and will corrode
aluminum.

You can lay the ties horizontally or vertically. Support the bottom on a concrete footing if possible.
Tie the pieces together with steel rods. Drill a hole slightly smaller than the rod through the ties
and insert the rod through the entire course of ties. Install gravel behind the wall of a minimum 2
feet width. You could extend the gravel to the top of the wall or cap the top of the wall with
concrete or stone. Tilt the cap back away from the wall or toward and over the wall or make it
concave for the purpose of draining water away from the inside face of the wall. If you do not
want to use metal rods to connect the ties,connect the ties with 12 inch long spikes and then use
treated planks across the length or height of the ties (depending on how they are arranged). The
planking can be placed on the inside of the wall if you do not want them visible or you may use
planking on both sides. Or,you may use planks alone to connect the ties.

Do not let the angle of the soil behind the retaining wall exceed 30 degrees.

Tilt the ties back at an angle of about 10 to 20 degrees. This,along with tie backs,gives the wall
greater holding power. The tie back can be individual ties layed perpendicular to the wall ties and
extending back several feet. The ties must go behind the gravel to solid,undisturbed earth.
Or,the tie backs can be steel cable run through the face of the wall ties and attached to a timber
or concrete anchor beyond the gravel fill area. Use one tie back for every 16 square foot of wall.
The weight of the soil will bear on the timber tie backs and so give the wall resistance to
overturning. This works on the same principle as a cantilevered retaining wall,where the weight of
the soil behind the wall rests on a shelf attached to the wall.

Bury the bottom of the wall ties into the earth in front of the slope as much as possible,as this will
add to the holding power.

You also might want to consider plastic ties and plastic coated ties.

A 6 inch diameter drain at the bottom of the wall would be desirable. You must keep as much
water as possible away from a wooden retaining wall because even treated wood will rot
prematurely if kept constantly wet.

Drill weep holes in the face of the wall to allow water to escape from behind the wall.

Good luck. Write back if you have further questions.


Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment From Questioner:

Whew! Very thorough. Thanks!

34. Wooden Fence Rail Length:

Is there a rule-of-thumb for rail length for a 2-rail post-and-rail wood fence? Rails of my
replacement fence are 10' long and I am concerned about stability over time.

Answer:

The main problem with using only two rails and with using long rails is warpage. Longer rails tend
to warp and if the boards are supported by only two rails the boards tend to warp. Also,keep the
height of the boards above the top rail about a maximum of 6 inches. Beyond 6 inches the tops of
the boards tend to curl.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

35. Slab or Basement in Michigan:

Hi, we're considering purchasing a foreclosed property in michigan. It is well/septic. The concern
isn't necesarily that it's a well, but the fact it's on a slab. The contractor that was out there said
that this area had a high water table, however we called the county and they said in general, the
area does not have a high water table, the people who built the house were probably just looking
for less of a cost. We dont really know the truth, and the county is going to try and dig up the well
tables for the area so we can know for sure. I've never lived on a slab, and it makes me nervous
because of plumbing issues, cold ground, installing real wood floors, etc......... People are wierd
about basements in Michigan, and i've always had one. We do think that contractor was BS'ing
us because on the side of the house, there's a mini house that has a basement with a sump
pump. If there were issues with water tables, why would they put a mini basement and sump
pump next to the house??? He made it sound like if that house had a basement, they'd constantly
have to be dumping out water.. But the other little basement was as dry as a bone............ We've
got a lot going on here and any bit of information would be great! Thanks!!!

Answer:
The water table fluctuates seasonally and can vary from site to site. The county tables are very
general and may not apply to your site specifically. Since the structure next to the house is
smaller,perhaps some groundwater coming in was acceptable and the occupant depended on the
sump pump to remove it. Contractors are often more familiar with local conditions than
government officials or architectural and engineering personnel,so perhaps the contractor is
telling the truth.

If you want to get a more accurate idea of the water table on this site,you could have a water
table test bore done. This service can be provided by a residential engineer. These tests are
good,but are not 100 percent accurate since water table levels depend on many factors that
make completely accurate prediction impossible. Water tables can also be influenced by the
number of wells in the area. Numerous wells can lower the water level. Good luck. Write back
if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

36. Privacy Hedge:

I have a 50' wall 60' pines (spruce? very tiny, hard needles) all that have been cut up to about 8'
or more by the previous owner. I have just installed a pool and would like to add some kind of tree
or shrub for privacy that will grow in the shade under these pine trees. Is there something that will
grow to be around 10' or slightly taller with a spread of about 4' to fill in gaps? I also have two
very small dogs and I am afraid of planting something that may drop berries and be poisonous to
them. We do have some morning sun, I live in the Chicago area zone 5, do you have any
suggestions?

Answer:
Here is a list of shrubs that should meet your requirements:

Juniper. Juniperus chinensis 'spartan'. Fast growing,columnar shaped,tolerates partial shade.


Grows to about 8 feet high with about a 6 feet spread. Evergreen.

Forsythia. Blooms in spring,produces bright yellow flowers. Grows 3 to 8 feet high. Produces a
medicinal grade fruit that is harmless to animals. Deciduous (loses leaves in fall).

Spirea. Vanhouttei. Grow 6 to 8 feet high and spreads 6 to 8 feet wide. Tolerates partial
shade,drought and poor soil. Deciduous.

Lilac. Grows to 8 feet high. Evergreen.

Holly. Varieties available that grow to 10 feet high. Evergreen. Very shade tolerant.

Arborvitae. 'Emerald Green'. Grows to 10 to 15 feet high. Pyramidal shape. Tolerates light shade.
The deeper the shade the less foliage the plant will retain and so,less privacy.

Here is a list of small trees that should meet your requirements:

Crape Myrtle. Dwarf,medium size and large size varieties available. Grows up to 20 feet high.
Disease resistant and has an ornamental look. Deciduous.

Sargentii. 'tina'. Smallest of the flowering crab apples. Grows to 8 feet high and has a 15 feet
spread. Edible fruit. Deciduous.

Dogwood. Varieties that reach a height of 10 feet are available. Deciduous. Attractive spring
blossoms.

Serviceberry. Can grow up to 20 feet high if not pruned. Produces upright stems from multi-
stemmed clumps. Edible berries. Somewhat drought tolerant. Deciduous. Ten feet spread.
Tolerates partial shade. This is a swamp plant and tolerates wet conditions.

On a southern exposure,if you would like sun in the winter and privacy is not important,go with
predominantly deciduous plantings. Or you could mix deciduous and evergreen plantings.
Although spirea is deciduous,its branches still remain fairly dense in fall and winter. You might
consider using low growing shrubs such as juniper under any trees you might plant to fill in gaps
that might be created by the branch height of these trees. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of
further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

37. High Water Table and Slope Drainage:

Our yard has about a 3.5' drop over about 50 feet of space. We also have a high water table and
the bottom of the yard is like a swamp. We are considering building a retaining wall and leveling
the yard but that will require cutting down some very big old trees. We are looking for
suggestions that will help to solve our drainage problem.

Answer:
I would suggest installing drainage pipe at the low area. The size of the drainage pipe and the
number of drainage pipes is dictated by the volume of water and the flow rate needed to dispose
of the water and of course the water will have to be moved to a suitable outlet. Pumping from
wells may also be an option. Also,digging a swale or ditch on top of the area may prove useful.

Moving this water to an outlet such as a storm sewer or stream will require a permit from your
municipality. Hookups to storm sewers are sometimes required by municipal code to be installed
by a licensed plumber.

Filling the area may also be an option. This will effectively lower the height of the water table. By
using this option you will avoid the problem of hooking up to a storm sewer or other outlet,but you
may still need a permit. Municipal storm sewers,water systems and sanitary sewer systems are
troubled entities these days because of many complex factors,the economy being one of them.
These systems are becoming less efficient. It is better sometimes to try to remedy drainage
problems by keeping them confined to the site.

Perhaps you would not have to level the entire yard. You may be able to borrow fill soil for the wet
area from another portion of the slope and make a terrace at the wet area with a retaining wall at
that spot or use a combination of fill and some type of drainage.

Perhaps the trees could be saved by building tree wells around them. These are circular retaining
walls around the trees. The original grade remains at the trees while grade changes are made
outside the wells.

Combined with the high water table,the high slope is contributing to the drainage problem. The
steeper the slope,the more water that sheds off. The water is not allowed to seep into the soil
because the force of gravity sends it down the incline. So it seems that removing as much of the
slope as possible would improve drainage because more water would seep into the soil and not
end up flooding the bottom area at the foot of the slope. But of course you would have to take the
tree problem into account when considering this. Tree wells may be less expensive than
removing the trees.

If fill is applied to the bottom area perhaps a dry well could be used to temporarily store water
until it has had time to seep into the surrounding soil. Drywells have to be above the water
table,however,or they will become ineffective.

If you have a suitable outlet for water at the bottom of the slope,surface drainage in the form of a
swale or ditch may be all you need to dispose of the water. Depending on how much water
reaches the bottom of the slope and how fast it reaches the bottom this may be adequate but if
surface drainage would be overwhelmed by the volume of water,a dry well could make a big
difference by diverting water from the surface and thus relieving the strain on the surface
drainage structure. Detailed calculations would be needed to more accurately determine what a
solution would be.

It could be possible that fill at the bottom of the slope may be able to absorb runoff water without
the assistance of any drainage device.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

38. Limestone As Landscape Mulch:

We recently started a project replacing our landscape bark with limestone and was told this will
cause problems with our plants, flowers and trees. Is this correct and if so would it work to
remove the rock 6-10 inches from the root area? We liked the color with our brick and have a
large project that is now half done.

ANSWER:

Stone mulch absorbs heat and the surrounding soil will get somewhat warmer,but there does not
seem to be any reported instances of serious damage occuring from this. Of course,a darker
colored stone will absorb more heat than a lighter colored stone mulch. The lighter colors reflect
heat. Reflected heat can be a problem on surfaces such as parking lots or roofs but once again I
do not know of any problems with stone mulch.

Limestone is sometimes added to soil to increase alkalinity but I would not think that enough of it
would leach out from your mulch to greatly effect your soil pH.

As long as you do not exceed a depth of a few inches,the mulch will not harm your plants around
the root zone. An interlocking (a stone mulch that has narrow spaces between the individual
pieces) would not be a good idea around the root zone. This will impede water and air penetration
to the roots. Angular cut pieces are more interlocking than round cut pieces. Good luck. Let me
know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up:

I'm still concerned about our Evergreen type trees as they like an acidic soil?

Answer:
I do not think that the small amount of lime that may leach out of the mulch will affect your trees. If
it would give you peace of mind,keep the limestone mulch outside the root zone. Do a soil pH
test. I would also advise you to get a second opinion about this from someone knowledgeable in
horticulture. Your state extension agency may be able to help.

While it is true that evergreens prefer an acidic soil,most plants tend to grow close to the neutral
pH range. One particular example of a plant that is particularly sensitive to soil pH is azalea,which
requires an acidic soil. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

39. Laying Pavers On Sand:

I am installing a concrete brick walkway. I have done the excavating and installed 3" of
compacted base material. Now comes 1" of bedding sand, but I've hit a snag. I've been all over
the internet trying to find out if I should screen the sand and then install the bricks on the
uncompacted sand, or if I should compact the sand and then install the pavers. I've found sites
that say conflicting things. I really need some expert advice. Thank you!
Answer: Hello,

A 4 inch base would be better and you should have at least a 2 inch layer of sand. Use a coarse
sand such as concrete sand. This allows better drainage. A fine sand such as masonry sand
impedes drainage. Instead,use masonry sand to fill the gaps in the pavers. This makes the
paving somewhat water repellent.

Screening the sand should not be necessary unless you think there are large particles in it. The
sand should be compacted, as some settling will occur otherwise. Good luck. Let me know if I can
be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

40. Rock And Sand Surface Over Sod:


I have a very large spruce tree in my front yard. Since the grass around this tree is struggling to
survive I am planning to lay down river rock on appr 3/4 of my front lawn. Do I have to remove
the sod first or can I smother the grass with landscape fabric topped with river rock.
As a note, none of the lower branches of the spruce have been cut, thus the rock would be
placed around and not under the tree

Answer:

There is no need to remove the sod. The sod will retain the soil and prevent erosion. Use a fabric
rated for weed control. A fabric rated only for erosion control may have a more porous weave
spacing and that will allow more weeds to grow. Weed fabric is best used with mulch. An organic
mulch placed under the rocks will eventually degrade and become ineffective,so perhaps you
could lay down a layer of small sized gravel or sand over the fabric and then lay the rocks over
the gravel. I would suggest at a 2 inch layer of sand or gravel or sand. Because of its smaller pore
spaces,sand would be more effective than gravel.

Of course,as you have indicated,the rock should not be placed directly under the tree,as this
would impede the tree roots from getting water and air and possibly cause a crush hazard to the
roots if the rocks are very heavy. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up:

Thank you for this very informative reply. Rather than large river rock I was actually thinking of
using the 1" - 2" size with only an occasional larger rock for decoration. Should I lay sand under
this as well or would 2" of little rocks suffice?

Answer:

The smaller size rocks will have relatively less space between them than larger rocks and so less
weeds will grow,but you will still get some weeds. I would not think that you would get alot of
weeds with this design,but a sand layer under the rocks should eliminate 99 percent of weeds
and the sand makes a nice foundation for the rocks. The rocks will be less likely to settle into the
soil if resting on a layer of sand. Sand has very good compressive strength.

If there will be foot traffic on the area the sand will prevent the rocks from being forced into the
soil below and will improve the feel of the surface under foot. If this surface will get a good bit of
foot traffic,then you might want to consider removing the sod and preparing a base for the sand or
gravel by compacting the soil below.

The sod will expand and contract with the freeze/thaw cycle,more or less,depending on how well
water drains on it and this will effect your layer of sand and gravel. Sand and gravel are flexible
materials and this will compensate somewhat for any expansion and contraction. The sod will
also be less stable than a compacted base of soil only, since the sod is composed of mainly
organic material. I would suggest you cut any grass on the surface to as low a height as possilbe
and compact the sod with a hand tamper,compaction machine or roller. Also, compact the sand
and gravel in a similar manner. I am calling the 2 inch rocks you mentioned gravel here just for
convenience.

Using sod as a base is not the best solution for a walking surface but for a lawn area that will
receive only light foot traffic it will be adequate. The sod gives the advantage of holding the soil
under the sand and gravel together and no mud will form under the sand and gravel and of
course you will avoid the labor costs of removing the sod. As with all designs there are trade offs
here. You have to decide what type of trade offs you want to make and what option you have
more to gain from.

The smaller the size of the rocks,the less likely weeds will grow. Sand is just tiny rocks;the size of
salt grains.

You also have to consider what thickness these materials will take. With a 2 inch layer of sand
and then another 2 inches of gravel,thats a total of 4 inches. Will this surface even with the
surrounding area. You will need some kind of edging to retain the material. The other option
would be to remove the sod so that the material sits flush with the rest of the lawn or perhaps
there are grade changes already existing that can be used. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of
further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

41. Patio Privacy:

Hi, I live in a condo that is 2 levels. The upper level has a balcony/deck that is very close to my
neighbors decks out back. Any suggestions on plants tall and thick enough to block their view of
me on my deck. I would need plants that are movable if possible. The railing is about 4 feet high
so I need plants rises another 4 feet higher to get good privacy.

Answer:

The following plants will provide screening and will meet your height requirements. These plants
require a minimum 10 gallon container. A ten gallon container weighs approximately 100 pounds
so a hand truck or some other means will have to be employed to move them.

Ficus
Bamboo (Do not use in clay pots. The roots will crack clay.)
Lorpetalum

Tall and Narrow:


Holly (Skypencil)
Spruce (Dwarf Alberta)
Juniper (Skyrocket)

Another suggestion would be trellis plants such as:


Climbing Rose
Clematis
Thunbergia
Hardenbergia
Pandorea
Solanum
Bigonia

A planted trellis,a privacy trellis or lattice panel would provide privacy yet save space and would
require less maintenance than potted plants. Trellis plants could perhaps be planted in a box
attached to the railing. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

42. Brick Walk Installation Over Concrete:

I live in MA. and recently installed pavers over my exiting concrete slab and stairs using SRW, a
concrete adhesive. My question is what type of sand or should I use stone dust too sweep in
between the pavers.

Answer:

You should not use sand or dust between the pavers. You should set the pavers in mortar.
Setting pavers in sand over a concrete base will trap water between the pavers and the base
because there is no place for the water to drain. The water should drain down vertically and thats
how things would take place if there were gravel or earth under the sand but it cannot take place
with a concrete base.

Setting the pavers in mortar will create an impermeable surface that sheds water. Good luck. Let
me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up:

Hi Mark, Thanks for your advice: Since I have already installed all my pavers with SRW I think I
have only a few choices of getting some type of mortar in between them, and if you know of any
others could you please share them with me. As I look at it, I could purchase the mortar in a tube
and try to get it in between and down as far as possible, or I could purchase a bag of mortar mix
and sweep it in dry hoping light moisture will harden it to the point where it will keep water out.
(This is my top choice) If this is possible is there any special type of mortar I should use? I
probably should have talked with other professionals before I started this project and get there
advice. I’m a pretty handy person and try and do all my work myself with great results. This paver
job looks awesome, my wife loves it and I would like for it to last for years. If we lived in a warmer
climate water and ice would not be a factor. Your input would be appreciated.
Answer:

A dry mix swept into the joints will not obtain the hardness necessary to make it impermeable and
you will still get moisture penetration into the joints. These type of dry joints are typically used on
flagstone and other paving set on sand and gravel beds.

The recommended minimum joint width for mortared paving is 25mm(0.98 inch)but you might still
get good results with a narrower joint width. Use a Class 1 mortar. This mortar may also be
labeled as type 60. I used this type of mortar on some "crazy paving"(broken pieces of concrete
to form a path)in my own backyard about a year ago and the joints are still holding well. The size
of the joints there varies from about a half inch up to 2 inches. The mortar bag label will state if
the mortar is good for paving.

Mortar purchased in a tube will get very expensive. It would probably require not much more
effort to simply trowel the mortar into the joints.

I suppose the adhesive may give you some advantage in avoiding delamination (the shearing of
the pavers from the base). Water penetrating the joints will foster that and the freeze/thaw cycle
will aid the process. Actually,in colder climates,a sand/gravel base can be better since concrete
and mortared joints tend to dislodge and crack in temperature extremes. The ground under the
paving is always expanding and contracting.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

43. Landscaping for Retaining Wall:

We did a two retaining wall at the entrance of my driveway dont know what to put in it we live in
northen new jersey .

Answer:

Not knowing exactly what the space is being used for or what you may desire for the space,I can
only make very general suggestions.

There appears to be a fence or fence posts in the back and a field beyond. I would suggest you
border the back with tall columnar plantings such as spruce or poplar. This could also serve as a
windbreak.

In front of the tall plantings I would go with low spreading plants such as juniper and yew and
sculpt them in undulating curves and maybe in front of those add some ground cover or flower
beds. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

44. Mosquitos and Water in Catch Basins:

I just had surface drains installed in my property (catch basins with drain pipes that run to the
bottom of my property). The catch basins collect some water (a few inches) on the bottom that
don't drain - the drain pipes are connected to the basin about 3" above the bottom of the basin.
The collected water attracts mosquitos and smells. Did I poorly design the drain system? Should
I have an escape for the water at the bottom of the basins?

Answer:

A catch basin insert (I do not know if they are made for residential basins) may work but it also
may fail because it may clog with sediment and debri. These filters are made of non-woven
plastic geotextile filter fabric.

You could also try mosquito "dunks". These are solid chemical or organic discs. Bleach can also
be used to kill mosquitos but you would have to apply bleach more frequently than discs,perhaps
every few days. The discs will last about 30 days in a rain barrel and so should last longer in a
catch basin.

I do not think a drain in the bottom of the catch basin would be practical. The space at the bottom
of the basin is called the sump. This space is intended to settle out particles before they reach the
outlet pipe.

Flush out the basins with a hose every couple of weeks for the odor. There are also various
chemical products for such odor problems or perhaps a drop or two of bleach would do the trick.

Judging by what you have told me,your catch basins appear to be designed correctly. It is normal
for water to sit in the bottom of the basins and mosquitos in catch basins are a common problem.
An outlet pipe connected to the bottom of the basin will not work because the pipe would then
become clogged with sediment and a filter will not work because that would trap sediment and
debri in the basin. Filter fabric is very problematic in catch basins. This is the reason for the sump
at the bottom of the basins and hence the standing water. The sump is the only way to stop the
sediment from entering the outlet pipe but the trade off is the problem of standing water and
mosquitos. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

45. Maple Tree Near Sewer Line:

I have a triangular shaped flower garden about 15 feet off the southeast corner of my ranch
house. The two long sides of the triangle are about 20 feet long while the short side is about 10
feet in length. There are short lilacs, peony bushes, spirea, tiger lilies, jack o lanterns, lambs ear,
and a few other flowers in this garden.

I need to plant a deciduous tree in this triangular flower garden to shade my house from the hot
morning and early afternoon summer sun. My air conditioning unit would also be shaded from the
hot morning sun. I am leaning toward planting an autumn blaze maple tree here because of its
faster growth rate coupled with strength and its fall color.

Now I have two questions about this tree and the flower garden.

First, there is a plastic 3 inch pipeline that runs from my house to the public sewer. This line runs
along the part of the long edge of this flower garden that is closest to the house. This means I
would be planting the tree within about 3 or 4 of my three inch wide sewerage drain pipe. My
concern is roots from the tree growing into the pipe. I fear that any small opening in the pipe may
attract tiny roots from the tree which would seek out the water. What can I do to stop the roots
from growing into this sewerage plastic pipe?

Second, how well will the flower plants I listed above that are in my flower garden grow under the
shade of this maple tree as it matures? I plan on buying a tree of 4 inch caliper about 20 feet
high.

Thank you for considering my two questions.

Answer:

In my opinion,the tree would be too close to the sewer line. While the autumn maple has a
smaller root spread and is used as a street tree for this reason,4 feet will not be enough
clearance, as (depending on the growing conditions) the roots may spread out to 10 feet or more.

Here is the shade tolerance of the plants you mentioned. I could find no information for "jack o
lantern".

lilac (medium shade)

peony (light shade)

spirea (full shade)

tiger lilly (medium shade)

lambs ear (medium shade)

I would consider planting a smaller tree. Most plants will not grow in full shade so look for a tree
that casts a filtered,dappled shade. Another option may to move the sewer line,if possible. The
expense may be justified if it allows you to get the shade you desire. Good luck. Let me know if I
can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up: Thank you for your reply and information on shade tolerances of the plants in my
flower garden.
Please let me try to better explain how my house is situated the problem of the sun. My raised
ranch brick house which is 28 feet by 44 feet has no shade on it during any time of the day. The
west side of the house has both the basement wall and the first floor wall completely exposed to
the late afternoon and evening sun till sunset. About a third of the south facing basement wall
(which faces the back yard) is exposed.
on the north is also about one third exposed (This north wall faces the public street.) The exposed
basement wall is covered in brick totally on all walls except the southern wall in the back yard.
This southern basement wall just has a thin layer of mortar and sand troweled on the foundation
blocks.

The ridge line of the roof runs from east to west. The wide eve on the roof southern wall of the
roof does shade the first floor brick from the high afternoon sun very much.

In the basement there is a one car garage with the entry door on the west wall. There is a paved
parking area that runs the entire 28 foot width of the house. The paved parking area and drive
extend out 35 feet from the western side of the house.

This leads me to my main concern. During the summer till sunset the sun just bakes the salmon
colored red bricks on the western side of the house. At 9 pm one can walk within 4 feet of the
western side of my house and just feel the heat radiating off of the brick house. Even though my
house has insulated walls, this does noticeably raise the temperature in the house. The light red
singles also absorb lots of heat in the attic even though both gable ends are vented but there is
no ridgevent.

I need to get the western wall of my house shaded to lower the temp of the house. Presently it
takes till midnight to cool the house down even with central air set to 70 degrees.

To stop roots from getting under the pavement, I need to plant any trees about 10 feet from the
paved driveway and parking area on the western side of the house. This would put the trunk of
any tree 45 feet from the western side of my house. With the steep angle of the sun, there is no
way to have a tree high enough so its shade reaches the house unless I have a 100 year old
redwood.

There is a maple tree that is twice the height of my house but it is planted 50 feet from the house
and in an area where its shadow never hits the house.

The sun baking the western wall of my house for both the basement part of the wall and first floor
is a big problem for which I feel like I am stuck.

I have some ideas of maybe extending the roof of the house on the western two story side of my
house out about 30 feet. This would shade the western wall but not the roof of the house. I would
put a 30 foot long by 28 foot wide deck under this roof. Below the proposed deck is the present
paved parking area which I would turn into either concrete or dig out and plant grass. I don't know
if this idea's cost will justify the shade value gained on the western wall?

Back to that eastern wall with the triangular flower garden, I only own about 22 feet of lawn
between the house and the neighbor's yard. With the sewer line running pretty much in the middle
of this 22 foot wide lawn between the house and the neighbor's property line/yard and no trees on
the eastern or south eastern side of the house, I feel handcuffed to deal with the morning through
early afternoon sun. The sun bakes my external central air compressor and fan.

Putting a tree between the sewer line and my house would put the tree to close to my house. If I
plant the tree 10 feet from the sewer line, then I am about 20 some feet from the house and
maybe on my neighbor's property. So I feel like I have no choices to get a tall tree growing on the
south east side of my house that would really shade the house. I picked autumn blaze because of
its fairly quick growth and denser shade. Is there some type of root barrier I could put in the
ground between a tall shade tree and the sewer line to keep the roots from growing that way?

Thank you very much Mark for your time and patience and insights!

Sincerely,

Mike

Answer:

A root barrier does not sound like a good idea. Constricting the root growth cannot be good for
any plant. Have you given any thought to moving the sewer line.

I have a direct western exposure,so I know firsthand about how brutal the summer western sun
can be. I have white vinyl siding on my first floor and white painted asbestos siding on my second
floor. These surfaces stay cool to the touch in the hottest summer sun although I still get some
heat through the windows of course. I have the windows covered with aluminum foil which
reflects alot of sun and keeps cool air from the ac inside. I have painted a small area of brick wall
on my western side white. Reflective surfaces help alot to deflect heat. I cannot have trees
because I live in a constricted urban environment.

There are other shade trees beside autumn blaze,although autumn blaze is a pretty good choice.
Do not limit yourself to one tree. Plants will not grow under a tree that produces dense shade.

Consider other ideas to produce shade such as reflective surfaces and awnings. Perhaps a tall
row of shrubs or narrow trees would provide shade. They would have a smaller root spread.
Something like Lombardy Poplar is shorter lived but grows very tall. Or perhaps a fence or shade
trellis could work. There are height restrictions on fences but perhaps if you explain you want a
fence for the special purpose of shade you may be granted a variance from the zoning board.

Even if a root barrier would pose no harm to the tree roots,this technology is still unproven and
there is evidence that tree roots often grow under the barrier and back up to the surface
again,seeking water and to naturally spread out. The effort and expense of digging 4 to 6 feet
down to install a root barrier is very questionable. These barriers are showing more promise for
maintaining water levels in clay soil and in this capacity they could do more to protect home
foundations than as a root barrier. Foundation damage by tree roots is not a common occurance.
More damage occurs to sewer and water lines than to foundations.

Regarding silver reflective coatings. A plastic silver coating would be more effective than one
made of metal such as aluminum. A metal coating will absorb some heat and of course that heat
will radiate into the home. Specially made plastic silver coatings with condensation holes are
available. If the coating is placed over glass,for instance,without condensation weep holes,water
vapor will form between the coating and the glass. If used on interior walls,these condensation
holes are important for the same reason.

I cannot tell you what the exact cost of the overhanging roof would be but since you are probably
already spending at least a couple of hundred dollars a year extra on cooling,the expense of such
a roof may be justified. If you plan on moving in a couple of years,perhaps the expense would not
be justified.

The average thickness of fiberglass insulation is about 4 inches. To be effective during extreme
heat and cold,such insulation should be about 1 foot thick. Two feet would be even better.
Houses with insulation that thick are referred to as superinsulated. The old adobe houses in the
southwest had walls 2 or more feet thick and so they functioned well in the heat and also the cold
of the desert nights. Ice was once stored in ice houses having walls insulated with saw dust that
were 4 feet thick. Heat will go through any material but at different rates. The problem is that
retrofitting a house with superinsulation will decrease the living space. A thick walled adobe
house is an example of thermal mass. The thick masonry absorbs heat by day and radiates it at
night when the outside temperature cools but since the walls are so thick little heat actually
moves through the walls. In a climate other than desert,any heat that has gotten through and is
radiating at night can be removed with minimal energy from cooling equipment or by opening
windows.

If possible,increase the thickness of the insulation in your attic and/or using a higher R-Value
insulation. An R-Value of 40 to 60 is desirable. Consider installing a whole house or attic fan. A
whole house fan is a powerful fan that draws air through open windows and up through the attic.
An attic fan exhausts hot air from the attic and sets up a cross breeze from one gable end to the
other. If you have cool air at night pull it in through the house with fans. The drawback with a
whole house fan can be alot of noise,however,there are some models that have been engineered
for noise reduction. There have been reports of back drafts with whole house fans which can blow
out hot water heater pilot lights and extinquish fireplaces.

You may also want to consider superinsulating your house. This involves increasing the thickness
of the interior stud walls and thus increasing the thickness of the insulation. Perhaps just your
western wall could be superinsulated. Perhaps insulation can be applied to the outside of the
house in the form of rigid foam boards and that may be a more acceptable solution. Consider
sealing up the windows on the western wall either permanently with some type of insulation or by
using insulated movable shutters. Much heat is gained through windows.

Consider using structural insulated panels for your patio roof. These are solid insulation panels
sandwiched between OSB (oriented strand board). They can often be installed at lower cost than
conventional frame construction and are relatively light weight and very strong. Whole houses are
constructed of structurally insulated panels and they produce higher insulation values overall than
conventional frame construction. One reason for the greater insulation value is that solid
insulation tends to be superior to insulation like fiberglass batts because the rigid insulation has
no pore spaces as fiberglass,paper,cotton or blown in insulation.

For a lighter weight and to avoid having to apply roofing materials over the SIP (structural
insulated panel) think about using fiberglass or metal panels for the patio roof, over rigid
insulation. This design may tend to have more energy gaps (for instance, the studs in an
insulated wall allows heat to escape) because more framing may be required. Try to make the
insulation on the patio roof at least 8 inches thick and try to obtain an R-Value of at least 40.

Concrete will increase heat,mainly by reflective glare and concrete can absorb alot of heat which
will radiate back at night,and so your idea of removing some concrete and planting grass sounds
like a good one. Grass has a cooling effect as of course do shade trees and much of this effect
may be coming from evaporation. This is the principle of the evaporative cooler used in the
Southwest where air is blown over damp surfaces. This principle does not work in very humid
environments. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment: Mark replied to all my questions in a straight forward manner with very
factual answers. He also offered suggestions beyond my questions for which I am
appreciative!
46. Stain for Stone:

I have made a sign by embedding small local stones (3/4-1") in concrete to read "Lake Marion" (a
memorial by a lake named for my wife). Did not want to dye concrete, as I've seen such fade. but
there is too little contrast between some stones and the concrete. What can I use to dye the
stones a darker color (as e.g. linseed oil w/an umber stain brings out color in or adds color to
wood)? It will be outside. Conrad

Answer:

Try brick stain or an iron oxide paint on one of the stones to see what results are achieved. Brick
stain consists of iron oxide (which is essentially the same thing as rust) and a binding agent such
as potassium silicate. Pigments can be added for greater color variation.

Iron oxide paints are often used on pottery but may not be as penetrating or long lasting as brick
stain on stone. Stone tends to be denser,in many cases,than brick or concrete. The more porous
stone would be sandstone and limestone,but stone such as granite tends to be very dense. The
penetration power comes from the iron oxide. Iron oxide paints are available in the following earth
colors:

Yellow:

light yellow ocher

colonial yellow ocher

dark yellow ocher

curry yellow

natural yellow

lemon yellow

Orange:

apricot

havana ocher

Red:

red ocher

venetian red

red brick

natural red
black currant red

plum

violet

burnt sienna

Brown:

clay brown

light sienna

raw sienna

natural sienna

brown ocher

brown

natural umber

burnt umber

raw umber

terra cotta

dark brown

Green:

nicosia green

verona green earth

turquoise green

pistaschio green

viridian

green

Blue:

sky blue

lavender blue
charron blue

ultramarine blue

Neutral:

titanium white

slate

pewter gray

natural black

black

Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

47. Desert Privacy Hedge:

I have a house in Sedona, Arizona (high desert) on a small lot -- where my dining room, kitchen,
and bedroom look out directly into the dining room, kitchen and bedroom of my neighbor's house
(which is only about 60' away. There is a 3' chain link fence along the property line already (my
neighbor put it in) and rather than putting up a taller wood fence, I'm wondering if there is some
kind of small tree or shrub (ideally evergreen) that I could plant that would grow to 6-8' tall and
require relatively little water (and that would be very hardy)? Since I'm hoping to completely
screen the neighbors, I would want the trees or shrubs to completely grow together. If you could
recommend something and let me know how far apart they should be planted, I would very much
appreciate it.

Answer:

Here is a list of evergreen privacy hedge plants that are drought tolerant and adapted to a desert
environment:

Emerald Green Thuga. Grows 8 to 12 feet high,but can be trimmed down. Extremely drought
tolerant and disease and insect resistant. Obtains a columnar shape that has a pruned look.
Grows in almost any soil from sandy loam to clay. Plant every 3 feet to achieve a thick barrier.

Nellie Stevens Holly. Grows 15 to 25 feet but can be trimmed down. Good drought tolerance.
Tolerates wide range of soil conditions. Plant 4 feet apart.

Common Privet (ligustrum vulgare). Grows to 15 feet high. Tolerates wide range of soil
conditions. Produces clusters of tiny white flowers. Plant 4 to 6 feet apart.

Atriplex Torreyi. Native to the Southwest. Grows 6 to 8 feet high. Plant 3 to 4 feet apart.
Desert Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii). Fast growth to 10 feet high. Requires infrequent
deep watering. Produces yellow flowers with protruding bright red stamens in the summer. Plant
4 to 6 feet apart.

Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii). Grows 4 to 6 feet high. Produces small yellow flowers in
April and bright red berries in Fall. Plant 3 to 6 feet apart.

Japanese Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa). Grows 6 to 10 feet high. Tolerates wide range of soil
conditions. Produces red flowers in April. Plant 3 to 4 feet apart.

Rock Rose (Cistus ladanifer). Grows to 5 feet high. Tolerates wide range of soil conditions.
Produces white flowers in June and July. Plant 3 to 4 feet apart.

Sea Tomato (Rosa rugosa). Grows to 8 feet high. Produces fragrant single or double
white,yellow,pink or purplish red flowers. Also produces bright red tomato shaped fruit. Plant 4 to
6 feet apart.

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus). Grows to 6 feet high. Produces pink flowers in May and June
and white fruit in late summer to winter. Plant 4 to 6 feet apart.

Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

48. Plant to Compliment Blue Spruce and Maple:

Hi there. I was wondering what flowering bushes and perrenial flowers you would recogmend
planting along with my blue spruce trees I have in my front yord. The trees are planted in trios
and I wouldn't min putting a nice white or reddish flowering shrub next to them.. Also I have a
yellow maple tree in the centre of the drive way what shrubs compliment this tree? Thank you.

Answer:
Here is a partial list of plants that would compliment your blue spruce and maple:

Shrubs:

Azalea. Grows to 5 feet high. Wide variety of flower colors. Requires acid soil.

Chokeberry. Aronia arbutifolia. Grows 5 to 7 feet high. Spreads 2 to 3 feet. Tolerates wide range
of soil types. Moderate growth rate. Flower color is pale pink. Fall flower color is red.

Holly.

Leatherwood. Dirca palustris. Grows to 6 feet high. Produces pale yellow flowers and berries.

Ground Covers:

Pachysandra
Vinca
Liriope. White and purple flower varieties. Very shade tolerant. Resembles tall grass.
Bugleweed. Purple flowers. Grows to 1 foot high.

Primrose. Grows to 1 foot high.

Perrenials:

Hosta
Sedum. Various species. Very drought tolerant.

Astilbe. Variety of flower colors. Grows to 3 feet high.

Coralbell. Heuchera. Grows to 2 feet high. Flowers form on spike. Flower color is coral to pink.

Bergenia. Bergenia cordifolia. Grows to 2 feet high.

Bleeding heart. Dicentra. Grows to 3 feet high.

Bugbane. Cimicifuga ramosa. Grows to 6 feet high. Tall spike with white flowers.

Forget me not. Myosotis sylvatica. Grows to 1 feet high. Delicate blue flowers.

Bulbs. Can be grown under trees before foliage forms in spring.

Grape hyacinth
Crocus
Bluebells
Daffodils

Check further on the growing requirements and characteristics of these plants and see if they will
grow in your zone. All the plants listed here will tolerate full shade,not including the bulbs.

A maple tree would require extremely shade tolerant plants. I would recommend azalea as the
first choice for a shrub. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

49. Improving Look of Patio:

I live in a subdivision, my backyard is extremely boring...I have a 26' x 15' paved patio behind the
house. There are 4' wide flower beds between the house and the patio...I thought about building a
retaining wall around the flower beds and extending it to either side of patio, to create some
dimension and interest...However, I read that raised flower beds are a bad idea against the house
for obvious reasons. My yard is flat, with nothing of interest....Any ideas of how can pull the look
of the flower beds and the patio together to make it visually pleasing??

Answer:

Really doesnt look like you would have much height to get a retaining wall against the house.
Depending on how high your foundation wall is,a raised flower bed at the wall may or may not be
a good idea.

Consider doing something with the area on the left side in the pic. Perhaps make a planting area
with a curvilinear border and include plantings that might improve the climate of the patio or
depending on what your needs are, improve privacy,etc..
Perhaps you could eliminate the flower beds in their present form and just blend them in with the
curved area. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

50. Pavers Over Existing Concrete Slab:

I live in MA. and recently installed pavers over my exiting concrete slab and stairs using SRW, a
concrete adhesive. My question is what type of sand or should I use stone dust too sweep in
between the pavers.

Answer:

You should not use sand or dust between the pavers. You should set the pavers in mortar.
Setting pavers in sand over a concrete base will trap water between the pavers and the base
because there is no place for the water to drain. The water should drain down vertically and thats
how things would take place if there were gravel or earth under the sand but it cannot take place
with a concrete base.

Setting the pavers in mortar will create an impermeable surface that sheds water. Good luck. Let
me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up:

Hi Mark, Thanks for your advice: Since I have already installed all my pavers with SRW I think I
have only a few choices of getting some type of mortar in between them, and if you know of any
others could you please share them with me. As I look at it, I could purchase the mortar in a tube
and try to get it in between and down as far as possible, or I could purchase a bag of mortar mix
and sweep it in dry hoping light moisture will harden it to the point where it will keep water out.
(This is my top choice) If this is possible is there any special type of mortar I should use? I
probably should have talked with other professionals before I started this project and get there
advice. I’m a pretty handy person and try and do all my work myself with great results. This paver
job looks awesome, my wife loves it and I would like for it to last for years. If we lived in a warmer
climate water and ice would not be a factor. Your input would be appreciated.

Answer:

A dry mix swept into the joints will not obtain the hardness necessary to make it impermeable and
you will still get moisture penetration into the joints. These type of dry joints are typically used on
flagstone and other paving set on sand and gravel beds.

The recommended minimum joint width for mortared paving is 25mm(0.98 inch)but you might still
get good results with a narrower joint width. Use a Class 1 mortar. This mortar may also be
labeled as type 60. I used this type of mortar on some "crazy paving"(broken pieces of concrete
to form a path)in my own backyard about a year ago and the joints are still holding well. The size
of the joints there varies from about a half inch up to 2 inches. The mortar bag label will state if
the mortar is good for paving.

Mortar purchased in a tube will get very expensive. It would probably require not much more
effort to simply trowel the mortar into the joints.

I suppose the adhesive may give you some advantage in avoiding delamination (the shearing of
the pavers from the base). Water penetrating the joints will foster that and the freeze/thaw cycle
will aid the process. Actually,in colder climates,a sand/gravel base can be better since concrete
and mortared joints tend to dislodge and crack in temperature extremes. The ground under the
paving is always expanding and contracting.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up:

I ended up using mortar in between joints. It was kind of a pain and time consuming finishing the
project, however it looks really nice. Hopefully it will last for years. time will tell.

Answer:

Glad to hear it worked out. A less time consuming method would have been the slurry method.
With this method a lump of mortar is dumped on the surface and then pushed into the joints with
a spade shovel and brush. The mortar then has to be hosed and brushed off. However,this
method tends to leave stains and mortar residue that then hardens. The residue will eventually
wear away but that could take a very long time.

With the slurry method,the joints still have to be hand checked for settling or voids and this
method produces a weaker joint because the mortar has a higher water content and is thinner.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

51. Privacy Plants For Pool:

Please help, I have a 50' wall 60' pines (spruce? very tiny, hard needles) all that have been cut up
to about 8' or more by the previous owner. I have just installed a pool and would like to add some
kind of tree or shrub for privacy that will grow in the shade under these pine trees. Is there
something that will grow to be around 10' or slightly taller with a spread of about 4' to fill in gaps? I
also have two very small dogs and I am afraid of planting something that may drop berries and be
poisonous to them. We do have some morning sun, I live in the Chicago area zone 5, do you
have any suggestions?

Answer:

Here is a list of shrubs that should meet your requirements:

Juniper. Juniperus chinensis 'spartan'. Fast growing,columnar shaped,tolerates partial shade.


Grows to about 8 feet high with about a 6 feet spread. Evergreen.

Forsythia. Blooms in spring,produces bright yellow flowers. Grows 3 to 8 feet high. Produces a
medicinal grade fruit that is harmless to animals. Deciduous (loses leaves in fall).

Spirea. Vanhouttei. Grow 6 to 8 feet high and spreads 6 to 8 feet wide. Tolerates partial
shade,drought and poor soil. Deciduous.

Lilac. Grows to 8 feet high. Evergreen.

Holly. Varieties available that grow to 10 feet high. Evergreen. Very shade tolerant.

Arborvitae. 'Emerald Green'. Grows to 10 to 15 feet high. Pyramidal shape. Tolerates light shade.
The deeper the shade the less foliage the plant will retain and so,less privacy.

Here is a list of small trees that should meet your requirements:

Crape Myrtle. Dwarf,medium size and large size varieties available. Grows up to 20 feet high.
Disease resistant and has an ornamental look. Deciduous.

Sargentii. 'tina'. Smallest of the flowering crab apples. Grows to 8 feet high and has a 15 feet
spread. Edible fruit. Deciduous.

Dogwood. Varieties that reach a height of 10 feet are available. Deciduous. Attractive spring
blossoms.

Serviceberry. Can grow up to 20 feet high if not pruned. Produces upright stems from multi-
stemmed clumps. Edible berries. Somewhat drought tolerant. Deciduous. Ten feet spread.
Tolerates partial shade. This is a swamp plant and tolerates wet conditions.

On a southern exposure,if you would like sun in the winter and privacy is not important,go with
predominantly deciduous plantings. Or you could mix deciduous and evergreen plantings.
Although spirea is deciduous,its branches still remain fairly dense in fall and winter. You might
consider using low growing shrubs such as juniper under any trees you might plant to fill in gaps
that might be created by the branch height of these trees. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of
further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

52. High Water Table And Poor Drainage:

Our yard has about a 3.5' drop over about 50 feet of space. We also have a high water table and
the bottom of the yard is like a swamp. We are considering building a retaining wall and leveling
the yard but that will require cutting down some very big old trees. We are looking for
suggestions that will help to solve our drainage problem.

Answer:

I would suggest installing drainage pipe at the low area. The size of the drainage pipe and the
number of drainage pipes is dictated by the volume of water and the flow rate needed to dispose
of the water and of course the water will have to be moved to a suitable outlet. Pumping from
wells may also be an option. Also,digging a swale or ditch on top of the area may prove useful.

Moving this water to an outlet such as a storm sewer or stream will require a permit from your
municipality. Hookups to storm sewers are sometimes required by municipal code to be installed
by a licensed plumber.

Filling the area may also be an option. This will effectively lower the height of the water table. By
using this option you will avoid the problem of hooking up to a storm sewer or other outlet,but you
may still need a permit. Municipal storm sewers,water systems and sanitary sewer systems are
troubled entities these days because of many complex factors,the economy being one of them.
These systems are becoming less efficient. It is better sometimes to try to remedy drainage
problems by keeping them confined to the site.

Perhaps you would not have to level the entire yard. You may be able to borrow fill soil for the wet
area from another portion of the slope and make a terrace at the wet area with a retaining wall at
that spot or use a combination of fill and some type of drainage.

Perhaps the trees could be saved by building tree wells around them. These are circular retaining
walls around the trees. The original grade remains at the trees while grade changes are made
outside the wells.

Combined with the high water table,the high slope is contributing to the drainage problem. The
steeper the slope,the more water that sheds off. The water is not allowed to seep into the soil
because the force of gravity sends it down the incline. So it seems that removing as much of the
slope as possible would improve drainage because more water would seep into the soil and not
end up flooding the bottom area at the foot of the slope. But of course you would have to take the
tree problem into account when considering this. Tree wells may be less expensive than
removing the trees.

If fill is applied to the bottom area perhaps a dry well could be used to temporarily store water
until it has had time to seep into the surrounding soil. Drywells have to be above the water
table,however,or they will become ineffective.

If you have a suitable outlet for water at the bottom of the slope,surface drainage in the form of a
swale or ditch may be all you need to dispose of the water. Depending on how much water
reaches the bottom of the slope and how fast it reaches the bottom this may be adequate but if
surface drainage would be overwhelmed by the volume of water,a dry well could make a big
difference by diverting water from the surface and thus relieving the strain on the surface
drainage structure. Detailed calculations would be needed to more accurately determine what a
solution would be.

It could be possible that fill at the bottom of the slope may be able to absorb runoff water without
the assistance of any drainage device.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

53. Limestone Mulch:

We recently started a project replacing our landscape bark with limestone and was told this will
cause problems with our plants, flowers and trees. Is this correct and if so would it work to
remove the rock 6-10 inches from the root area? We liked the color with our brick and have a
large project that is now 1/2 done. Thanks for your help, Sheryl

Answer:

Stone mulch absorbs heat and the surrounding soil will get somewhat warmer,but there does not
seem to be any reported instances of serious damage occuring from this. Of course,a darker
colored stone will absorb more heat than a lighter colored stone mulch. The lighter colors reflect
heat. Reflected heat can be a problem on surfaces such as parking lots or roofs but once again I
do not know of any problems with stone mulch.

Limestone is sometimes added to soil to increase alkalinity but I would not think that enough of it
would leach out from your mulch to greatly effect your soil pH.

As long as you do not exceed a depth of a few inches,the mulch will not harm your plants around
the root zone. An interlocking (a stone mulch that has narrow spaces between the individual
pieces) would not be a good idea around the root zone. This will impede water and air penetration
to the roots. Angular cut pieces are more interlocking than round cut pieces. Good luck. Let me
know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up:

I'm still concerned about our Evergreen type trees as they like an acidic soil?? Thank-you! Sheryl
in NW Iowa

Answer:

I do not think that the small amount of lime that may leach out of the mulch will affect your trees. If
it would give you peace of mind,keep the limestone mulch outside the root zone. Do a soil pH
test. I would also advise you to get a second opinion about this from someone knowledgeable in
horticulture. Your state extension agency may be able to help.

While it is true that evergreens prefer an acidic soil,most plants tend to grow close to the neutral
pH range. One particular example of a plant that is particularly sensitive to soil pH is azalea,which
requires an acidic soil. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

54. Depth of Bedding Sand For Walkway:

I am installing a concrete brick walkway. I have done the excavating and installed 3" of
compacted base material. Now comes 1" of bedding sand, but I've hit a snag. I've been all over
the internet trying to find out if I should screen the sand and then install the bricks on the
uncompacted sand, or if I should compact the sand and then install the pavers. I've found sites
that say conflicting things. I really need some expert advice. Thank you!

Answer:

A 4 inch base would be better and you should have at least a 2 inch layer of sand. Use a coarse
sand such as concrete sand. This allows better drainage. A fine sand such as masonry sand
impedes drainage. Instead,use masonry sand to fill the gaps in the pavers. This makes the
paving somewhat water repellent.

Screening the sand should not be necessary unless you think there are large particles in it. The
sand should be compacted, as some settling will occur otherwise. Good luck. Let me know if I can
be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

55. Sand Over Grass to Create Walking Surface,Eliminate Weeds And Reduce
Maintenance:

I have a very large spruce tree in my front yard. Since the grass around this tree is struggling to
survive I am planning to lay down river rock on appr 3/4 of my front lawn. Do I have to remove
the sod first or can I smother the grass with landscape fabric topped with river rock.
As a note, none of the lower branches of the spruce have been cut, thus the rock would be
placed around and not under the tree.

Answer:

There is no need to remove the sod. The sod will retain the soil and prevent erosion. Use a fabric
rated for weed control. A fabric rated only for erosion control may have a more porous weave
spacing and that will allow more weeds to grow. Weed fabric is best used with mulch. An organic
mulch placed under the rocks will eventually degrade and become ineffective,so perhaps you
could lay down a layer of small sized gravel or sand over the fabric and then lay the rocks over
the gravel. I would suggest at a 2 inch layer of sand or gravel or sand. Because of its smaller pore
spaces,sand would be more effective than gravel.

Of course,as you have indicated,the rock should not be placed directly under the tree,as this
would impede the tree roots from getting water and air and possibly cause a crush hazard to the
roots if the rocks are very heavy. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up:

Thank you for this very informative reply. Rather than large river rock I was actually thinking of
using the 1" - 2" size with only an occasional larger rock for decoration. Should I lay sand under
this as well or would 2" of little rocks suffice?

Answer:

The smaller size rocks will have relatively less space between them than larger rocks and so less
weeds will grow,but you will still get some weeds. I would not think that you would get alot of
weeds with this design,but a sand layer under the rocks should eliminate 99 percent of weeds
and the sand makes a nice foundation for the rocks. The rocks will be less likely to settle into the
soil if resting on a layer of sand. Sand has very good compressive strength.

If there will be foot traffic on the area the sand will prevent the rocks from being forced into the
soil below and will improve the feel of the surface under foot. If this surface will get a good bit of
foot traffic,then you might want to consider removing the sod and preparing a base for the sand or
gravel by compacting the soil below.

The sod will expand and contract with the freeze/thaw cycle,more or less,depending on how well
water drains on it and this will effect your layer of sand and gravel. Sand and gravel are flexible
materials and this will compensate somewhat for any expansion and contraction. The sod will
also be less stable than a compacted base of soil only, since the sod is composed of mainly
organic material. I would suggest you cut any grass on the surface to as low a height as possilbe
and compact the sod with a hand tamper,compaction machine or roller. Also, compact the sand
and gravel in a similar manner. I am calling the 2 inch rocks you mentioned gravel here just for
convenience.

Using sod as a base is not the best solution for a walking surface but for a lawn area that will
receive only light foot traffic it will be adequate. The sod gives the advantage of holding the soil
under the sand and gravel together and no mud will form under the sand and gravel and of
course you will avoid the labor costs of removing the sod. As with all designs there are trade offs
here. You have to decide what type of trade offs you want to make and what option you have
more to gain from.

The smaller the size of the rocks,the less likely weeds will grow. Sand is just tiny rocks;the size of
salt grains.

You also have to consider what thickness these materials will take. With a 2 inch layer of sand
and then another 2 inches of gravel,thats a total of 4 inches. Will this surface even with the
surrounding area. You will need some kind of edging to retain the material. The other option
would be to remove the sod so that the material sits flush with the rest of the lawn or perhaps
there are grade changes already existing that can be used. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of
further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment: Dear Mark thank you for this informative advise. I am now eager to get
started on this project Regards Monika.
56. Sidewalk Drainage:

Our neighborhood contains grass boulevards which are quite nice but I live on a low point of the
crescent and water pools there. It makes it dangerous when spring hits anpd the snow melts
during the day and still freezes at night. I was thinking of digging up the grass in the boulevard,
as it is higher then the sidewalk, and replace it with a rock bed. Would this be the best thing to do
and if so, how is the best way to go about it? Would it be the same as laying a patio, using gravel
and sand?

Thanks,
Lisa

Answer:

Do you mean by boulevard, grass strips along the sidewalk outside your home? You can only
work on that if it is your private property. If it is municipal property you cannot do any work to it
without permission.

Drainage should be done at the low point around your home,not on the higher area. Depending
on what the actual topograhy looks like,a number of things could be considered such as catch
basins,underground drainage pipes,french drains,trench drains,swales,drainage
ditches,berms,etc...

Catch basins are boxes layed flush to the ground with a grate over them. They are installed at a
low point. Water flows into the box and is carried away by outlet pipes to a disposal point. French
drains are trenches filled with gravel and sometimes with a perforated drainage pipe at the
bottom. Drainage pipe is simply perforated pipe buried in a trench. Water is collected and carried
to a disposal point. A trench drain is an elongated grated drain mounted flush to the ground in the
shape of a box,something like a rain gutter. Water flows into it as a sheet and is carried to a
disposal point.

Swales are shallow vegetated depressions that conduct water to a disposal point. A drainage
ditch is a deeper channel often cut in the form of a V or a half circle. A berm or dike is simply piled
soil that blocks water.

A rock bed might be useful as a swale lining or for a detention area but a sand bed would impede
drainage rather than provide it. A detention area is an area for holding a quantity of water
temporarily so that it can soak into the soil or be sent to a disposal point or both.

Send a pic or a further description of the situation and I will try to give you more detailed
suggestions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

57. Drainage Around Fence And Raising Fence Boards Off Ground:
I live in Southern Ontario Canada. Recently we had an interlocking stone patio built in our
backyard. It's a fairly square yard, with an 8 foot fence around the perimeter. We were going to
have a 3 foot garden bed all around the inside perimeter coming out from the fence but we were
told by the city that we needed to leave at least one foot of grass or river rock around the fence to
allow for drainage. As you can see from the photo, I dug a trench, laid down landscape cloth, then
added about 3 inches of river rock. It rained very hard yesterday, and it seemed to direct the
water where it should. What I would like to know, not being an expert at landscaping or drainage,
was there anything else I should have done or is the cloth and rock enough? Is it o.k. for the rock
to be right up against the topsoil like that or should I have a barrier between the soil and the rock?
One last question, out earth underneath is mainly clay so there is about a half inch or so of
standing water in that trench after rain. Is that acceptable or should I be doing something about
that? Thank you!

Answer:

I do not understand why you placed landscape cloth under the rocks. That will impede drainage.
The fence would have been better placed up on a low concrete,stone or masonry wall for better
drainage. It makes no difference if the rock borders the soil.

I see also that you have a two rail fence. You may be ok with that but in alot of cases the boards
on two rail fences warp.
You might consider elevating the fence boards up on a concrete,stone or masonry wall. Or
landscape timbers or railroad ties could be used as a low wall. Cut the fence boards at the bottom
and install the wall underneath;assuming of course you have the height for that. That would give
you more room in your garden area and in my opinion would look better.

To address the standing water in the trench,I would first consider a way to get rid of that trench.
Remove the landscape cloth. Water is probably being trapped in the voids of the rocks. Such
standing water will lead to mosquito problems and stagnation if it does not drain or evaporate in a
certain period of time. For instance,a rain garden must drain within 24 hours.

The problem with drainage around the fence is that if the ends of the fence boards contact bare
soil rot will occur. The boards are not rated for ground contact as the fence posts are.
Otherwise there is nothing particularly special about drainage around a fence in most cases since
a fence usually follows the contours of the land. It is not so much a problem of draining away
water but of keeping the fence board ends elevated above water. In your pic the fence board
ends look as though they are contacting bare ground.

Add organic material to the soil to eliminate the clay problem. To this organic material add a small
amount of sand. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up:

Thanks for the prompt reply!

Just to be clear, I know it's difficult to tell from the picture but the fence boards don't actually touch
the ground, or any soil. They stop about two inches above the ground so I think I'm o.k. there.
Also thanks for letting me know about the landscaping cloth. It was my neighbor who mentioned
laying down the cloth as he says if I didn't then I would get weeds coming up through the rock,
which I don't want. Is this true? Also doesn't the cloth help prevent the soil underneath from
eroding? It's easy enough to remove the cloth if you think it's a bad idea. Also, the trench isn't
deep. I was told to keep the rocks at the same level as the grass in the neighbor's yard.
So as my garden stands, the topsoil is sitting right on top of the clay subsoil, so can I just add
organic material to the topsoil or do I need to dig down and mix it into the clay subsoil?

Thanks again Mark, you're being a big help!

Answer:

Actually the fence boards being 2 inches above the soil still doesnt give them good protection
because rain will splash onto them.

The landscape fabric may have some effectiveness,depending on how much space is in between
the rocks and the kind of fabric you used. A weed barrier fabric is more effective than a cloth that
may have a less dense stitching because weeds can grow through the holes in the fabric. Weed
barrier fabric is meant to be used with mulch.

The rocks by themselves will prevent any erosion but on such a flat space no erosion will take
place anyway. "Rip rap" (rocks piled on hillsides) is an erosion control measure. The cloth will
impede drainage and I see no purpose to having this structure. What job is it doing? It just fills
with water to overflowing and spills onto your garden. If you had a true drainage problem there
then you would be better served using a french drain or underground drain pipe.

You should work organic matter into the soil to at least 1 foot deep. If the topsoil already in place
is a good loam than there would be no point in adding organic matter. You want to improve the
clay soil so the plants will grow better and to improve the soils drainage characteristics.

Why would the rocks have to be kept at the level of the grass next door? Good luck. Let me
know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

58. Shade Tree For House:

I need a suggestion for a tree to plant in front of house facing west that is not too big. It is
replacing a peach tree. This new tree needs to provide some shade to help with lots of hostas
underneeth , not too wide so it does not block to view from the kitchen window and not too tall
beacuse their are maples near by. We would like it too be simular to the peach tree but no fruit
tree please. This is for the area of southwestern ontario Thanks

Answer:

I would suggest Green Ash (fraxinus pennsylvanica). This tree is used as a street tree and so has
a high branch height,so it will not block your view from the window. It is of a relatively compact,tall
shape. It reaches a height of about 50 feet and may have a spread of about 30 feet. It provides
good shade,but the shade is not of a dense type. It produces a fruit in the form of a seed pod,but
there is a fruitless variety. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

59. Mound In Yard:

I have a mound that is about 9 ft. long in the center of my yard. It gradually rises about 6 inches
on one side, levels off for about 4 ft. and then gradually goes down about 12 inches on the other
side. I can't remove it as a water pipe is under it and I don't think a flower garden would look
good in that part of my yard. I know a decorative bridge looks nice when there is a dip in the
yard, but what do I do about a mound? Do you have any suggestions?

Answer:

Consider planting ground cover on it. That will give it some visual appeal and make it look less
intrusive. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up:

I don't know what you mean by "ground cover". Could you explain what that is and give me some
examples?

Answer:

Ground cover can be an alternative to grass because it requires less maintenance. It does not
require the fertilization and mowing that turf grass requires and can be used to control weeds and
erosion. The height is usually from 3 to 24 inches. Some can be walked on as turf grass and a
variety of textures and colors can be achieved with ground cover. Examples include:

Creeping phlox
Sedum (various species)
Creeping thyme
Veronica (various species)
Periwinkle
Wintercreeper
Ice plant (various species)

Sedum spectibile is very drought resistant and hardy. It will spread itself readily but is not
invasive. It grows to a height of about 2 feet,has dense succulent leaves and produces tiny purple
flower clusters in the fall. English Ivy is an invasive species and should not be used as a ground
cover or anywhere else in the landscape.

See the drawing, Residential Landscape Concept on my website for an example of ground cover.
I have placed 3 species under a tree on that drawing. Using 3 species in such a way would form
a visually pleasing contrast. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment: You really seem to know what you're talking about. I just don't think you
understood my question. I stated that the mound isn't in an area where a garden, flowers,
etc. would look nice, yet you suggestion using ground cover and named some things to
plant there. I was hoping for more of a simple bridge, stepping stones or something that
would make it a useful part of the yard.

60. Grading And Cover Around House Wall:

I recently improved the grade against the back of my house to reduce some leakage in my
basement, by mounding dirt up 12" and out about 10". My question is what to put on top of this
new grade? Stone, groundcover, mulch, shrubs?

Answer:

I would not recommend placing any kind of organic mulch near your house wall. Organic mulch
can attract termites and other insects.

Shrubs suited for use near foundation walls,stone or groundcover would all be fine. Use
whatever appeals to you.

I would question whether a slope with a run of only 10 inches would be effective. The seepage
perimeter around a foundation wall is usually about 3 feet. Water will run off the steeper, shorter
run slope faster,but what about the remaining ground around the foundation. Since the slope is
bare ground,some seepage may still occur.
A better solution would be some type of impermeable material,such as concrete,pavers set in
mortar or stone set in mortar, taken out to at least 3 feet. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of
further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up:

Thanks Mark. I mistyped. Actually it's a 10 foot run with a 12 inch rise. I will consider pavers out
for the first 3 feet.

Answer:

What you have done may solve your problem. Impermeable aprons are pretty good when alot of
water is coming in,but of course some people may not prefer this. The amount of seepage
depends on the permeability of the soil. A loose loam will allow more leakage than a packed clay
loam or sand loam. A high clay soil will prevent more leakage. This is called a clay cap. A clay
cap is still semi-permeable. Some plantings may not do well in clay soil however.

If you continue to have seepage,you may also want to consider a plastic liner placed around your
wall. This can be placed underground and plantings can then be placed on top. Good luck. Let
me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

61. Mulch Blows Away:

Hi - I live in a high wind area by the lake. Every year I mulch the landscape and every year it all
blows away. Is there a type of ground ivy or a heavier mulch I can use. Any suggestions are
welcome. Thank you for your time.

Answer:

Here are some options:

Use about a 3 to 4 inch thick layer of mulch and water it regularly. The mulches own weight and
the additional weight of the water will deter blowing. Mulch that consists of mainly larger pieces
will blow less than a smaller size mulch. Pine straw mulch is highly resistant to being blown by
wind.

Use some form of landscape netting,such as erosion control netting or bird netting to hold the
mulch in place.

If looks are not important,use erosion control blankets (woven blankets of straw,jute,coconut
fiber,etc..) or newspaper.

There are various types of low growing ground cover that discourage weed growth. Choose a
variety that does not spread easily and do not choose one that is invasive. Avoid English Ivy.
English Ivy is invasive and will harm your other plants. Crawling and vining plants should be
avoided for this purpose. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment By Questioner:
Thank you for your quick response and different ideas. You have been helpful.
62. Control Of Highway Noise:

Question:
I need help on fencing .I have a large corner lot in a small NJ town and one side borders a
2 lane road that has become very busy over the years. I have been noticing increasing
incident of vibration through the house from large ,fast vehicles. My house sits slightly
below road level .I wanted to know if either a dense privacy border of evergreens or 6-8
foot privacy fencing would stop the vibration if installed at the road side in question?

Answer:

I would suggest some type of acoustic wall. The wall can be constructed of
concrete,masonry or wood. The most effective would be concrete filled with solid foam
insulation. Locate the wall as close as possible to the noise source and make it high as
possible.

A concrete wall would consist of a series of horizontal concrete boards layed into slots in
concrete posts,the space between the outside and inside concrete boards being filled with
solid foam insulation. The structure must continue to the ground since noise will get
through any gaps at ground level.

An ordinary concrete block,stone or brick wall will also have some sound deadening
effect. A concrete block wall filled with solid foam in the openings in the individual
blocks would be much more effective.

The comparitively least effective sound barrier would be a wooden timber fence. This
type of fence consists of heavy timbers layed horizontally between timber supports. An
ordinary wooden fence would not be very effective since it is too thin and sound would
transmit through any gaps in the fence.

Another type of wooden fence could be made of exterior plywood panels with solid foam
insulation sandwiched between. An exterior plywood fence may have a shorter lifespan
than other wood fence types. The plywood must be kept coated.

It is important to seal the tops of all foam filled fences to keep water out. Build the fence
as high and as long as possible. Most likely the fence will have to be constructed over the
legal fence height for your area and you may need to apply for a variance from your
zoning board.
Plants may also be helpful in deadening sound. Follow these guidelines:

Place the noise buffer as close to the noise source as possible.

Plant trees and shrubs as close together as possible.


A diversity of tree and/or shrub species within the buffer may further reduce noise.

Foliage in the buffer should form a continuous wall from the ground up. Use shrubs
under trees to achieve this effect.

Use dense foliage plants.

Use evergreen species for year round protection.

Make the buffer as tall as possible.

Make the buffer as wide as possible.

Make the buffer twice as long as the distance of the protected zone to prevent noise from
getting in from the sides.

The fact that your property sits lower than the road may be magnifying the noise and
vibrations somewhat. Consider using earth berms with the plantings.

All noise will not be eliminated. A planting of 18 feet wide can only reduce noise by
about 1 to 3 decibels. It would take a planting 50 feet wide to get a reduction of 10
decibels. The buffer must extend as much as possible over the point at which you are
experiencing the noise and should extend over the noise source. This creates the
refraction angle.

Vibration from traffic that is transmitted through the ground is a bit different than noise
transmitted through the air. Landscape elements for aerial noise control may still have an
effect on these vibrations,particularly ground level elements such as ground
cover,shrubs,low growing vegetation,berms and soil. Loam and sandy soils absorb noise
energy. Ground vibrations are transmitted well through concrete and masonry.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
63. Rubber Lining For Planting Bed:

I have a fenced in lawn and the fence encloses most of the lawn except a strip ~90 inches wide
by ~20 ft. This strip of lawn is adjacent to the driveway so it's kinda sandwiched between
driveway and fence. The fence is made of 4x4s about 4 ft above the ground connected by three
horizontal boards.
Now to the meat of my question. I want to build a raised bed 45-50 inches wide for the entire
lenght of the fence. I am planning to put a waterproofed mortared stone wall in the front (the side
facing the rest of the lawn strip and driveway). What I don't know is how to build the back of this
bed, which would be adjacent to the fence. I don't want to lean it up against the fence (rotting) but
I don't want to build another stone wall there either. This is not a decorative side, so I just need
something practical that would hold the soil in and separate it from the fence.

Thank you very much for your advice.


Alexander

Answer:

Consider using an EPDM rubber sheet on the face of the fence that will be holding the soil. You
will have to seal the top of the sheeting in some way because you will not want water leaking
under the sheet. Any water trapped under the sheet will promote rot of the fence boards. A more
rigid plastic material such as plastic roof flashing could also be used. EDPM rubber is used for
roofing. Pool liner material would also be a good choice. Attach the material with galvanized or
stainless steel fasteners and then seal over the heads of the fasteners with a sealant rated for
below ground use. The newer copper treated lumber will not accept aluminum fasteners or
sheeting. Applying aluminum will cause galvanic corrosion. The copper will react with the
aluminum and cause the aluminum to corrode. The newer copper treated wood will also corrode
any ordinary steel fasteners very quickly. Aluminum can be used with the old arsenic based
pressure treated wood.

A more desirable design would be to have the fence boards perched on a low wall above the soil.
Think about shortening the fence boards and perching them on the back wall of your raised bed.
The wall would run along the center of the fence posts. To avoid soil contacting the posts
perhaps a concrete collar could be wrapped around the posts. Good luck. Let me know if I can
be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
64. Drainage of Groundwater:

I just bought a house and have water that is standing in back yard. I think we have an
underground stream. What can I do to capture the water and detour away from the house? Thank
you.

Answer:

Here are some courses of action you might be able to take:

If the problem is groundwater,then consider subsurface drainage pipe. The spacing and depth of
the pipe depends on the type of soil. You will have to find an outlet for the water drained by the
pipes.

Wells may also be an option for draining a high water table,but they require power for pumping.
Wells are needed when the depth required to drain the water table exceeds that which drainage
pipe can be placed or if for some reason drainage pipe cannot be used or is not desirable.

Perhaps you could divert the water to a grassed swale (a type of drainage ditch) and then to an
outlet off the property or to another location on the property,such as a garden area or area where
the water can seep into the ground.

Take steps to divert as much surface water as possible away from the problem area. This could
be accomplished with swales,trench drains,french drains,berms,subsurface drain pipes,etc...

Use a catch basin. A catch basin is a box mounted below the surface. It is covered by a grate.
Surface water flows into it and is carried away to another location by an outlet pipe connected to
the basin.

I could comment more if you send a pic or provide a more detailed description of your property.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

65. Staining Concrete:

Question:

I hope you can help me with my question.

At the entry to our home we have three concrete steps and a concrete landing leading to our front
door. The first step is 10” x 113”, the second is 7” x 89”, and the third is 7” x 105”. The landing is
47” x 105”. The house is all brick, thus there is brick on both sides of the steps and landing. A
flagstone walkway leads up the steps.

We want to beautify the concrete, especially since part of the steps and the landing are
discolored. The landing is covered and a brick arch, about 20 feet high, frames the entry way.
Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks for your time,

Answer:

There are a number of ways to enhance the appearance of existing concrete. Methods include
the following:

Acid Staining

Acrylic Staining

Concrete Overlays

Sawcuts

Stamping (onto a poured overlay)

Acid stains are a mixture of hydrochloric acid,water and inorganic salts. The acid opens the
pores of the concrete and then the metallic salts in the acid react with the hydrated lime (calcium
hydroxide) in the concrete. This process creates a coloring on the concrete.

There are 8 basic acid stain colors:

black
brown
umber
red
tan
gold
green
blue

Acid stain gives the concrete a marbled and mottled look. The surface will look like different hues
within a certain color range,not like a painted surface.

Factors that affect the outcome of acid stain include:

Cement properties and mix design.

Admixtures in the concrete.

Type of aggregate.

Nature of the finished surface on the concrete.

Concrete age and moisture content of concrete when stain is applied.

Efflorescence (salts that leach through the surface of the concrete).


If for some reason your concrete is not a good candidate for acid stain,an acrylic stain can be
used. Your concrete may not contain enough lime for acid stain or may not have a suitable
surface for acid stain. Acid stain will highlight cosmetic defects such as stains that cannot be
removed. An Acrylic finish can hide these type of defects.

Acrylic stains act something like paint but are more durable. An application of acrylic stain
penetrates the surface of the concrete and creates a semi-transparent coloring. There is no
chemical reaction as with acid stain. An acrylic stain will create a more uniform appearance and
will not flake off as paint will. Acyrlic stain also comes in a wider variety of color than acid stain.

Acrylic stains are resistant to UV rays,foot traffic,vehicle tires,moisture,mildew,acids and alkalis.

Prepare the surface of the existing concrete for application of acrylic or acid stain by scrubing it
with TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) and then rinse. If this will not remove dirt,oil and grease,then try
an acid cleaning agent for exterior concrete. Apply a concrete sealer after the finish has dried. A
concrete sealer will protect the finish from stains and moisture.

A concrete overlay is a thick polymer material that is poured over the existing concrete. It can be
used to smooth or level uneven or spalled concrete surfaces. The dry time is fast. For an overlay
to be successful,the existing concrete must be structurally sound,without gapping cracks,severe
delamination or an unstable sub base. Proper surface preparation of the existing concrete is
critical. Patterns can be stamped into the overlay to replicate natural stone,brick,tile or slate.
Apply concrete sealer after finish has dried.

Saw cutting patterns into the concrete can enhance the look of stains and has the added benefit
of increasing foot traction. Use a 7 inch and a 4 inch diamond blade saw. Mark your lines with
chalk. Use the 7 inch blade for longer lines and the 4 inch blade for shorter lines.

Plantings,rock gardens and other structures can enhance the appearance of the walkway. Good
luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

66. Weed Solarization:

Hi and thank you in advance! I have shrubs that I planted in a rock garden and I put that weed
screen on the bottom so weeds would not grow, well, needless to say last year I still got a lot of
weeds growing up through the rocks. This Spring is there any product out there that I can put on
top of the rocks and stop the weeds before they start?

Answer:

I would suggest that you weed by hand and use mulch and you might want to experiment with
solarization. Solarization consists of putting down a layer of clear plastic over the soil. The weeds
and their seeds are killed by the heat that builds up under the plastic. Follow these steps for
solarization:

Uproot existing weeds.

Remove the uprooted weeds with a rake,then rake the soil again to smooth it. Wet the soil. Wet
soil conducts heat better.

Cover the area with clear plastic sheeting of 1 milimeter to 6 milimeters thick. Hold down the
sheeting with rocks,etc.. and make sure no gaps exist in the edges of the sheeting. Leave the
area covered for 4 to 6 weeks.

The best time for solarization is June through July because thats when the sun is hottest,but
solarization can be done all year. However,solarization done outside the June to July range will
take longer. For cooler weather,leave the plastic in place for 8 to 10 weeks.

There is nothing I can suggest that you place over the rocks,except perhaps the clear plastic for
solarization. I would not suggest any kind of impermeable membrane for weed control,such as
black plastic because the soil and plant roots need contact with the open air. A weed barrier
combined with mulch may be more effective than a weed barrier alone. A weed barrier is
designed to be used with mulch. The weed barrier is permeable. It has tiny holes throughout to let
air and water in,but this also allows a certain number of weeds through. Good luck. Let me know
if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

67. Weed Barrier Fabric:

Hi, I am currently leveling off an area in my yard in preparation for a flagstone patio (12'x 15')with
garden boxes. I have placed weed block tarp down and have ordered appx. 6" of fill dirt. Should I
remove the paper before spreading the remaining dirt, or just compact the dirt on top of the
paper? The area is boxed out in wood, so the fill sliding is not an issue. Thank you.

Answer:

Do not place the weed barrier below the soil. Weeds will simply grow on top of the barrier. Lay the
barrier on top of the soil and place mulch over the barrier. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of
further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

68. Flooded Driveway:

We have just rented a home, and our only problem is that when it rains water pools in the center
of the driveway. Both ends of the driveway are higher than the center, so we get a big pond in the
driveway. We dont want to spend a ton of money but would like to know if there is an
inexpensive way to try and drain some of that out?
Or at least keep the water from getting that deep. Please help!!!!

Answer:
Install a catch basin. This is a box with a grate over it. Its mounted at the low point of the area
you want to drain. Water flows into it and exits through an outlet pipe. You attach drainage pipe to
the outlet of the catch basin and direct that pipe to an outlet for the water,which could be a
drainage ditch,a holding area,a storm sewer (if permitted by local code),etc..

Consider using the basin to divert water to a garden area.

Relatively inexpensive plastic catch basins are available. They are rated by the cubic feet per
minute of water they can handle. The basin is mounted below the surface,so you will have to dig
into the driveway for that and to install the drainage pipe. Rigid pipe is more durable but
corrugated pipe (the class that is suitable for burial) is flexible and available at a lower cost. Good
luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

69. How to Plant Shrub:

How do you plant a shrub/bush that was purchased and is wrapped in burlap and tied with rope?
Do you dig a hole and put the bush in and then cover with dirt and then water?

Answer:

Remove the top one third of the burlap. Completely remove all non-biodegradeable material. Dig
a hole as wide as the spread of the shrub and as deep as the root ball of the shrub. The grade
line of the soil should meet at about the bottom of the shrubs branches.

To avoid settling of the shrub you can place the shrub on a pedestal in the center of the hole. Dig
a ring around the bottom of the hole to form a pedestal and set the shrub on top of the pedestal.

Form a berm around the dripline of the shrub (imagine a line radiating down from the outermost
edge of the shrub canopy to the ground;that is the dripline),at least 6 inches high. This will form a
watering basin. Mulch inside the basin at a minimum 3 inch depth. Water immediately after
planting.

When backfilling,do not allow air pockets to form.

Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

70. Problem Mulberry And Use of Desert Plants:

I have two giant fruitless Mulberry trees in my front yard. They are messy, but provide a lot of
shade during hot Southern Utah summers. Nothing will grow under them because, I am told, they
rob all the water. No grass. No flowers. My front yard is sandy dirt. Can you suggest either some
kinds of plants, or other landscaping idea that will keep the dirt from blowing inside my home, as
well as make for a pretty yard?

Answer:

You might want to consider replacing those mulberrys. There are other trees such as mesquite
that consume much less water and can also provide shade. Overhead cover such as awnings
and arbors can also provide shade.

I would suggest you stabilize your soil with erosion control blankets as a first step. Erosion control
blankets are made of biodegradable material. They are attached to the ground with staples. They
must be firmly attached and make good contact with the ground and be sealed on all edges or
erosion will take place under the blankets.

Once you have the blankets in place you can begin planting. The blankets will prevent erosion
while the plants become established. When the plants become established their roots will hold
the soil in place and prevent erosion.

A sand fence can also be used. This is similar to a snow or silt fence and traps sand behind it.
This prevents the sand from being blown into other areas (such as your house).

The following is a list of plants for use in arid regions. Check to see if these plants will grow in
your particular area:

Perenials:

Arizona columbine
Artemisias
Asters
Baby's Breath
Blue pineleaf beardtongue
Columbine
Coreopsis
Delphinium
Echinacea
Gaillardia
Gayfeather
Iris
Lamb's Ears
Lavender
Pansy
Perennial Flax
Poppy Mallow
Purple Coneflower
Red Valerian
Sages
Scarlet hedgenettle

Statice
Sweet William
Texas hummingbird mint
Tulips and crocuses
Yarrow
Yellow Black-eyed Susan
Yucca

Annuals:

Cosmos
Desert Dragon
Desert PeaGanzania
Marigold
Mexican Sunflower
Pentas New Look
Phlox
Portulacca Sundial
Red Plume Blanket
Rose Campion
Santolina
Statice
Vinca Passion
Zinnias

Shrubs and Trees


Shrubs
Smoke tree
Washington hawthorne
Japanese black pine
Cinquefoil
Fragrant zumac
Mountain currant
Sassafras
Honeysuckle
Witch hazel
Rugosa roses
Bayberry
California lilac
Heather

Trees
Acacia
Aralia
Bottle Tree
Gray Birch
Common Pater Mulberry
European Hackberry
Carob
Monterey Cypress
Eucalyptus
Fig
Juniper
Osage Orange
Chinaberry
Common Olive
White Poplar
Black Locust
Siberian Elm
Gray Dogwood
Amur Maple

Succulents
Succulents (leaf color)
Aconium arborium - green
Cotyledon orbiculata -gray- green, red-edged
Crassula argentea - 'Sunset', yellow, tinged red
C. 'Campfire' - green, turns orange-red with maturity
Dudleya brittonii - chalky blue
Echeveria agavoides 'RubyLips'
- green, tips reddish brown
Kalanchoe pumila - lavender
Sedum adolphii - orange,bronze
S. rubrotinctum 'Aurora' - pink to bronze
Sempervivum tectorum - gray green, tipped reddish brown Senecio serpens - blue-gray
S. mandraliscae - blue-gray

(flower color)
Aconium floribundum - yellow
Aloe aristata - orange-red
A.saponaria - orange to pink
A. vera - yellow
Bulbine cuulescens - lemon
Crassula falcata - deep red
C. multicava - pink
Delosperma cooperi - purple
D. nubigenum - golden yellow
Echeveria elegans - pink
E. imbricata - orange-red
E. pulvinata - red
E. Set-oliver - red and yellow
Kalanchoe pumila - lavender
Lampranthus productus - purple
L. aurantiacus - orange
L. spectabilis - pink, red, purple

Desert Trees:

# Catclaw Acacia, Acacia greggii,18' high by 15' wide. Deciduous.


# Sweet Acacia, Acacia smallii, 30' high by25' wide. Deciduous.
# Netleaf (Canyon) Hackberry, Celtis laevigata, var. reticulata, 30' high by 25' wide. Deciduous
# Blue Palo Verde, Cercidium floridum, 20' high by 20' wide. Deciduous.
# Foothills Palo Verde, Cercidium microphylum, 20' X 20'. Deciduous.
# Mexican Rosebud, Cercis Canadensis, var. mexicana, 20'X 12'. Deciduous.
# Desert Willow, Chilopsis linearis, 25' X 15'. Deciduous.
# Italian Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens, 60' X 8'. Evergreen.
# Texas Persimmon, Diospyros texana, 30' X 20'. Deciduous.
# Littleleaf Ash, Fraxinus greggi, 15' X 8'. Semi-Evergreen.
# Alligator Juniper, Juniperus deppeana, 20' X 18'. Evergreen.
# One-seed Juniper, Juniperus monosperma, 18' X 10'. Evergreen.
# Mexican Palo Verde, Leuceana retusa, 30' X 30'. Deciduous.
# Afghan Pine, Pinus eldarica, 70' X 30'. Evergreen.
# Aleppo Pine, Pinus halepensis, 40' X 15'. Evergreen.
# Mt. Atlas Pistache, Pistacia atlantica, 30' X 20'. Deciduous.
# Texas Pistache, Pistacia mexicana (pistacia texana), 20' X 15'. Semi-evergreen.

# Chilean Mesquite, Prosopis chilensis, 30' X 30'. Semi-evergreen.


# Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa, 25' X 25'. Deciduous.
# Screwbean Mesquite, Prosopis pubescens, 20' X 15'. Deciduous.
# Arizona White Oak, Quercus arizonica, 35' X 30'. Evergreen.
# Gray Oak, Quercus grisea, 30' X 25'. Evergreen.
# Mexican Blue Oak, Quercus oblongifolia, 25' X 20'. Deciduous.
# Cork Oak, Quercus suber, 30' X 20', Evergreen.
# Mexican Elder, Sambucus mexicana, 35' X 15'. Semi-eveergreen.
# Western Soapberry, Sapindus saponaria, var. drummondii, 30' X 20'. Deciduous.

Low water use desert shrubs:

# Whitehorn Acacia, Acacia constricta, 12 feet high and 10 feet wide. Deciduous.
# Blackbrush Acacia, Acacia rigidula, 18 feet high by 10 feet wide, deciduous.
# Desert Honeysuckle, Anisacanthus thurberi, five feet by 4 feet. Deciduous.
# Manzanita, Arctostaphylos pungens, five feet high by 10 feet wide. Evergreen.
#White beebrush, Aloysia gratissima, eight feet by five feet. Deciduous.
# Flame acanthus, Anisacanthus quadrifidus, five feet by four feet. Deciduous.
# Sand Sagebrush, Artemesia filifolia, six feet by five feet. Evergreen.
# Four-wing saltbush, Atriplex canescens, six feet by eight feet. Semi-evergreen.
# Desert broom, Baccharis sarothroides, 10 feet by eight feet. Evergreen.
# Quail bush, Atriplex lentiformis, 12 feet by 15 feet. Semi-Evergreen.
# Red barberry, Berberis haematocarpa, five by five. Evergreen.
# Mentor barberry, Berberis mentorensis, seven by seven. Deciduous.
# Red-leaf Japanese barberry, Berberis thunbergii 'atropurperea', two feet by two feet.
Deciduous.
# Wooly butterfly bush, Buddleia marrubiifolia, four feet by four feet. Semi-evergreen.
Desert bird of paradise, Caesalpinia gilliesii, 8 X 6. Deciduous.
# Mexican bird of paradise, Caesalpinia mexicana, 10 X 6. Deciduous.
# Fairy duster, Calliandra eriophylla, 4 X 3. Deciduous.

# Desert Hackberry, Celtis pallida, 8 X 10.Deciduous.


# Winterfat, Ceratoides lanata, 3 X 2. Evergreen.
# Fernbush, Chamaebatiaria millefolium, 6 X 4. Evergreen.
# Cliffrose, Cowania mexicana, 12 X 8. Evergreen.
# Turpentine bush, Ericamia laricifolia, 3 X 2. Evergreen.
# Rubber Rabbitbush, Ericameria nauseous, 6 X 6. Semi-evergreen.
# Flattop buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum, 1.5 X 2. Evergreen.
# Apache Plume, Fallugia paradoxa, 6 X 5. Evergreen.
# New Mexico Privet, Foresteria neomexicana, 15 X 10, Deciduous.
# Bush lantana, Lantana camara, 4 X 6. Perennial.
# Creosote bush, Larrea tridentate, 5 X 5. Evergreen.
# Cimarron sage, Leucophyllum langmaniae, 5 X 5. Evergreen.
# Fragrant rain sage, Leucophyllum pruinosum, 5 X 5. Evergreen.
# Pale Wolfberry, Lycium palladium, 4 X 5. Deciduous.
# Russian sage, Perovskia atriplicfolia, 6 X 6. Deciduous.
# Desert rosemary mint, Poliomintha incana, 3 X 4. Semi-evergreen.
# Shrub oak, Quercus turbinella, 15 X 10. Evergreen.
# Littleleaf sumac, Rhus microphylla, 8 X 10. Deciduous.
# Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, 3 X 4. Evergreen.

# Texas mountain laurel, Soflora secundiflora, 15 X 10. Evergreen.


# Spanish broom, Spartium junceum, 8 X 5. Evergreen.
# Mexican blue sage, Salvia chamaedryoides, 2 X 3. Semi-evergreen.
# Chaparrel sage, Salvia clevelandii, 4 X 5. Evergreen.
# Yellow bells, Tecoma stans, 6 X 4. Deciduous.
# Mexican buckeye, Ungnadia speciosa, 15 X 10. Deciduous.
# Arizona rosewood, Vauquelina californica, 15 X 10. Evergreen.
(First numeral is the height,second numeral is the canopy width.)

Low water use groundcovers:

* Prairie Sagebrush, also known as White Sagebrush, Artemesia ludoviciana, 2' X 3',
evergreen.
* Coyote Bush, Baccharis hybrid, 4' high X 5' wide, evergreen.
* California Ice Plant, Carpobrotus chilensis, 1' high X 5' wide. Evergreen.
* Common Ice Plant, Carpobrotus edulis, 1' high X 5'wide. Evergreen.
* Trailing Yellow Dalea, Dalea capitata, 1' high X 5' wide. Evergreen.
* Prostrate Indigo Bush, also known as Trailing Indigo Bush, Dalea greggii, 1' high X 3' wide.
Evergreen.
* Trailing lantana, Lantana montevidensis, 1' high X 3' wide. Perennial.
* Prostrate Rosemary, Romarius prostrates, 2' high X 8' wide. Evergreen.
* Skullcap, Scutellaria suffretescens, 2' high X 3' wide. Evergreen.
* Stonecrop, Sedum spp. , six inches high X 2' wide.

Low water use perenials:

# Fragrant sand verbena, Abronia fragrans, 1.5' high X 3' wide.


# Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum, 1.5' high X 6-8 inches wide.
# Blue Star, Amsonia spp. , 2' high X 1' wide.
# Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberose, 2' high X 2' wide.
# Chocolate daisy, Berlanderia lyrata, 2' high X 1' wide.
# Desert marigold, Baileya multiradiata, 1.5' high X 1' wide.
# Sundrops, Calylophus hartwegii, 1' high X 3' wide.
# Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja integra, 1.5' high X six inches wide.
# Blue Mist, Conoclinium gregii, 3' high X 2' wide.
# Coreopsis, Coreopsis lanceolata, 2' high X 1' wide.
# Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpera, 3' high X 1' wide.
# Cutleaf daisy, Engelmannia pinnatifida, 3' high X 2' wide.
# Spreading fleabane daisy, Erigeron divergens, 1.5' high X 2' wide.
# Western Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum, 3' high X 1' wide.
# Siberian Wallflower, Erysimum hieracifolium, 1.5' high X 1' wide.
# Red Indian Blanket, Gaillardia amblyodon, 1' high X 2' wide.
# Blanket Flower (Firewheel), Gaillardia spp. , 1' high X 1' wide.
# Golden Aster, Heterotheca villosa, 1.5' high X 1.5' wide.
# Gayfeather, Liatris punctata, 3' high X 1' wide.
# Blue Flax, Linum lewisii, 2' high X 1' wide.
# Plains Penstemon, Penstemon ambiguous, 4' high X 3' wide.
# Scarlet Bugler, Penstemon barbatus, 2' high X 2' wide.
# Canyon Penstemon, Penstemon pseudospectabilis, 3' high X 2' wide.

# Blue Sage, Salvia farinaceae, 1.5' high X 1' wide.


# Mexican Bush Sage, Salvia leucantha, 4' high X 4' wide.
# Globe Mallow, Sphaeralcea sp. , 3' high X 5' wide.
# Mountain Marigold, Tagetes lemmonii, 3' high X 3' wide.
# Angelita Daisy, Tetraneuriis acaulis, 1' high X 1' wide.
# Hummingbird Trumpet, Zauschneria California, 2' high X 3' wide.
# Rain Lily, Zephryanthus spp. , 1' high X six inches wide.

Use a combination of plants from the above list for your garden design. Many arid region plants
will do well under certain trees,such as mesquite and even benefit from the cool temperatures
and nutrients provided by the tree.

You can either change the soil type by for example,adding organic material or leave the soil in its
present state and use plants adapted to that soil type. Sandy soils do not hold water well and lack
nutrients.

To conserve water use rocks and gravel. Gravel and small rocks can be used as mulch and
larger rocks can be used as accents or to construct a rock garden. Mulch is necessary to
conserve water,either as an organic mulch or gravel. Since you will have to limit the number of
plants used, to conserve water,use gravel and rock to create "dry landscape" effects. The gravel
and rocks will also help hold the soil in place.

You may want to begin rain harvesting. This involves using various strategies to capture rain
water for use by your plants. It could involve collecting water in rain barrels fed by water from your
roof,diverting water from your roof or other runoff areas directly to your garden and constructing
holding areas in your garden to collect rain water. Good luck. Write back if I can be of further
help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment from Questioner:


Wow! This is exactly what I have been trying to learn! Thank you so much for your suggestions. I
knew nothing about plants that will grow in this area. Now I have names! And variety! This is a lot
more than I expected. Thank you so, so much!

71. Hiding Propane Tank:

What type of bushes design would you suggest to cover up a ugly propane tank that is an eye
sore?

Answer:

The shrubs on the following list have proven to be good for your purpose:

Lilac(Syringa) Grows to 6 feet high. Can be pruned into a hedge.


Korean lilac is a dwarf variety and is hardy. This variety grows to 4 to 5 feet high.

Yew(taxus baccata). Grows 6 to 8 feet high.

Holly(Ilex). Needs acidic soil. Grows 5 to 8 feet high.

Firethorn(pyacantha coccinea). Drought tolerant. Grows 3 to 5 feet high.

Leyland cyprus(Cupressocyparis Leylandii). Columnar evergreen. Salt tolerant. Grows 5 to 9 feet


high.

Privet(ligustrum). Very hardy. Will grow in almost all soil types. Grows 5 to 6 feet high.

All these shrubs are evergreen and so will hide the tank year round. They spread to about 3 feet
in width. Hedging the plants may help if space is a problem.

You may also want to consider a lattice fence or regular board fence. Leave space around the
tank for service and leave about 3 feet of air space around the tank. If the propane tank is tightly
enclosed there is a possibility of gas buildup. If you choose to use a fence,leave air gaps in the
fence to allow for air circulation around the tank.

These shrubs will grow in most regions but check to see if they will grow in your particular region.
If you are in a fire hazard area,putting any flammable material around your tank is not
recommended and may be in violation of municipal codes. Good luck. Write back if you have
further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

72. Shrubs for Foundation Wall:

I live in TN. I have a basement to my home. I don't know what types of shrubs to plant near my
basement wall without them causing damage to the wall. Do you have any ideas??

Answer:

Here is a list of plants that do well as foundation plantings. Check to see if they will grow in your
area:

Dwarf Abelia "Little Richard" (Abelia)

Arborvitae "Berkmans Golden" (Arborvitae)

Arborvitae "Emerald Green" (Arborvitae)

Boxwood "Wintergreen" (Buxus macrophylla)

Boxwood "Harlandi Dwarf" (Buxus)

Camelia Japonicus-Spring Flowering (Camelia)

Camelia Sasanquas-Fall Blooming (Camelia)

Cleyera (Ternstroemia)

Cryptomeria "Dwarf Global" ( Cryptomeria japonica 'Globosa Nana')

Holly "Carissa" (Ilex)

Holly "Compacta" (Ilex crenata)


Holly "Dwarf Burfordi" (Ilex)

Holly "Dwarf Yaupon Bordeaux" (Ilex vomitoria)

Holly "Soft Touch" (Ilex crenata)

Holly "Fosteri" ( Ilex attenuata)

Holly "Nelli Stephens" (Ilex)

Holly "Weeping Yaupon" (Ilex vomitoria)

Indian Hawthorne "Eleanor Tabor" (Raphiolepis)

Indian Hawthorne "Snow" (Raphiolepis)

Juniper "Bar Harbor" (Juniperus wiltoni)

Juniper "Blue Point" (Juniperus chinensis)

Juniper "Blue Rug" (Juniperus horizontalis)

Juniper "Hetzi Columnar" (Juniper hetzi columnaris)

Juniper "Hollywood" aka "Torolusa" (Juniperus chinensis 'Torolusa')

Juniper "Sea Green" (Juniperus chinensis)

Loropetalums (Loroptelaum)

Laurel 'Otto Luyken' (Prunus laurocerasus)

Mahonia 'Grapeberry' or 'Leatherleaf' (Mahonia beali)

Nandina 'Compacta' (Nandina domestica)

Nandina 'Harbour Dwarf' - (True Dwarf) (Nandina domestica 'Harbour Dwf')

Pittosporum 'Variegated' (Pittosporum)

Rose 'Knockout' (Rosa)

Spirea 'Gold Mound' (Spirea)

Spirea 'Little Princess' (Spirea)

Upright Yew (Podocarpus)

Yucca 'Adams Needle' (Yucca filamentosa)

Keep any shrubs 5 feet from your foundation to avoid damage from roots and to prevent damage
that may occur from watering the shrubs.

The following shrubs may contain poisonous berries and/or bright colored leaves which may be a
hazard to children. The children may be tempted to eat the leaves or berries:

Holly
Yew
Privet
Laurel
Rhododendron

Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

73. Dwarf Japanese Maple Appraisal

I have an eight year old Dwarf Japanese Maple tree that is the fine lacy type. In the fall it is bright
red and in the summer months turns green with faint red on the edges of the lacy leaves. In the
fall it turns scarlett red. A contractor has damaged it and I am having difficulty finding out its
species and value. Is there an expert that I can email photos to that can help me identify my tree.

Answer:

You should have this tree evaluated for its value by personal inspection. The tree should be
physically examined by an expert appraiser to really get to its true value. The siting of the tree in
the landscape and how it fits in with the rest of the property must also be considered. Some of
this is a gut feeling thing that only an experienced tree appraiser can perform.

The Dwarf Japanese Maple is of only one species; acer palmatum but cultivars of this species
include: Aratama, Kashima, Beni Hoshi, Kiyohime, Beni Hime, Kinra, Green Star, Geisha, Ukon,
Yubae, Wou Nishiki, and Baby Lace.

The International Society of Arboriculture is a top authority on tree appraisal. They have
published "The Guide for Plant Appraisal",available at their website:
www.ag.uiuc.edu/~isa/welcome.html

To locate a tree appraiser in your area write the American Society of Consulting Arborists at
15245 Shady Grove Road, Suite 130; Rockville, MD 20850; or call at (301) 947-0483.

Or you can go to their website: http://www.asca-consultants.org/ and submit your question to one
of their experts. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
74. Jasmine Vine Caused Damage To Fence:

A neighbor has jasmine vines which have been allowed to overgrow their yard and overtake my
fence. My fence was destroyed due to their negligence. It cost me $500.00 to have my fence
replaced. Could I sue the the neighbor for this damage. I have photos available.
I am not sure if you can help as I could not find a category for my question.
Thank you,

Answer:

It is an established fact that vines can damage a fence in various ways,such as twining between
the boards and causing splitting of the boards and by placing too much weight on the
fence,causing its collapse,so it sounds like you may have a good case in court. Good luck. Let
me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment: I did take your advice went to court and won my case.

75. Lawn Shaded By Redwoods:

I live near sacramento, have had trouble getting my lawn to grow in the back for numerous years.
The lawn is surrounded by redwoods, mostly shady. Lawn is very thin. Have tried numerous
types of grass seed. Thanks for any advice.

Answer:

I would suggest that if you want a true grass, try fescue. This grass is very shade tolerant. Apply
a fertilizer formulated for fescue.

Cover plants that resemble grass and are shade tolerant are liriope ("monkey grass") and the
mondo grasses.

Liriope spicata (common type). Narrow leaves,6 to 18 inches long. Spreads


aggressively,produces flowers and makes a thick even turf and tolerates deep shade.

Liriope spicata (silver dragon). Narrow white and green variegated foliage,which tends to revert to
solid green in deep shade,12 inches long. Does not spread as aggressively as liriope spicata
common type. Tolerates deep shade.

Dwarf mondo grass (ophiopogon japonicus). Tolerates full shade and drought. Grows to 6 inches
tall. Grows thick and resembles a coarse broad leaf grass.

You also might want to check out the various shade tolerant ground covers. Pachysandra and
periwinkle (vinca minor) are among the top ten deep shade tolerant ground covers. Good luck.
Let me know if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment: Thank you!!

76. Can Tree Roots Be Covered With Soil:

Someone told me that you can't ring a tree with landscape blocks and fill it with soil for flowers
because it will kill the tree.
My question is, can I ring the tree with landscape blocks and fill with soil?

Answer:

You should absolutely not place soil over tree roots. This will smother the roots. Up to 4 inches of
organic mulch can be placed over the roots because material like wood chip mulch is much
lighter and has better pore space (air and water gets through) but soil is much too dense and
heavy.

Flowers can sometimes be grown in the soil around the tree roots but only in the existing soil
under the tree. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

77. Downspout Buried in Concrete Patio:

My daughter had a concrete patio made. Instead of cutting the rain gutter (from roof down side of
house) the contractor cemented the gutter into the patio so it is now draining under the cemented
patio. Last night we noticed her hardwood kitchen floor soaking wet. The patio is off the kitchen.
Is it possible that the rain that fell into the roof drain and down the side of the house in the gutter,
got plugged or backed up because the water had no where to go from the previous rain OR
possible all the water used washing off the patio could have backed up causing damage to the
floor. Thank you for your help!!

Answer:

It is possible that water is backing straight up the downspout,overflowing onto the side of the
house and from there leaking into the kitchen and/or pooling under the patio and leaking into the
kitchen from there,depending on how high the kitchen floor is from the patio.

Remove the downspout from the patio and install a new one and connect it to pipe that runs
either on the surface or beneath the patio if possible.
There must be an outlet that allows the water to drain away a safe distance from the house. The
underside of the patio itself is not a good place to dispose of water.

If you want to run the downspout underneath the patio slab you will have to bore a hole for the
pipe horizontally. Depending on how wide the patio is you may be able to do this by hand.

First,cut a 45 degree chisel point onto the end of a section of pvc pipe,then dig a trench
perpendicular to the patio and wide enough and long enough to allow the pipe to be moved under
the slab. The digging pipe should be about 2 or 3 inches in diameter.

Gouge out sections of soil and then remove the pipe. Push a smaller pipe through the an end of
the digging pipe to remove the soil plug and then repeat digging. Tap the end of the pipe into the
soil with a sledge and then work it in a twisting motion like a drill.

Or you could rent a horizontal boring machine. This machine has an auger head attached to a
flexible drill rod. Holes can be drilled to 75 feet in length. Im not sure if residential models are
equiped for slurry (a water and bentonite clay mixture which cools the auger head,makes the soil
easier to remove and the tunnel more stable).

If you bury the pipe,choose a type of pipe that is suitable for burial. That type of pipe is often rigid.
The ordinary black corrugated drain pipe is not suitable for burial,although there is a type of
corrugated flexible drain pipe that is.

Of course if alot of water was used to clean the patio then this may account for your flooding. In
any case,it would not be desirable to have rain water emptying immediately outside your house
wall and it certainly would not be desirable to drain rain water from your gutter under your patio.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

78. Deer Fence:

I have a garden in my backyard that backs up to a pond so we have tons of wildlife. Planting
flowers specifically to attract butterflies and hummingbirds is a great idea too. The only problem I
have is the deer eating all my lilies and phlox down to the ground before they even bloom. How
do I stop them?

Answer:

The most effective deer deterent is a fence. A vertical deer fence needs to be at least 8 feet high.
These fences can be purchased in kit form and consist of coated metal or aluminum fence
posts,tension wire,a gate,braces and landscape staples. It is important that the fencing has a gate
so that in case any deer happen to get inside the fencing they can easily be allowed to escape.
The bottom of the fence must be secured to the ground with landscape staples so deer cannot
crawl under the fence. The length of the staples depends on the soil type;a loam and thus softer
soil,would require a longer staple for instance. Rebar staples are recommended for clay or rocky
soil.
The fencing is constructed of plastic or metal wide mesh and is available in low visibility form so
that the fencing is not overly apparent in the landscape and blends in with the surroundings.
Colored streamers or some other kind of marker should be tied to the fencing to warn deer of its
presence as deer have poor eyesight.

A slanted deer fence is angled away 30 to 45 degrees from the protected area and can be of only
a 5 feet length. Since deer have poor depth perception they will not attempt to cross such a fence
even though in many cases they could. These fences can also be electrified. Existing wooden
fences can also be retrofitted with this type of fencing.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

79. Watering Basin for Garden:

I buried 20' of 3" pvc to divert rain water to create a wet spot in south facing garden. Created a
drainage bed, 3 'deep, and 3' square. Lined the bottom with 6 " layer of rock wrapped in
landscaping cloth. It has never worked effectively-backs up and overflows-slowly seeps out into
its destination. Pipe is clear. What do I need to do so water flows freely into the drainage area
short of digging up the whole line?

The pipe should also have a proper pitch to it. Perhaps the pitch is too shallow for the water to
flow with any speed.

Or perhaps the pipe outlet is not at the right height. If you have the outlet of the pipe near the top
you will only get the overflow water from the trench. The pipe outlet should be as close to the
bottom as possible. Also,for this size trench,a 3 inch pipe sounds a bit undersized;at least a 4
inch pipe would be better.

If you backfilled the pit with soil and that soil has poor drainage characteristics such as a clay soil
would have,then perhaps the water is being held in the soil. The pit should be backfilled with rock
or gravel up to the first 18 inches. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

This pit is really not very large. Sounds like it has a volume of about 60 gallons. If some of the
water is seeping out into the surrounding soil then not much will get to your garden. Gravel or
rock fill would further reduce the water volume.

If the pipe is backing up then perhaps the pitch is not steep enough. A slow seepage from the
pipe may just mean that not enough water is getting from the pit into the pipe since the pit has
such a low volume.

Depending on how much garden area you want to water,I would suggest you make the pit bigger
and think about installing a plasctic drywell or a lining of some other material to prevent water loss
into the surrounding soil. Perhaps you could leave the top open with a grate over it or lay topsoil
over it. Plastic drywells have precut holes for installing pipes. Good luck. Let me know if I can be
of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

80. Grading of Residential Lot:

Hi, I live in PA and am looking to purchase a home that is a small 1300sf ranch home on a .61
acre lot. There is a stone patio that is fairly decent size and then the rest of the lot is steep and
built all around the house on a corner lot. I was thinking of buying it and doing an addition but
would def want to take advantage of the large lot for grass for the kids to play on.. Is this an
extremely costly undertaking? The house is about $229,000 and we would need to do a 2nd floor
addition of at least 800 ft. Then as I said we want to utilize at least .30 as yard space. Are there
strict laws about regrading ? Thank you for your time.

Answer:

Construction cost for buildings range typically from 50 to 100 dollars per square foot;much would
depend on labor costs in your area.

For grading you will need a permit from your municipality and you may need the grading designed
by an engineer and built by a contractor qualified in such work. Often regrading cannot be
allowed to increase storm water flow and erosion from such work must be controlled.

The cost of grading can also be greatly increased if new topsoil and other types of fill have to be
brought to the site. Grading sometimes also makes devices such as retaining walls and drainage
devices necessary and that also adds to the overall cost.

Erosion control may include devices such as ersosion control mesh,seeding to establish
vegetation,silt fences and water retention basins. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further
help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

81. Sod Steps:

I'm attempting to create flared steps made out of sod on a short slop in my landscape. {Sort of
"Masa Picchue" like}
There will be a Boxwood Hedge on either side .I live in Atlanta GA. [Zone 8]
Could you please advise how to do this? The dimensions are:
run-21'
rise-30"
1st step-6'wide
last step-10'wide
I would very much appreciate the help.
Thank you.
Answer:

I will assume you mean the run as being the top point where you come off the 6 feet long step
and onto the top of the slope and the bottom point of the run as being the point where you come
off the last step onto ground level. Thus the risers would have to be 7-1/2 inches high for 3 steps.
If the first step is 6 feet wide and the last step is 10 feet wide,then that leaves the space in the
middle which is 5 feet wide and that consists of 3 steps.

You could use 4 X 4 or larger landscape timbers as containment for the sod or concrete. Perhaps
a continuous concrete stringer down the length of the steps. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of
further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment from Questioner: Thank you for your reply. I appreciate the time that you took in
considering my question.

82. Swimming Pool Heater Noise Suppression:

We are bothered by noise from a neighbor's gas-fired pool heater exhaust vents which point in
our direction. The slope of the properties prevents any mitigation measures on our end, but our
neighbor is willing to have us address the noise on his property at the source. The gas company
troubleshooter said we should address the problem through landscaping. What would you
recommend we do?

Answer:

I would suggest some type of acoustic wall and/or an insulated enclosure for the heater.Walls can
be constructed of concrete,masonry or wood. The most effective would be concrete filled with
solid foam insulation. Locate the wall as close to the noise source as possible.

A concrete wall would consist of a series of horizontal concrete boards layed into slots in concrete
posts,the space between the outside and inside concrete boards being filled with solid foam
insulation. The structure must continue to the ground since noise will get through any gaps at
ground level.

An ordinary concrete block,stone or brick wall will also have some sound deadening effect. A
concrete block wall filled with solid foam in the openings in the individual blocks would be much
more effective.

The comparitively least effective sound barrier would be a wooden timber fence. This type of
fence consists of heavy timbers layed horizontally between timber supports. An ordinary wooden
fence would not be very effective since it is too thin and sound would transmit through any gaps
in the fence.

Another type of wooden fence could be made of exterior plywood panels with solid foam
insulation sandwiched between. An exterior plywood fence may have a shorter lifespan than
other wood fence types. The plywood must be kept coated.
It is important to seal the tops of all foam filled fences to keep water out. Build the fence as high
and as long as possible. Most likely the fence will have to be constructed over the legal fence
height for your area and you may need to apply for a variance from your zoning board.

You might also want to consider an acoustic enclosure for the heater. This is an insulated box
that would surround the heater. This option would be alot cheaper than a concrete fence but I
cannot tell you how effective it would be.

Noise also may be coming from moving parts in the heater and/or expansion and contraction from
heat and cooling. Perhaps the heater can be noise isolated,rubber boots,pads,etc..applied to the
heater to stop noise from vibrations. Some noise may be coming from vibrations that transmit
through the ground and air and reverberate off building surfaces. Since you are
downslope,perhaps some noise is reverberating inside the area created by the slope.

Manufacturers of this type of equipment often do not make a serious effort at sound engineering
even though such engineering can often be done at comparitively low cost. Perhaps the heater
could be replaced with a quieter model. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

83. Plants for Long Hedge:

I live in Chicago, IL. I would like a hedge to offer privacy and hide about 100 ft. of tru-link fence.
Can you suggest something that offers more than one type of tree or bush? I would like a little
variety or would that look messy?

Answer:

Since the run of shrubs would be so long,including more than one variety would be desirable to
enhance visual appeal and also including more than one variety offers increased protection
against disease,since if disease strikes,it is not likely to wipe out the whole planting.

I would also suggest you plant a few trees from the list below to further visual appeal:

Shrubs:

Barberry

Privet

Juniper

Forsythia

Linden

Rhododendron
Arborvitae

Spruce

Lilac

Trees:

Serviceberry

Dogwood

Crape Myrtle (Very hardy and disease resistant)

Crab Apple

Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

84. Rubble Left in Swimming Pool:

I don't know if you can help me with this but my husband and I just bought a house that previously
had a pool in the backyard. The previous owners did not correctly fill in this pool- they busted up
the concrete and tore up some of the vinyl liner and threw it into the hole and filled the rest in with
dirt and sand (it looks and feels like sand to me anyway). Moving to my problem- We go through
a few months a year of what we call our rainy seasons. During these times we have a 'lake' in our
backyard. We have trying digging about a foot to 2 feet down to remove the concrete and vinyl
liner sections that are close to the top of the ground and then putting more dirt in as we go. Which
seemed to work for a while but then the rain started again and our lake it back. I know the ground
is completely saturated all around the property because we have puddles everywhere- but can
you give me any advice on how do to get rid of this lake?! Thanks for your time!

Answer:

Concrete from the work should have been removed from the pool and the bottom should have
been completely removed. Large areas of concrete in the pool will impede drainage and if the
sides of the pool are in tact that also could impede drainage. The best course of action would be
to remove the entire bottom of the pool. Drilling drainage holes in the bottom may not be
sufficient. It is unlikely that all the walls of the pool are impeding drainage,but,for instance,the wall
on the deep end of the pool may and if this is the case,that wall should be taken completely out.

My advice to you would be to remove all the concrete and vinyl from the pool. That of course will
require removing the entire soil content from the pool. The top two feet of soil should be a quality
top soil. The underlying layer can be of lesser quality but it must be compacted well.
It should be relatively porous;clay for instance,would not be suitable.

If you bring in heavy equipment for this,such as a backhoe,take steps to protect any lawn or
paving areas that such equipment can damage. Plywood can be placed over lawn areas to
prevent tires or tracks from tearing up the grass. Tracked vehicles,depending on their weight,can
damage paved surfaces such as an asphalt driveway. Plywood or some kind of temporary
roadway material such as steel plates or matting may prevent this. Good luck. Let me know if I
can be of further help.

Check to see if any warranty you may have on the house would cover this. If this was a
precondition that was not revealed to you than your warranty may entitle you to be compensated.

In many municipalities,codes state that all debri from swimming pools may not be deposited back
into the pool and that all debri must be removed from the property and disposed of properly.
Violators can be fined and made to remedy all damages caused. If this work was done by a
contractor perhaps they can be found and forced to remedy the situation.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

85. Driveway Drainage:

I have 150 foot driveway and about 50 feet up the driveway is a center island which splits the
driveway and then it goes back into one. Just about every time it rains the driveway gets washed
out at the bottom about 4 feet in on each side. I have put rocks in the ditches and scraped the
gravel from the road and refilled the ditches in again but it always washes out into the road.

I was thinking about making a drainage ditch along the sides of the driveway and filling the
ditches in with crushed rock. I just don't know how deep to dig the ditch. I will try to get a picture
for you tomorrow (it's dark outside right now) it will probably be easier for you to see what I am
trying to explain.

Answer:

Ditches would need an outlet to drain to and judging by the pic Im not sure if there is one. I do not
think we are dealing with a 20 percent slope here. The slope looks to be quite low and that may
be part of the problem and the water is probably slowing as it comes around that curve at the top
of the driveway. The average drainage ditch is about 3 feet wide by 2 feet deep. If these
dimensions do not prove adequate and overflowing occurs,just dig the ditches a little deeper and
wider and gradually increase the depth and width until the ditches can handle the flow. Slope the
sides of the ditches. Ditches with perpendicular shaped sides tend to get more erosion. Keep the
bottom of the ditches flat or slightly rounded. Lining the ditches with grass helps to prevent
erosion and thus the depositing of silt downstream. If you use stone to line the ditches,use stones
with about a 4 inch size,as smaller stones or gravel will tend to wash away. If possible use stones
from 4 to 8 inches so that an interlocking of the stones occurs. Smaller stones,about 1 inch in size
can be used,but only under larger stones.

A non-woven geotextile fabric under the stones or grass would be helpful in controlling erosion.
Stones will decrease the volume of the ditch and slow the flow velocity alot more than grass. Silt
will also deposit between stones over time and weeds may grow.

Perhaps a drywell at the end of the driveway would be more appropriate than drainage ditches
but this too would need an outlet,although some of the water could soak into the soil. Or perhaps
some sort of holding area for the water could be constructed at the end of the driveway. I would
give a rough calculation of the water discharge to be about 150 cubic feet per second,so any
structure built would have to be sized to handle that capacity.

Drywells would need to extend below the frost line in your area. Drywells are typically 3 to 4 feet
deep and about as wide. They are made as plastic units,can be constructed of concrete or can be
trenches filled with rubble. Rubble filled drywells have less holding capacity. Prefabricated plastic
drywells can also be layed on their side to form a pipe like structure.

A holding area would need a highly pervious soil and/or gravel medium to allow a fast enough
flow of water through it. Having the water first run through grass or some other vegetation before
reaching the holding area is useful in that it allows silt to settle and prevents clogging of the
holding area.

The soil will have to be porous enough to allow water to soak out of the drywells and to determine
that you must do a percolation test. Dig a hole about 1 foot deep and about as wide and fill with
water. The water must soak out in 24 hours. I would suggest a total holding capacity of 4000
gallons for drywells and/or a holding area.

If drywells are not practical than perhaps large catch basins could be used but they must have an
outlet because catch basins do not soak water out into the surrounding soil,they just collect water
and drain it elsewhere through their outlet pipes. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further
help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment from Questioner: Thank you very much for the response, it was very quick and well
thought out.

86. Staining Stone:

I have made a sign by embedding small local stones (3/4-1") in concrete to read "Lake Marion"
(a memorial by a lake named for my wife). Did not want to dye concrete, as I've seen such fade.
But there is too little contrast between some stones and the concrete. What can I use to dye the
stones a darker color (as e.g. linseed oil w/an umber stain brings out color in or adds color to
wood)? It will be outside.

Answer:

Try brick stain or an iron oxide paint on one of the stones to see what results are achieved. Brick
stain consists of iron oxide (which is essentially the same thing as rust) and a binding agent such
as potassium silicate. Pigments can be added for greater color variation.

Iron oxide paints are often used on pottery but may not be as penetrating or long lasting as brick
stain on stone. Stone tends to be denser,in many cases,than brick or concrete. The more porous
stone would be sandstone and limestone,but stone such as granite tends to be very dense. The
penetration power comes from the iron oxide. Iron oxide paints are available in the following earth
colors:

Yellow:
light yellow ocher

colonial yellow ocher

dark yellow ocher

curry yellow

natural yellow

lemon yellow

Orange:

apricot

havana ocher

Red:

red ocher

venetian red

red brick

natural red

black currant red

plum

violet

burnt sienna

Brown:

clay brown

light sienna

raw sienna

natural sienna

brown ocher

brown

natural umber

burnt umber
raw umber

terra cotta

dark brown

Green:

nicosia green

verona green earth

turquoise green

pistaschio green

viridian

green

Blue:

sky blue

lavender blue

charron blue

ultramarine blue

Neutral:

titanium white

slate

pewter gray

natural black

black

Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

87. Desert Privacy Hedge:


I have a house in Sedona, Arizona (high desert) on a small lot -- where my dining room, kitchen,
and bedroom look out directly into the dining room, kitchen and bedroom of my neighbor's house
(which is only about 60' away. There is a 3' chain link fence along the property line already (my
neighbor put it in) and rather than putting up a taller wood fence, I'm wondering if there is some
kind of small tree or shrub (ideally evergreen) that I could plant that would grow to 6-8' tall and
require relatively little water (and that would be very hardy)? Since I'm hoping to completely
screen the neighbors, I would want the trees or shrubs to completely grow together. If you could
recommend something and let me know how far apart they should be planted, I would very much
appreciate it. Thanks!

Answer:

Here is a list of evergreen privacy hedge plants that are drought tolerant and adapted to a desert
environment:

Emerald Green Thuga. Grows 8 to 12 feet high,but can be trimmed down. Extremely drought
tolerant and disease and insect resistant. Obtains a columnar shape that has a pruned look.
Grows in almost any soil from sandy loam to clay. Plant every 3 feet to achieve a thick barrier.

Nellie Stevens Holly. Grows 15 to 25 feet but can be trimmed down. Good drought tolerance.
Tolerates wide range of soil conditions. Plant 4 feet apart.

Common Privet (ligustrum vulgare). Grows to 15 feet high. Tolerates wide range of soil
conditions. Produces clusters of tiny white flowers. Plant 4 to 6 feet apart.

Atriplex Torreyi. Native to the Southwest. Grows 6 to 8 feet high. Plant 3 to 4 feet apart.

Desert Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii). Fast growth to 10 feet high. Requires infrequent
deep watering. Produces yellow flowers with protruding bright red stamens in the summer. Plant
4 to 6 feet apart.

Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii). Grows 4 to 6 feet high. Produces small yellow flowers in
April and bright red berries in Fall. Plant 3 to 6 feet apart.

Japanese Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa). Grows 6 to 10 feet high. Tolerates wide range of soil
conditions. Produces red flowers in April. Plant 3 to 4 feet apart.

Rock Rose (Cistus ladanifer). Grows to 5 feet high. Tolerates wide range of soil conditions.
Produces white flowers in June and July. Plant 3 to 4 feet apart.

Sea Tomato (Rosa rugosa). Grows to 8 feet high. Produces fragrant single or double
white,yellow,pink or purplish red flowers. Also produces bright red tomato shaped fruit. Plant 4 to
6 feet apart.

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus). Grows to 6 feet high. Produces pink flowers in May and June
and white fruit in late summer to winter. Plant 4 to 6 feet apart.

Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
Comment from Questioner: Thanks for the thoughtful response -- and for providing such a rich
variety of alternatives for us to consider!!

88. Plants to Complement Blue Spruce Trees:

Hi there. I was wondering what flowering bushes and perrenial flowers you would recogmend
planting along with my blue spruce trees I have in my front yord. The trees are planted in trios
and I wouldn't min putting a nice white or reddish flowering shrub next to them.. Also I have a
yellow maple tree in the centre of the drive way what shrubs compliment this tree? Thank you.

Answer:

Here is a partial list of plants that would compliment your blue spruce and maple:

Shrubs:

Azalea. Grows to 5 feet high. Wide variety of flower colors. Requires acid soil.

Chokeberry. Aronia arbutifolia. Grows 5 to 7 feet high. Spreads 2 to 3 feet. Tolerates wide range
of soil types. Moderate growth rate. Flower color is pale pink. Fall flower color is red.

Holly.

Leatherwood. Dirca palustris. Grows to 6 feet high. Produces pale yellow flowers and berries.

Ground Covers:

Pachysandra
Vinca
Liriope. White and purple flower varieties. Very shade tolerant. Resembles tall grass.

Bugleweed. Purple flowers. Grows to 1 foot high.

Primrose. Grows to 1 foot high.

Perrenials:

Hosta
Sedum. Various species. Very drought tolerant.

Astilbe. Variety of flower colors. Grows to 3 feet high.

Coralbell. Heuchera. Grows to 2 feet high. Flowers form on spike. Flower color is coral to pink.

Bergenia. Bergenia cordifolia. Grows to 2 feet high.

Bleeding heart. Dicentra. Grows to 3 feet high.

Bugbane. Cimicifuga ramosa. Grows to 6 feet high. Tall spike with white flowers.
Forget me not. Myosotis sylvatica. Grows to 1 feet high. Delicate blue flowers.

Bulbs. Can be grown under trees before foliage forms in spring.

Grape hyacinth
Crocus
Bluebells
Daffodils

Check further on the growing requirements and characteristics of these plants and see if they will
grow in your zone. All the plants listed here will tolerate full shade,not including the bulbs.

A maple tree would require extremely shade tolerant plants. I would recommend azalea as the
first choice for a shrub. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

89. Drainage On High Water Table:

Our yard has about a 3.5' drop over about 50 feet of space. We also have a high water table and
the bottom of the yard is like a swamp. We are considering building a retaining wall and leveling
the yard but that will require cutting down some very big old trees. We are looking for
suggestions that will help to solve our drainage problem.

Answer:

I would suggest installing drainage pipe at the low area. The size of the drainage pipe and the
number of drainage pipes is dictated by the volume of water and the flow rate needed to dispose
of the water and of course the water will have to be moved to a suitable outlet. Pumping from
wells may also be an option. Also,digging a swale or ditch on top of the area may prove useful.

Moving this water to an outlet such as a storm sewer or stream will require a permit from your
municipality. Hookups to storm sewers are sometimes required by municipal code to be installed
by a licensed plumber.

Filling the area may also be an option. This will effectively lower the height of the water table. By
using this option you will avoid the problem of hooking up to a storm sewer or other outlet,but you
may still need a permit. Municipal storm sewers,water systems and sanitary sewer systems are
troubled entities these days because of many complex factors,the economy being one of them.
These systems are becoming less efficient. It is better sometimes to try to remedy drainage
problems by keeping them confined to the site.

Perhaps you would not have to level the entire yard. You may be able to borrow fill soil for the wet
area from another portion of the slope and make a terrace at the wet area with a retaining wall at
that spot or use a combination of fill and some type of drainage.
Perhaps the trees could be saved by building tree wells around them. These are circular retaining
walls around the trees. The original grade remains at the trees while grade changes are made
outside the wells.

Combined with the high water table,the high slope is contributing to the drainage problem. The
steeper the slope,the more water that sheds off. The water is not allowed to seep into the soil
because the force of gravity sends it down the incline. So it seems that removing as much of the
slope as possible would improve drainage because more water would seep into the soil and not
end up flooding the bottom area at the foot of the slope. But of course you would have to take the
tree problem into account when considering this. Tree wells may be less expensive than
removing the trees.

If fill is applied to the bottom area perhaps a dry well could be used to temporarily store water
until it has had time to seep into the surrounding soil. Drywells have to be above the water
table,however,or they will become ineffective.

If you have a suitable outlet for water at the bottom of the slope,surface drainage in the form of a
swale or ditch may be all you need to dispose of the water. Depending on how much water
reaches the bottom of the slope and how fast it reaches the bottom this may be adequate but if
surface drainage would be overwhelmed by the volume of water,a dry well could make a big
difference by diverting water from the surface and thus relieving the strain on the surface
drainage structure. Detailed calculations would be needed to more accurately determine what a
solution would be.

It could be possible that fill at the bottom of the slope may be able to absorb runoff water without
the assistance of any drainage device.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment from Questioner: Thanks for your quick and very detailed response!

90. Drainage Around Home:

Our neighborhood contains grass boulevards which are quite nice but I live on a low point of the
crescent and water pools there. It makes it dangerous when spring hits anpd the snow melts
during the day and still freezes at night. I was thinking of digging up the grass in the boulevard,
as it is higher then the sidewalk, and replace it with a rock bed. Would this be the best thing to do
and if so, how is the best way to go about it? Would it be the same as laying a patio, using gravel
and sand? Thanks.

Answer:

Do you mean by boulevard, grass strips along the sidewalk outside your home? You can only
work on that if it is your private property. If it is municipal property you cannot do any work to it
without permission.

Drainage should be done at the low point around your home,not on the higher area. Depending
on what the actual topograhy looks like,a number of things could be considered such as catch
basins,underground drainage pipes,french drains,trench drains,swales,drainage
ditches,berms,etc...

Catch basins are boxes layed flush to the ground with a grate over them. They are installed at a
low point. Water flows into the box and is carried away by outlet pipes to a disposal point. French
drains are trenches filled with gravel and sometimes with a perforated drainage pipe at the
bottom. Drainage pipe is simply perforated pipe buried in a trench. Water is collected and carried
to a disposal point. A trench drain is an elongated grated drain mounted flush to the ground in the
shape of a box,something like a rain gutter. Water flows into it as a sheet and is carried to a
disposal point.

Swales are shallow vegetated depressions that conduct water to a disposal point. A drainage
ditch is a deeper channel often cut in the form of a V or a half circle. A berm or dike is simply piled
soil that blocks water.

A rock bed might be useful as a swale lining or for a detention area but a sand bed would impede
drainage rather than provide it. A detention area is an area for holding a quantity of water
temporarily so that it can soak into the soil or be sent to a disposal point or both.

Send a pic or a further description of the situation and I will try to give you more detailed
suggestions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

91. Garden Tree Hedge:


Question: I am dividing a section of the garden but do not want to use a hedge or fence -
approx 15 m. i want to use trees with rounded doming habit if possible but they should
not get beyond 10 m finished height - not topierised or pleached - does not need to be
evergreen. Any ideas gratefully accepted and ideas of where to get them for planting this
year ( i thought about mulberry but can only get a feathered tree of 4 foot so just too
small to start with ) many thanks in advance for your help.
Answer:

Here is a list of trees meeting your requirements:

allee elm (good canopy tree,can be planted at large size)

linden (street and canopy tree)

birch
maple

hybrid willow
oak

siberian elm

green ash

quaking aspen

hawthorn

The only suggestion I can give about obtaining these trees is check with a local nursery.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman

http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

92. Landscape Contractor Job Pricing:


I live in the Hamilton NJ area. I am a lawn service. I am starting to do hardscaping. I
need to know the right way to price retaining walls and patios. I don't know if its by the
sq ft or by the job. I was hoping to get some advice because i don't want to lose money on
this type of thing i want to make money. So if you can get back to me on how I can do
this while Im on the job or if its better to go home to do it on my computer. Please get
back to me and give me a good way of doing this so i can take it out on the field and do it
the right way.

Answer:

I would not make any cost estimates without drawings,produced by you or your client.
With a drawing,based on a careful survey of the site,you can get a much more accurate
cost estimate,than one produced by "guesstimating".

Breaking the structures to be constructed into square or lineal foot units is a convenient
way to take the total cost of doing the job and transfer it to the project.

I suppose you could base some of your work on sketches made in the field but to make
details and refine the drawing you will have to go back to an office. You will also have to
check material prices and look up other references,which would require you to return to
your office. Similarly,if you are given a concept or final drawing by your client,its usual
to go back to an office. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman

http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

93. Paving To Eliminate Mud:


Question:
We have a doggy door on the house so the dogs are able to come in and out when they
need to go outside. The problem is our back yard is full of red dirt. We had a nice set of
grass until all the rain this winter -- it died. They are bringing in the red mud and ruining
our kitchen floor. It takes a lot of time to clean the mud up.

We were thinking of putting down gravel and then maybe a brick patio on top of it on
part of the yard and then the other part maybe putting down pine straw so that they still
have somewhere to use the bathroom. Do you have any ideas that will not be too costly?
Thanks so much!

Answer:

The various asphalt pavings,which includes macadam and recycled asphalt,are in the
lowest priced categories. This category also includes gravels,decomposed granite and
rock dust pavings.

In order of cost from low to high,the remaining categories would include:

Precast concrete pavers.

Concrete.

Brick.

I do not have any exact cost data for geogrid or terrapave but these are probably
comparable with concrete in price or perhaps a bit lower. Geogrid is a square pattern
metal or plastic grid in which gravel is deposited or grass is allowed to grow. The grid
prevents soil compaction and so helps to control mud. Terrapave is decomposed granite
with tree resin added. The tree resin gives it a superior hardness to ordinary decomposed
granite paving. Ordinary decomposed granite can soften in rain. Terrapave rivals concrete
and asphalt in hardness. Similar products to geogrid are concrete grid pavers. Good luck.
Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman

http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

94. Pruning Colorado Blue Spruce:


Question:
I have a Colorado Blue Spruce tree in my front yard and would like to trim it. However,
instead of the traditional trimming, where one would cut the bottom most branches,
closest to the trunk, I would like to trim the tree in a V-shape. Per the attachment, I am
thinking about cutting the branches from the base (stump) at a 45 degree angle. Please
advise if this type of trimming would harm the tree. Would the branches grow back in
full and regain the thickness? Or would they potentially brown and harm the rest of the
tree? Your response would be very appreciated! Regards, Stanley.

Answer:
Pruning colorado blue spruce is not recommended. Regrowth will be impeded. Good
luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman

http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

95. Landscape Designer Training:


Question:
Hello, I would your advice on what type of education or training I need or should gain to
be an effective Landscape designer. As of now I’m a full time paid firefighter and my
father owns a wholesale material business (stone, mulch, plants, pavers ect.) My goal is
to be able to bid job sights, design, and oversee the development of individuals
landscaping needs. I have no experience in this field, so please any suggesting as to how I
should start would be of much help.
Thank you,

Answer:
One strong foundation for landscape design is a knowledge of drafting,both of the manual
type and by computer. It is important to learn how to convey ideas by drawings. Special
emphasis should be placed on presentation drawings of various sorts,particularly 3D and
realistic looking perspective drawings. Clients often cannot understand 2D technical
drawings well but are more able to understand section views and 3D presentations.

Drawing also gives a sense for how things are built and fit in the landscape. In my
opinion drawing manually is a good foundation for getting a realistic hands on feel for
drawing and of course being able to sketch ideas on paper is a skill that should be
developed and is useful for field surveys which you would do as a landscape designer as
part of the site analysis. Some knowledge of basic surveying would also be helpful.

There are many online or campus based landscape design curriculums. Most community
colleges offer landscape design courses and most include computer aided drafting but the
quality varies greatly. Any field work you do is helpful to becoming a good landscape
designer and since you indicate an interest in running a design/build then perhaps you
could work on a landscaping crew,seek a job in gardening or groundskeeping or even
surveying. Any outdoor work dealing with land is good experience.

Horticulture is a prominent part of landscape design curriculums and so working for a


nursery would also be a good start. Many nurseries offer landscape design services
although a heavy emphasis is placed on planting design. In order to comprehensively
meet the needs of your clients you should approach landscape design with the 3
pillars,which are,horticulture,civil engineering and architecture. For instance,you may be
called upon to address complex drainage problems, and that calls for a knowledge of civil
engineering principles. To achieve a high quality design for structures,you should gain a
knowledge of the basic principles of building construction and architecture. A knowledge
of horticulture serves as an underpinning for making planting designs. The growth habits
and planting needs such as light and soil,for plants,must be understood in order to
effectively arrange the plants in the landscape.

When you obtain proficiency in computer aided drafting and have taken a course in
landscape design you may qualify for an entry level postion in a landscape architectural
firm or perhaps a land development or civil engineering firm or you could obtain a
position in a landscaping company as a draftsman or junior designer. This would give
you valuable experience. Sometimes internships are available with landscape
architectural firms and if you gain 8 years work experience under a landscape
architect,you can take your license exam for landscape architecture.

Volunteering to do landscape design for non-profits is also a way to gain experience. Do


a design of a family members or friends property and look for practice exercise designs in
books.

There exists free CAD software that can be used for training purposes. One such CAD
program is ProgeCad. This program highly emulates AutoCad and so is very user friendly
but the free version cannot be used for commercial purposes. Another free program is
DoubleCad. This program is less user friendly and will require a steep learning curve for
a beginner but it can be used for commercial purposes. AutoCad is very user friendly but
comes with a very hefty price tag although discounts are available to students. With one
of the free programs and a manual,it may be possible for you to teach yourself drafting
and landscape design. The above mentioned programs are fully functional and perform
most or all of the functions of AutoCad Light.

For a good overview of the role played by a landscape designer please see the pamphlet,
"Some Facts About Landscape Design" on my website, http://www.mahdrafting.com,
under the educational section. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

96. Pricing For Landscape Jobs:


Question: I'm a landscaper. My question is how do I charge for retaining walls and
patios in the Hamilton NJ area. What is the rule of thumb or what specific way of pricing
a job on this type of work? Thank you. Hopefully you can help me.

Answer:
Basically,you need to take into account the cost of materials,labor,overhead and site
conditions. Walls are usually charged by the lineal foot and patios by the square foot.
Factor in the above categories and then divide that into the unit of measurement charged
such as lineal or square foot. The complexity of the design would also be a factor. An
engineered or a professional architecturally designed retaining wall will cost more,for
instance,than a simpler,non-engineered retaining wall. The cost of designing structures
must also be figured into the cost estimate.

I am not familiar with your local cost of materials (local costs can greatly vary) and so I
cannot advise you on that. If your budget permits think about hiring an estimator.
Estimators have a built up a feel for determining costs and evaluating work and site
conditions. A great amount of cost estimating work is based on intuition that has been
obtained from experience.

Good books on the subject include Kerrs Cost Data for Landscape Construction and
Walkers Building Estimators Reference Book. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of
further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

97. Material Choice For Patio Base:

Question:
I am buiding a loose-laid paver patio in my house. I am going to start laying the base
material and the sand layer. After researching all around the Internet for information
about this type of patio design, I wrote a long list of the materials needed for base and
sand layers. However, I cannot find any of those in my local area. I did found a guy who
is selling me as base material "Limerock 57" and for the sand layer he is selling me "250
sand with crushed shells". Are those good materials to use in my case. Thank you very
much for your help.

Answer:
The materials you mention will work. Basically,for a sub base you should use an angular
interlocking gravel no more than 1-1/2 maximum size. I would also suggest you look into
using a woven soil stabilization geotextile under the sub base. This will decrease
settlement of the sub base into the underlying soil and thus prevent settling and cracking
of the pavers. Consider also using the fabric under the sand base. This will further
stabilize the sand and prevent the sand from leaching into the gravel base below.

A geogrid (which has a more open weave than woven soil stabilization geotextile) could
also be used underneath the gravel base but I do not think it could be used for the sand
base since the weaving spaces would be too large.

There are types of finely crushed stone used in place of sand and you might also consider
that,if its available in your area. Basically,the sand should be as course as possilbe. I
apologize for not answering you sooner but I had computer problems. Good luck. Let me
know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman

http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

98. Pony Wall:

Question:
I just did a pre-sale. THe hosue is being built by the builder. The fondation was poured
and I some unusual things in the fondation and also saw some hug different in the height
of the rockery and the lanscape.

Pony Wall: A 4 feet lumber pony wall is built over the concrete foundation to the floor of
my house. Is it normal to built something like this on hilly terrains? So the otherr sides of
the house has foundation walls upto the height of the floor however the rear wall
fondation is raised using the pony wall.

Slopy Backyard: Initially I was told that I will have 25 feet deep yard but after the
foundation was poured, now I am being told that I will ONLY get 18 feet deep yard (60
feet wide). There is a 3-4 feet rockery wall separating my yard to the neighbours. So right
now, the height of the rockery is almost 4 feet below the landscape. If nothing is done, I
will have 3 feet height and 2 feet deep slope between the rockery and the end of my
backyard. The builders says the rockey hieght cannot be increased as it was engineered
that way? Wihtout anymore trust in the builder, I am looking for POSSIBLE solutions so
that I have a levelled backyard without wasting any sq. ft area. I will really appreciate any
suggestions of what can be done. Please let me know if I can provide you with additional
information.

Answer:
Pony walls are used to reduce construction costs and they offer several advantages on
hilly terrain. A high masonry wall may not be aesthetically pleasing and it is easier to
install windows and run utilities with a pony wall. However,a masonry or concrete wall is
stronger but the thickness of the wall must increase as the height increases and
corresponding to an increase in height there must be an increase in the size of the
foundation. Buttresses and braces can also be used to make the wall less thick but also
taller.

The pony wall may also offer greater insulation than a concrete or masonry wall when for
instance,the pony wall is on other than a southern exposure. A concrete or masonry wall
may be more desirable on a southern exposure because than in the winter it could act as
thermal storage or a trombe wall.

Pony walls must be braced with plywood panels to enhance structural stability and to
offer protection in earthquake activity. Pony walls over 4 feet high may require the
services of an engineer.

Increasing the height of the rock wall will require a thicker wall and dry laid walls cannot
be constructed as tall as mortared walls. About 4 feet would be about the height limit for
a dry laid wall. The height limit is determined by your local zoning ordinances. I do not
believe that the services of an engineer would be required for a wall up to 8 feet high. If
the wall is a retaining wall,than the services of an engineer will be required for any height
over 4 feet.

You may also be able to increase the height of the wall by installing a wooden fence on
top of the wall. On a slope,the wall may have to be tiered to compensate for the grade
change.

Leveling the yard will require regrading by cut and fill (cut the higher slope area and fill
the low area) but that will lower the grade around the foundation of your house and may
require the rock wall to need rebuilding. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further
help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

99. Floor And Outside Grade:


Question:
We have a problem where the dirt in the flower beds and along one wall the dirt level is
higher than the foundation. When it rains the water seeps through the walls and gets the
floors wet. What kind of drains would be best for this situation. Would a french drain, or
a regular drain?. I am open to suggestions.

Answer:
Your floor level should be a minimum of 1 foot above grade. Drainage would not be a
solution. You must regrade so that the floor becomes a minimum of 1 foot above grade.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
100. Removal Of Old Retaining Wall:
Question:
I have 9 steps along the north side of my house to the back deck.The area just north of the steps was too
steep to mow so my husband and I put in flower beds made from landscaping timbers about 10 years ago.
There are 4 beds that are tiered down with the timbers next to the steps. The timbers are rotting away and
the bottom tier has collapsed. I need to do something this spring but now I am a widow on a fixed income,
do you have any solution for me? Thank You for any ideas.

Answer:
You may need a retaining wall there but judging from the pic,you may not need one. A
solution may be to just remove the timbers and let unmowed grass or grasslike
plant,ground cover or some other plants of your choosing grow on the slope. That may be
all you need to keep that slope from eroding.

I wouldnt use the timbers as mulch or bury them because they may be treated with
chemicals that could be harmful. The best solution is to have them removed. Rotten
timbers like this can also result in an insect infestation.

If you construct a similar structure use more durable material,such as railroad ties or
masonry or concrete.

If planting does not keep the slope from eroding there are other devices besides a
retaining wall you can use that may be cheaper to install than a retaining wall,such as
reinforcement mesh or crib structure. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

101. Drainage Along Fence With Neighbor:

Question:
I live in Southern Ontario Canada. Recently we had an interlocking stone patio built in
our backyard. It's a fairly square yard, with an 8 foot fence around the perimeter. We
were going to have a 3 foot garden bed all around the inside perimeter coming out from
the fence but we were told by the city that we needed to leave at least one foot of grass or
river rock around the fence to allow for drainage. As you can see from the photo, I dug a
trench, laid down landscape cloth, then added about 3 inches of river rock. It rained very
hard yesterday, and it seemed to direct the water where it should. What I would like to
know, not being an expert at landscaping or drainage, was there anything else I should
have done or is the cloth and rock enough? Is it o.k. for the rock to be right up against the
topsoil like that or should I have a barrier between the soil and the rock? One last
question, out earth underneath is mainly clay so there is about a half inch or so of
standing water in that trench after rain. Is that acceptable or should I be doing something
about that? Thank you!

Answer:
I do not understand why you placed landscape cloth under the rocks. That will impede
drainage. The fence would have been better placed up on a low concrete,stone or
masonry wall for better drainage. It makes no difference if the rock borders the soil.

I see also that you have a two rail fence. You may be ok with that but in alot of cases the
boards on two rail fences warp.
You might consider elevating the fence boards up on a concrete,stone or masonry wall.
Or landscape timbers or railroad ties could be used as a low wall. Cut the fence boards at
the bottom and install the wall underneath;assuming of course you have the height for
that. That would give you more room in your garden area and in my opinion would look
better.

To address the standing water in the trench,I would first consider a way to get rid of that
trench. Remove the landscape cloth. Water is probably being trapped in the voids of the
rocks. Such standing water will lead to mosquito problems and stagnation if it does not
drain or evaporate in a certain period of time. For instance,a rain garden must drain
within 24 hours.

The problem with drainage around the fence is that if the ends of the fence boards contact
bare soil rot will occur. The boards are not rated for ground contact as the fence posts are.
Otherwise there is nothing particularly special about drainage around a fence in most
cases since a fence usually follows the contours of the land. It is not so much a problem
of draining away water but of keeping the fence board ends elevated above water. In your
pic the fence board ends look as though they are contacting bare ground.

Add organic material to the soil to eliminate the clay problem. To this organic material
add a small amount of sand. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
Follow Up: Hi Mark,

Thanks for the prompt reply!

Just to be clear, I know it's difficult to tell from the picture but the fence boards don't
actually touch the ground, or any soil. They stop about two inches above the ground so I
think I'm o.k. there. Also thanks for letting me know about the landscaping cloth. It was
my neighbor who mentioned laying down the cloth as he says if I didn't then I would get
weeds coming up through the rock, which I don't want. Is this true? Also doesn't the cloth
help prevent the soil underneath from eroding? It's easy enough to remove the cloth if
you think it's a bad idea. Also, the trench isn't deep. I was told to keep the rocks at the
same level as the grass in the neighbor's yard.
So as my garden stands, the topsoil is sitting right on top of the clay subsoil, so can I just
add organic material to the topsoil or do I need to dig down and mix it into the clay
subsoil?

Thanks again Mark, you're being a big help!

Answer:
Actually the fence boards being 2 inches above the soil still doesnt give them good
protection because rain will splash onto them.

The landscape fabric may have some effectiveness,depending on how much space is in
between the rocks and the kind of fabric you used. A weed barrier fabric is more effective
than a cloth that may have a less dense stitching because weeds can grow through the
holes in the fabric. Weed barrier fabric is meant to be used with mulch.

The rocks by themselves will prevent any erosion but on such a flat space no erosion will
take place anyway. "Rip rap" (rocks piled on hillsides) is an erosion control measure. The
cloth will impede drainage and I see no purpose to having this structure. What job is it
doing? It just fills with water to overflowing and spills onto your garden. If you had a true
drainage problem there then you would be better served using a french drain or
underground drain pipe.

You should work organic matter into the soil to at least 1 foot deep. If the topsoil already
in place is a good loam than there would be no point in adding organic matter. You want
to improve the clay soil so the plants will grow better and to improve the soils drainage
characteristics.

Why would the rocks have to be kept at the level of the grass next door? Good luck. Let
me know if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

102. Drainage Along Fence With Neighbor:


Follow Up: Hi Mark,

Thanks again for your reply.

I can understand your questioning the rocks being there. I did as well. When I was getting
the stone put in, the city came to the house and told me that, by law, I could NOT have
the soil go right back to the fence, that I needed at least 1 foot between the garden and the
fence for drainage purposes. I was originally going to put boards around the perimeter of
the fence and have the soil go all the way back. I asked what I should put there for
drainage and he said to either leave it as grass -which I thought would have looked
terrible - or put river rock. So I chose the river rock. He also said that the drainage area
had to be at the same level as the grass used to be, so I did that. When it rains it actually
works o.k. With way that our land is graded, the water flows like a stream around the
garden and down the side of our house. Not right against the house, but between the stone
walkway and our neighbors house, then onto my front lawn. It seems to work o.k. You're
right though, there is some standing water in the rocks afterward that takes awhile to
drain away, however I'm not sure what to do about this. If I remove the cloth, then it's for
sure weeds will grow through the rocks which will impede the flow of the water, forcing
it to overflow into the garden. If I don't, I have standing water. Should I just say to heck
with it and take out the rocks all together and have the soil go all the way back to the
fence like I originally planned? The only problem we had was when it was just grass back
there, that far corner you see in the picture wouldn't drain very well and it would always
be really wet back there. So if I remove the rocks what could I do there to make sure that
corner will drain?

Again, thanks Mark!

Answer:
If water moves through the cloth fast enough for adequate drainage of the area to take
place,then I dont see that the cloth would be a problem. In general,you want the water to
move through the cloth within 24 to 48 hours. Sometimes weed cloth can be a great
hindrance to drainage,particularly if placed on clay,but in your case you may be ok with
leaving the cloth in place.
Perhaps your soil is not draining adequately and that is where you are getting the
drainage problem or the area does not have an adequate pitch to it for water to drain or
water is being trapped between the topsoil and an underlying impermeable layer of soil.

I cannot see where weeds would impede the flow of water just as any other plant would
not impede the flow of water,at least downward.

From the pic it looks like this area may slope back toward your neighbors side and that
may be why water is accumulating in the corner you mentioned. Try to level off the area
and put some type of drain or retention trench in there. A drain,such as a french drain or
perforated pipe would need an outlet to drain to whereas a retention trench would collect
the water temporarily until the water leaches into the surrounding soil,at a depth of about
2 feet. The surrounding soil must be permeable enough for the retention trench to work
and this means you would have to modify the soil with organic matter and sand or gravel.

An underdrain pipe,placed at the bottom of the retention trench, could be used in


conjunction with the trench if an outlet is available for the pipe. This combination
increases the effectiveness of the trench and may give you the edge if the trench can not
be expected to do an adequate job of drainage by itself. Surround the trench or any
drainage pipe with filter cloth to prevent clogging by silt. Encase the drainage pipe in
gravel and place filter cloth over the top.

If you have water draining over the surface in a sheet toward where the rocks are,another
possibility may to use a trench drain,which is a grated rectangular surface drain,flush
with the surface. There is a type of trench drain that uses corrugated flex pipe. The
rectangular grated part is attached to top of the flex pipe. This is more versatile as it can
flex around bends and corners.

Another possibility for the far corner may be to use a catch basin or a drywell.

Pine straw mulch appears to be very effective for weed control and it will not blow away.
Although I have not seen how it works on summer weeds in my own backyard,since I
just applied it this fall,it has been very effective in blocking the fall and winter weeds in
my garden. This could be one alternative to using weed fabric.

The river rock just lying on the surface will not make an effective drain. Good luck. Let
me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
103. Design Of Gate:
Question:
What type of landscaper designs gates.

Answer:
Your choice of a designer for a gate would depend on how high you want the quality of
the gate to be. A more sophisticated architectural gate would require more skill to design
but its design would not necessarily have to be done by an architect. Your budget may
preclude the more expensive design services of an architect or landscape architect and
you will have to individually evaluate the skills of a landscape designer or other
architectural designer.

The design of the gate should take into consideration the surrounding landscape and the
architectural character of your house. Manufacturers of driveway gates have designs that
may suit your needs without having to do a custom design or the design may require only
modification. Some manufacturers may also offer design services for the gate at an
additional cost.

When designing a driveway gate,the security level of the gate should always be taken
into consideration.

The best advantage is gained by having an independent designer. Designers who work for
design/builds are always under the direct authority of the owner of the business and have
to follow the dictates and policies of that business even if those policies may not always
be in the best interest of the client and they are often not. Good luck. Let me know if I
can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

104. Spring Flooding Property:


Question:
I bought a house 8 years ago at the bottom of the subdivision. A spring seems to be coming up from under
the ground in my backyard. I figure it is a spring because it has flowed for 8 years. I have tried numerous
things including an expensive french drain system. I have at least confined it to an area, but the french drain
cannot handle the water. I really have no place for it to go to except a gas field behind my house. I also
have a clay wet saturated area in back corner. Any help would be appreciated.
Answer:
You might consider digging a deep trench drain through the affected area. Water will
then flow through the trench and to an outlet,if one can be found. In the trench you could
lay a large diameter perforated pipe,embedded in gravel, to carry the water and then you
could simply backfill the pipe with the soil that was removed for the pipe. The pipe of
course must have a large enough flow capacity to keep the water below ground level. One
or more of such pipes could be used,perhaps connected by smaller pipes running
perpendicularly to the main drainage pipes. Lay filter fabric over the top of the pipe
gravel bed. This is known as an underdrain.

Or a grid of smaller diameter perforated pipe (typically layed in a herringbone pattern)


could be layed underneath the whole area. This is done in agriculture on a routine basis to
lower water tables in order to allow fields to be planted.

You might also want to consider combining these methods with mechanical pumping and
filling the area with more soil to raise the level of the ground and then in effect,lowering
the water table. If this is an actual spring and not just a high water table than dealing with
the problem will change somewhat.

The more permeable the surrounding soil is,the better drainage pipe will work. Consider
making the soil more permeable by adding organic matter,sand and gravel.

Have the site analyzed by someone knowledgeable in drainage to determine what the
nature of the spring and/or water table issues are on your site. This will allow a
satisfactory solution to be implemented.

Consider modifying the soil of the clay area by adding more permeable
materials,consisting of mainly organic matter and some sand and gravel. If this is not
possible,consider using one or more catch basins,placed in low spots,if a suitable outlet
for the basins can be found. Or,perhaps a rain garden or wet or dry retention pond could
be established,either on the surface or below ground,if the soil is more permeable. Good
luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

105. Sump Pump Drainage:


Question:
I have a house in which my sup pump will work constantly up until 1 week after a
rainfall. I have installed a good sump pump. My problem is with drainage. I have a pipe
that exits out from the house and goes underground. It is connected to 4" corrugated pipe
that goes underground. It runs along side of my house for 50 feet. At the end I have a 2
1/2 foot hole by 2 feet deep. This hole is a constant lake. Is running this underground a
bad idea. The corrugated pipe that runs underground is at a downhill run. I don't know
how to fill in the end of the sump pump run hole. Would I just be better off running it on
top of the grass on out to the street? Who do I even call to help me with this.
Thanks for any response on this.

Answer:
Sounds like the water may be seeping back into the ground and then into your basement
again.

A 2 feet deep hole is too small to handle discharge from a sump pump (5 feet deep by 5
feet wide is the minimum) and since it appears that this hole is located immediately next
to your house wall,then the water will simply enter your basement again when the hole
overflows.

I do not think any municipality would allow a sump pump to discharge into a public
street. This can create nuisance conditions from standing water and freezing water in
winter. Some municipalities allow a direct connection to a sanitary sewer but usually the
connection must be made by a licensed plumber.

Draining the water onto your own property may be an option if the water can seep into
the ground without creating flooding or some other nuisance or hazard.

There are plastic drywells (which may be installed in batteries if necessary) available for
the purpose of discharging sump pump water. Or a drywell can be constructed of
concrete or masonry. A pit filled with stone for use as a drywell will contain less water.

The surrounding soil must be permeable enough to accept drainage from the drywell. The
drywell should empty out in about 48 hours. You need to know what volume of water
you are dealing with in order to size the drywell and to determine if the soil surrounding
the drywell is adequate for drainage or if it would have to be modified in some way to
improve its drainage characteristics.

Other options may include draining the water to a permeable detention basin that can also
serve as a rain garden. However,sediment from the pump water will deposit in this area.

I suppose there are various types of outfits that do this type of work, such as landscape
contractors,waterproofers and home improvement contractors but hiring someone who
specializes in the construction of drainage systems would probably be the best option, if
available. Good design of a drainage system is very important. Hiring an independent
designer has advantages in that this designer does not come under the influence of a
contractor who may or may not have an understanding of the importance of good design.
A designer can act as a watch dog to protect you from wrongdoing on the part of the
contractor. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up: Thank you for all of the advice but I guess I wasn't as clear as I should have
been. The corrugated tube runs along side of my house and then out into a clearing about
30 feet from the house. That is where the hole I have dug is at. I also appreciate who to
contact because a regular plumber just doesn't know. You have been great and a big help.
Thank you so much.

Answer:
A detention area for the sump discharge does not necessarily have to be on the ground
surface. One can be constructed underground if you want to use the ground above for
another purpose. You could lay down gravel fill,surrounded by filter fabric and then
place a 1 to 2 feet deep layer of topsoil over that or place some type of permeable paving
such as permeable concrete over the area. The water will seep through the concrete and
into the detention area. Other examples of permeable paving would be concrete pavers
with grass in the joints between pavers,permeable asphalt,grass pavers (grass grown in a
metal or plastic grid work,creating a traffic grade grass),interlocking concrete pavers (a
concrete grid filled with grass or gravel) or simply an organic or gravel mulch cover. The
grass paver grid work can also be used with concrete by filling the hexagonal voids in
with concrete. Water then percolates down through the holes left where the voids join.

Large diameter corrugated pipe embedded in gravel fill and surrounded by fabric to filter
out silt could also be used for a retention area.

The problem with ordinary black corrugated pipe is that the inside corrugations will slow
down the speed of the water and will more easily allow silt to deposit inside the pipe.
Ordinary pipe of this type is not really rated for burial although more and more I am not
hearing of any problems with placing it underground. There is a type of black corrugated
pipe specifically rated for burial.

Black corrugated pipe having a smooth inside wall is also available and a smooth insert
can also be used to make ribbed inside walled pipe into smooth walled pipe.

Running the drainage pipe on the surface may be more convenient but it may take up
space or be unsightly. There is not necessarily an advantage to running the pipe along the
surface. Running it underground would put the pipe out of sight and not pose an
obstruction to any other activity on the surface.

To prevent frost heave, embed the pipe in a gravel bed,providing about 6 inches of gravel
underneath the pipe. Make the width of the pipe trench 2 feet wide. The depth will of
course be determined by the elevation of the retention area in relation to your house. A
minimum 1/4 inch per foot pitch should be maintained. Special drainage pipe tie
downs,which will further prevent frost heave, are available or they can be improvised
from landscape staples or rebar. They fit over the pipe in a U shape and aid in keeping the
pipe in place during frost heave or when water is moving through the pipe. Leave a
minimum 8 inches of topsoil over the top of the pipe gravel.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

106. Grass And Trees For English Garden:


Question:
I am designing a Garden in the south west of england, my design must keep "in sync"
with the existing thomas hardy style cottage house. I want to use native grasses and
native trees to brittan, what grasses are native to england?

Also I need to use clay brick and lyme mortar but dont want the lyme to damage the soils
nice neutral composistion. and finally what grass can be used as a screen to hide a
compost heap other than bamboo?

Answer:
For grass,I would suggest the following:

English Rye Grass (lolium perenne). This is a hardy and cold tolerant grass,related to
fescue. Remains green year round. It is not related to the grain rye. Excellent lawn grass
and good for erosion control.

Smooth Meadow Grass (poa pratensis) 'kentucky bluegrass'. Good lawn grass.

Blue Sheep Fescue Grass (festuca ovina). Hardy and drought tolerant. Makes good
ground cover. Tolerates wide range of soil conditions.
Rough Meadow Grass (poa trivialis). Pasture type grass.

Various sedges and rushes have a grasslike appearance but some will only do well in
damp or wet soil.

Sweet Vernal Grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum). A pasture grass. Produces an odor of


vanilla. Has medicinal value as skin ointment.

For screening of the compost I would suggest:

The Common Reed (Phragmites australis). Grows to 2 meters high.

Miscanthus. An ornamental grass. Grows to about 2 meters high.

If the lime is kept on the wall and not spread out on the ground,it will not affect your
plants to any degree. For the lime to adversely affect the plants it would have to be
incorporated into the soil. The lime will not leach from the mortar after it has hardened to
any extent that it would harm your plants.

Trees native to England include:

Alder (Alnus glutinosa)


Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris)
Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)
Birch (Betula)
Box (Buxus;Southern England Only)
Cherry (Prunus)
Plum
Elm (Ulmus;The English Elm ranges in southern Great Britain only and is doubtfully
native. The smooth leaved elm is native to southern Great Britain only).
Hawthorn (Crataegus;laevigata species is native to southern Great Britain only.)
Hazel (Corylus).
European Hornbeam (Carpinus;Southern Great Britain only.)
Small and Large Leaved Linden (Tilia cordata; Southern Great Britain only.)
Field Maple (Acer campestre; Southern Great Britain only.)
Pedunculate Oak
Sessile Oak
Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
Poplars:
(Aspen (Populus tremula)
(Black Poplar (Populus nigra; southern Great Britain only.)
Rowans and Whitebeams:
European Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)
Common Whitebeam (Sorbus aria) and several related apomictic microspecies.
Service Tree (Sorbus domestica; recently discovered growing wild on a cliff in south
Wales)
Willows (Salix spp.; several species)
Bay Willow (Salix pentandra)
Crack Willow (Salix fragilis)
White Willow (Salix alba)
Almond-leaved Willow (Salix triandra)

Native large shrubs. These larger shrubs occasionally reach tree size:

Alder Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula)


Purging Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)
Elder (Sambucus nigra)
Common Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea)
(Common) Sea-buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)
Spindle (Euonymus europaeus)
Sallow, Goat Willow (Salix caprea)
Grey Willow (Salix cinerea)

Naturalised trees:

From Europe:

Maritime Pine (Pinus pinaster; rarely)


European Black Pine (Pinus nigra; rarely)
Norway Spruce (Picea abies; rarely)
European Larch (Larix decidua)
European Pear (Pyrus communis; sometimes regarded as native)
Plymouth Pear (Pyrus cordata; sometimes regarded as native)
Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera)
European Beech (Fagus sylvatica; widely considered native to southern England, but
probably a stone-age human introduction)
Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)
Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)
Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa; a Roman introduction)
Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris)
Common Horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

From Asia:

Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi)


From North America:

Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta)


Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis)
Black Spruce (Picea mariana; rarely)
Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
Grand Fir (Abies grandis)
Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)
Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata)
Lawson's Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana)
Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa; rarely)

Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

107. Decomposed Granite Path:


Question:
I and a friend built a 100mm path thick of crushed granite, we done 3 stages. first stage
we mixed cement and put a little water then compacted w/packer 2nd stage the same 3rd
we laid the last course with no cement but we applied a little water before compacting
then the crushed granite turned into mud and little holes in the path, then we applied a
sprinkle of the crushed granite to fill the holes and what not and compacted again it
worked except in some spots it looks like clay

Question? was I meant to compact the last course without applying water to it until its all
compacted then wet it and let it settle and not compacted when wet.

Answer:
The cement content (which should not exceed ten percent) should be mixed throughout the granite and the
granite should be slightly moist and not wet when compacted.

If the top layer does not contain cement,the granite in that layer will of course become loose and shear off
from the layer below and will become muddy when wet.

The cement and granite should be first mixed in a dry state and then layed down in 1 inch layers which are
moistened,not made wet. If the layer becomes wet,wait til it dries to a moist state before compacting.
A wet layer of granite may still achieve the desired hardness when it dries out but sometimes if overwetted
binding may not occur.

Decomposed granite containing tree resins as stabilizers (there is a product called terra pave that uses tree
resin as the binding agent) are superior than that used with cement. These products appear to retain their
hardness much better than decomposed granite with cement as the binding agent. Lime may also be used.
You might want to test a small sample of the granite with lime to see what results you get. Use 5 percent
lime in the mixture.

In my opinion decomposed granite is not a suitable paving material because it is too tricky to get right and
will soften when wet. Its good used as a mulch and as a soil additive but has not proven successful as
paving material,at least with cement as a binding agent. DG with resin as the binding agent shows much
more promise but even that may not be as permanent as concrete or asphalt. Good luck. Let me know if I
can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

108. Maple Seed Annoyance:


Question:
Mark, I am an avid gardener and have found this site extremely helpful. I was researching
October Glory to plant at my school (I am a teacher) in memory of two teachers who
have passed away since September. As I have done all the landscaping (Natchez Crepes,
false cypress, daylillies, blue point junipers, azaleas, hostas, hydrangea, dwarf nandinas,
acuba, etc. - with much more to come) for our middle school, I want this to be a special
addition. Our school is surrounded by wooded area, however, our school grounds are full
sun. I wanted to plant the OG, but have discovered the Sunset Red. I am unsure which is
the best. Plus both have samaras - which I have in a maple in my yard - and can hardly
tolerate them. I have given you all this information to ask your opinion regarding the
purchase. Is there a maple that offers wonderful fall color without the pesky samaras? Or
would you recommend another species? I don't want to rely on the school grounds
maintenance to mow the samaras down when they sprout, they have destroyed several
yoshino cherries cutting their bark, spraying, etc. - and to weed both my yard and the
school - is a thought I'd rather not have! Your suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thank
you.

Answer:
The male October Glory and the male Sunset Red do not produce samaras. Sunset Red tends to change
color earlier than October Glory but October Glory sounds a bit hardier than Sunset Red,is more tolerant of
dry soil conditions and may have a larger growth range.
Seedless maples are either hybrids or males that do not produce seeds. The most prominent of this seedless
group are those belonging to the freemanii cultivars.

Examples of seedless maple include:

Acer freemanii "autumn blaze".

Brandywine red maple (a cross between October Glory and Autumn Flame).

Acer saccharinum ‘Mareltoi’ (seedless Silver Maple). Could be considered a dwarf variety.

Mckay seedless Silver Maple Variety. Male variety is seedless.

Autumn Spire. A columnar shaped maple.

The Silver Maple can make a good accent tree. The amur maple is also a good accent but is not seedless.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment: This is the first time, I believe, that I have had a question posed to Mark. His
answer was extremely fast! He also gave me more information than I asked for which
gives me options to my situation. I really appreciated that as well. I would have liked to
know if he had personal experiences with the trees I asked about - but I didn't ask - did'nt
think about it until later. At any rate, the answer given was exactly what I needed. I can
print it and take it to my local suppliers to assure that I make the best decision. (I love this
website - Thanks Mark!!)

109. Cleaning Limestone Patio:


Question:
I live in NW Iowa and have an awesome patio on the south side of my house that was
built up with lime stone blocks. I'm noticing what I think is mold or something that is
turning them dark on top. The area gets lots of shade from a large maple close by. Can I
make them white again?

Answer:
The best cleaner to try would be a commercially prepared limestone cleaner. Use an
alkaline or neutral ph cleaner,as limestone is highly alkaline and an acid base cleaner may
erode the surface. Do not use muriatic acid.

Another cleaning method is a diluted bleach solution; 1 part bleach to 1 part water. Let
the bleach sit on the stained area for 1 to 2 minutes,then agitate with a brush or cloth and
then rinse well with clean water.

Test all cleaning chemicals or sealers on an inconspicuous spot for 24 hours before
cleaning the limestone.

When the cleaning is finished,apply a limestone sealer. This will insure that the stains do
not return and a sealer can provide this protection for many years. Use a high quality
impregnating limestone sealer. Two coats may be required.

Limestone is a very soft and porous rock and so do not use high pressure when rinsing off
cleaners. Use a gentle spray from a garden hose. Do not pressure wash. It is important
that any efflorescence (salts and other residue) is washed from the surface before
applying a sealer. Commercial limestone cleaners contain surfactants that will remove
this residue.

Sounds like mold has taken hold in the pores of the limestone and are taking advantage of
the low light and possibly damp conditions of the stone. A sealer will rob the mold of any
pores to latch onto and also deny the mold a damp environment by keeping water out of
the surface of the stone. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment: Thanks a bunch. Didn't know there was limestone sealer!

110. Tree Appraisal:


Question:
I have an eight year old Dwarf Japanese Maple tree that is the fine lacy type. In the fall it
is bright red and in the summer months turns green with faint red on the edges of the lacy
leaves. In the fall it turns scarlett red. A contractor has damaged it and I am having
difficulty finding out its species and value. Is there an expert that I can email photos to
that can help me identify my tree.

Answer:
You should have this tree evaluated for its value by personal inspection. The tree should
be physically examined by an expert appraiser to really get to its true value. The siting of
the tree in the landscape and how it fits in with the rest of the property must also be
considered. Some of this is a gut feeling thing that only an experienced tree appraiser can
perform.

The Dwarf Japanese Maple is of only one species; acer palmatum but cultivars of this
species include: Aratama, Kashima, Beni Hoshi, Kiyohime, Beni Hime, Kinra, Green
Star, Geisha, Ukon, Yubae, Wou Nishiki, and Baby Lace.
The International Society of Arboriculture is a top authority on tree appraisal. They have
published "The Guide for Plant Appraisal",available at their website:
www.ag.uiuc.edu/~isa/welcome.html

To locate a tree appraiser in your area write the American Society of Consulting
Arborists at 15245 Shady Grove Road, Suite 130; Rockville, MD 20850; or call at (301)
947-0483.

Or you can go to their website: http://www.asca-consultants.org/ and submit your


question to one of their experts. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

111. Soil Over Tree Roots:


Question:
Someone told me that you can't ring a tree with landscape blocks and fill it with soil for
flowers because it will kill the tree.
My question is, can I ring the tree with landscape blocks and fill with soil?

Answer:
You should absolutely not place soil over tree roots. This will smother the roots. Up to 4
inches of organic mulch can be placed over the roots because material like wood chip
mulch is much lighter and has better pore space (air and water gets through) but soil is
much too dense and heavy.

Flowers can sometimes be grown in the soil around the tree roots but only in the existing
soil under the tree. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment: Thanks very much for your quick answer. I think you probably saved the life
of this 40 year old tree.

112. Noise Control Barriers:


Question:
I need help on fencing .I have a large corner lot in a small NJ town and one side borders a
2 lane road that has become very busy over the years. I have been noticing increasing
incident of vibration through the house from large ,fast vehicles. My house sits slightly
below road level .I wanted to know if either a dense privacy border of evergreens or 6-8
foot privacy fencing would stop the vibration if installed at the road side in question?

Answer:
I would suggest some type of acoustic wall. The wall can be constructed of
concrete,masonry or wood. The most effective would be concrete filled with solid foam
insulation. Locate the wall as close as possible to the noise source and make it high as
possible.

A concrete wall would consist of a series of horizontal concrete boards layed into slots in
concrete posts,the space between the outside and inside concrete boards being filled with
solid foam insulation. The structure must continue to the ground since noise will get
through any gaps at ground level.

An ordinary concrete block,stone or brick wall will also have some sound deadening
effect. A concrete block wall filled with solid foam in the openings in the individual
blocks would be much more effective.

The comparitively least effective sound barrier would be a wooden timber fence. This
type of fence consists of heavy timbers layed horizontally between timber supports. An
ordinary wooden fence would not be very effective since it is too thin and sound would
transmit through any gaps in the fence.

Another type of wooden fence could be made of exterior plywood panels with solid foam
insulation sandwiched between. An exterior plywood fence may have a shorter lifespan
than other wood fence types. The plywood must be kept coated.

It is important to seal the tops of all foam filled fences to keep water out. Build the fence
as high and as long as possible. Most likely the fence will have to be constructed over the
legal fence height for your area and you may need to apply for a variance from your
zoning board.

Plants may also be helpful in deadening sound. Follow these guidelines:

Place the noise buffer as close to the noise source as possible.

Plant trees and shrubs as close together as possible.

A diversity of tree and/or shrub species within the buffer may further reduce noise.

Foliage in the buffer should form a continuous wall from the ground up. Use shrubs
under trees to achieve this effect.
Use dense foliage plants.

Use evergreen species for year round protection.

Make the buffer as tall as possible.

Make the buffer as wide as possible.

Make the buffer twice as long as the distance of the protected zone to prevent noise from
getting in from the sides.

The fact that your property sits lower than the road may be magnifying the noise and
vibrations somewhat. Consider using earth berms with the plantings.

All noise will not be eliminated. A planting of 18 feet wide can only reduce noise by
about 1 to 3 decibels. It would take a planting 50 feet wide to get a reduction of 10
decibels. The buffer must extend as much as possible over the point at which you are
experiencing the noise and should extend over the noise source. This creates the
refraction angle.

Vibration from traffic that is transmitted through the ground is a bit different than noise
transmitted through the air. Landscape elements for aerial noise control may still have an
effect on these vibrations,particularly ground level elements such as ground
cover,shrubs,low growing vegetation,berms and soil. Loam and sandy soils absorb noise
energy. Ground vibrations are transmitted well through concrete and masonry.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

113. Pressure Treated Fence Post Rotting:


Question:
Would like to install six foot privacy fence. I have installed several pressure treated posts
in the past and they have rotted and fallen over (both 4 and 6 inch posts rated .40). How
can I be sure that my fence won't meet the same fate?

Answer:
Do not let the posts contact bare soil,by for instance,direct burial into the ground. Either
mount the posts inside a concrete footing or mount them on top of concrete footings.

There are higher ratings than 0.40. The following table lists retention and depth
penetrations of various pressure treated woods:

Depth Penetrations:
1-1/4 inch or 85 percent of sapwood

Lodgepole pine (retention)


copper naphthenate 0.055
creosote 6.0
penta 0.40
ACA,ACZA 0.40
ACC 0.50
ACQ-B,ACQ-D Pending
CA-B 0.21
CBA-A 0.41
CCA-C 0.40

2 inches or 85 percent of sapwood

Ponderosa pine
copper napthenate 0.055
creosote 8.0
penta 0.40
ACA,ACZA 0.40
ACC 0.50
ACQ-B,ACQ-D Pending
CA-A,CA-B 0.25
CBA-A Pending
CCA-C 0.40

3/8 inch and 100 percent of sapwood up to 1 inch or 85 percent of sapwood.

Douglas fir
copper napthenate 0.055
creosote 8.0
penta 0.40
ACQ-B,ACZA 0.40
ACA 0.40
CCA-C 0.40

Western hemlock,Western larch


Creosote 8.0
penta 0.40
ACA,ACZA 0.40
ACC 0.50
ACQ-B Pending
CCA-C 0.40

Non-pressure treated wood for fence posts:

cedar
white oak
cherry
maple
ash
hickory
black locust
walnut
chestnut
osage orange
ironwood

Some of the non-treated wood is reported to be just as good as pressure treated,but this
may not prove true for every installation. In particular,white oak and cedar have a very
good reputation for being decay resistant.

Creosote will give the best protection in the treated class of lumber,but may not be
suitable for use in a living area as the chemical can be irritating to the skin.

Keep part of concrete footings above grade if possible and slope the the tops at an angle
to shed water.

If you encase the posts in concrete footings,do not let the ends of the posts touch bare
soil. Keep the bottom of the post at least 4 inches inside the footing. Water can wick up
through the post if the bottom of the post contacts bare soil.

Consider using plastic fence posts. They will not rot,but may discolor.

Applying a quality stain is necessary to prevent water damage to pressure treated wood.
Water damage will promote decay. Applying a sealant over the stain will add extra
protection.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
114. How to Plant A Shrub:
Question
How do you plant a shrub/bush that was purchased and is wrapped in burlap and tied with
rope? Do you dig a hole and put the bush in and then cover with dirt and then water?
Answer:

Remove the top one third of the burlap. Completely remove all non-biodegradeable
material. Dig a hole as wide as the spread of the shrub and as deep as the root ball of the
shrub. The grade line of the soil should meet at about the bottom of the shrubs branches.

To avoid settling of the shrub you can place the shrub on a pedestal in the center of the
hole. Dig a ring around the bottom of the hole to form a pedestal and set the shrub on top
of the pedestal.

Form a berm around the dripline of the shrub (imagine a line radiating down from the
outermost edge of the shrub canopy to the ground;that is the dripline),at least 6 inches
high. This will form a watering basin. Mulch inside the basin at a minimum 3 inch depth.
Water immediately after planting.

When backfilling,do not allow air pockets to form.

Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

115. Drainage For Deck Planters:


Question
Hi Mark,
We'd like to build 2-3 plants beds on our enormous wood deck. Our backyard is well
shaded by trees and in order to obtain max growth on our plants and herbs, we have to
plant on the deck itself (in pots last year). How should we go about this? That is, I can
build it, but what do we put underneath? Will building on wood affect the deck itself (i.e.,
rot)? Or, can a cover of some sort help alleviate this (like gravel or charcoal used in
aquariums)? Thanks.

Answer:

Keep air space between the bottom of the planters and the decking by supporting the
planters on at least 2 inch by 2 inch cedar boards. Cedar is highly resistant to rot and so
will not be affected by the water from the planters. The water that drains from the bottom
of the planters will drain off into the gaps in the deck boards or evaporate. Good luck.
Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Comment: Excellent. Thanks for the great idea.

116. Flooding From Old Wheat Field:


QUESTION: My house sits on about an acre. Behind my house is a wheat field (not
being used now) that is higher than my yard. When we get lots of rain, it floods my yard.
I was told to put berms in and did but the water seems to seep underground into my yard.
My biggest problem is that I have a septic tank and lines in the back yard and the water
flood them--making my housing plumbing unusable. Two years ago my house looked
like it was sitting in a lake. With the berms, most of the water has be rerouted but still my
back yard floods. Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

You need to install drainage ditches. You should have a percolation test (test to measure
at what rate water soaks into the soil) done, to help determine the size and type of
drainage system. You may need subsurface drainage (perforated drainage pipe) in
addition to drainage ditches.
A perculation test should be standard procedure when installing a septic system. Plant
vegetation on the sides of the drainage ditches to control erosion. Good luck. Write back
if you have further questions.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

QUESTION: Tell me about the drainage pipes that you are recommending. Do they have
a grate on the top? Should they run from the middle of the yard to the sides where the
ditches are?

Answer:

The perforated drainage pipe has holes on one side. The pipe is layed so that the holes are
facing the bottom of the trench the pipe is layed in,to prevent soil from leaching into the
pipe from above.

The pipe can be simply backfilled with soil or layed in a gravel filled trench. There is no
grate over the pipes because the pipes are buried out of sight.

The pipes should run parallel to the drainage ditches. The purpose of the pipes is to catch
water that gets past the ditches and act as a backup to the ditches. The pipes should be
placed on the sides of the ditches.
Good luck. Write back if you have further questions.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

QUESTION: I am not sure how to put the drainage ditch to the side of the yard. I had
berms put at the back of the back yard and the west side of the back yard. They helped a
lot. He did not put the berms on the east side of the back yard because of the electric and
gas lines there. He made the berms from the dirt on the side of the yard so that it is a
shallow ditch on the far side of the berm. If I understand you correctly you would have
me dig a trench and place perforated pipes in the trench and cover them with dirt.

I suspect that the apple tree in the back yard causes underground water to enter my back
yard. I have seen little fountains of water spurting up during heavy rains.

Also, the latteral lines in the back yard have a lower level of dirt between the lines. I
wonder if I should have dirt hauled in to make the area between the latteral lines flat.

Answer:
The pipes would be one way to increase the effectiveness of the drainage ditches. They
should only be placed if needed. If water seeping through the bottom of the ditches
becomes a problem,then drainage pipes could be used to channel that water away. The
pipes will catch water not taken care of by the ditches. Lining the ditches with plastic or
fabric will also aid in preventing infiltration into the soil.

Filling in areas where water is pooling may or may not be a solution. The entire site
should be analyzed by someone knowledgeable in drainage and then an appropriate
design chosen. Since I have no such analysis of your site I can only offer general
suggestions. Bringing in soil can be very expensive. If you dig ditches,perhaps the soil
from that could be used.

The berms may be trapping water behind them. This water may be seeping under the
berms and leading to soggy conditions on your property. The water must either be
channeled away or allowed to seep into the ground or a combination of both. Placing a
retention area behind the berms could be a solution. This is a temporary holding area for
water composed of porous soil,mulch or gravel. The water seeps down to a low enough
level so as not to cause any problems on the surface. Another solution could be a
floodwall. This is a wall constructed of concrete or masonry placed at a certain depth
underground,the sides of which form a pool for the water. A flood wall is similar in
structure to a retaining wall and is cantilevered (has a T-shaped shelf portion on which
the weight of the soil rests).

The flood situation you described around the tree may suggest an impervious layer below
that is trapping water above it. This could be a layer of clay or rock. Or perhaps the
ground is just saturated from water flowing down the slope.

The drainage ditches should be placed on the old wheat field slope. Depending on the
flow volume and the shape of the slope,you may want to install swales instead of ditches.
Swales are more shallow and wider. The idea is to intercept water flowing down the slope
and remove it to an area away from where your property floods. Good luck. Let me know
if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

117. Plants And Drainage For Wet Ground:


Question:
At the back of my yard I have a small brook,my yard gets sun all day.When I cut the
grass (mostly weed)it always seams damp no matter what time of day.when it rains it
seams to hold water for a while.What can I do to get the yard to dry out faster,and what
kind of grass can i put down that will grow nice under these conduction.(rain gutters do
not run into back yard).

Answer:

Sounds like you may have a marsh type of ground there. Consider using drainage pipe
under the area. There must be an outlet for the pipe. If the soil is clay add organic matter
and sand to improve its drainage characteristics.

The following plants may do well in moist conditions:

lemon grass

rye grass

monkey grass

ornamental grass

meadow grass

sedge

marsh marigold

Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman

http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

118. Can Plants Be Used To Drain Area:


Question:
I live in zone 5 (Chicago) and have a back yard which floods in one area when the rain is
heavy. This is an area that is shaded by trees. We have installed a drain, but I was hoping
there might be some plants that I could plant in abundance to help.
Answer:
It is not practical to use plants to drain an area. Drainage is done with permeable
soil,retention areas,rain gardens,drywells,french drains,etc... Let me know if I can be of
further help.

Mark Harshman

http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

119. Drainage For Small Property:


Question:
My backyard has a low area that repeatedly floods. Researching for solutions all suggest
drainage tubing, berms, swells, ditches, etc. Due to the small size of my yard,the
proximity of my neighbors, and the main fact that all of the surrounding area is uphill
from the low area, these are not workable. I've looked at dry well kits sold at local home
stores, but I don't think they would be able to handle the amount of water I get.
Any suggestions?

Answer:
The plastic drywells from the kits can be placed together in battery form. It would be a
matter of determining the volume of water involved and placing the required number of
drywells accordingly. You would have to excavate an area approximately 4 to 6 feet deep
to place the drywells. A more shallow excavation containing permeable material such as
gravel or rocks or sections of sealed large diameter corrugated drain pipe could also be a
possibility but this would have to spread over a wider area than drywells. Any retention
area containing gravel or rocks or any permeable material reduces the volume of water
that can be contained because the material takes up space in the area. Drywells and drain
pipe contain only empty space and so can hold more water. The drywells you saw at your
local home store may be smaller than drywells available elsewhere.

Another possibility could be to install a cistern. This could be constructed of concrete or


masonry. This method would prevent water from saturating the surrounding soil and
would also aid in maintenance as it would be easier to service in the way of cleaning than
a filled retention basin. Over time a filled retention basin will fill with silt and the
materials must be replaced. The water could slowly leak out through a hole in the bottom
or sides. An overflow pipe would relieve any excess water. This method would also allow
you to use the water for your garden or some other purpose. Water could enter the cistern
from a top drain inlet,screened to exclude debri. Covered with a layer of soil of about 18
inches,this method would allow you to use the ground above and would offer more
storage volume than a filled retention basin. Prefabricated plastic cisterns are available.

I would also suggest a retention basin,which is sometimes also called a rain garden or
bioretention basin. It could simply be an area of permeable soil or some type of
"engineered soil" placed in various layers to achieve the greatest degree of drainage
possible. With a rain garden you will have to accept a certain amount of water for up to
48 hours and this will restrict your use of the area but if you want to use the area for
planting,then you could fill the area with plants that thrive in rain gardens. These plants
could also include certain edible types. The soil surrounding the retention basin must be
permeable enough to allow the water to drain sufficiently.

An outlet for some of the water may be desirable. You may want to try to get permission
from your municipality to connect to the storm drain. Most often the connection must be
done by a licensed plumber. It may also be possible to discharge some of the water off
site,say onto a low traffic road but there must be no possibility of water standing on the
road. This water could cause a traffic hazard and can freeze in winter.

The lifespan of these structures can be extended by using some type of device to trap
sediment before it reaches the structure. These sediment traps require periodic cleaning.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman

http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

120. Willow Tree Poses Potential Nuisance:


Question:
Last year I had five blue spruces installed in the west part of my yard 15 feet from the
property line. My neighbor planted a willow in the same area, but a foot from the
property line. We live in Northwest part of Illinois. Will the willows trunk begin to grow
onto our property and will the tree over shadow my evergreen trees?

Answer:
The weeping willow has a spread of 35 feet and reaches a mature height of 30 to 40 feet
high. Other species of willow can be 10 feet less in spread and height. The blue spruce
reaches a mature height of 50 to 75 feet and sometimes reaches a height of 100 feet. Its
spread is 25 feet. The spread is the diameter of the tree canopy measured from the center
of the trunk. Depending on the species,the branches of the willow could reach 10 to 12
feet onto your property. It is likely that your blue spruce will not be impacted by the
willows branches but the willow may compete with the spruce for water.
The average trunk diameter of weeping willow is 2 feet. The roots of willow can be very
invasive. The roots will spread far out in search of water and so if you have a sidewalk or
pipes near the tree in question you could get damage to these structures. Good luck. Let
me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman

http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

121. Raised Flower Bed Next To Garage:


Question:
I would like to build a raised flower bed along the side of my garage where weeds love to
grow. How far away from the wall of the garage do I need to place the flower bed? Also,
the yard tends to be wet. Will the flower bed help keep water away from the garage or
make the problem worse?

Answer:
Locating the bed a mimimum of 5 feet from the wall would be a good way to prevent
water collecting around the garage wall,but of course that would not allow you to address
the weed problem near the wall.

Another option may be to build the bed next to the wall but with a plastic,clay,concrete or
concrete paver apron underneath to keep water from soaking down around the wall. It
would be desirable to have the ground sloped away from the garage.

Yet another option may be to install an underdrain at the footing of the garage foundation
and perhaps a dimbled memebrane or "waterboard" on the surface of the garage
foundation wall. This FIN drain will drain water away vertically from the wall and empty
out into the footing drain. The footing drain of course needs an outlet. A better idea
would be to keep water away from the wall to begin with by using the above mentioned
aprons or locating the bed away from the wall.

The bed will not have any effect in keeping water away from the wall. If installed next to
the wall without drainage,the problem of water collecting around the garage foundation
wall will vary in intensity,depending on how large the bed is and how much water gets in
it. If the soil contains alot of clay then swelling could become a problem and that could
crack or move the foundation. A footing drain or other drainage structures around the
permimeter of the garage would be a better option to deal with water problems around the
garage.

It is also a good idea not to have any kind of organic mulch around buildings. This could
attract termites and other nuisance insects. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further
help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

122. Plants Next To Driveway As Snow Barrier:


Question:
I would like to plant a line of some kind of bush or shrub or hedge or something on the
north side of my driveway to do the following:

1. The driveway has a funny curve in it and people tend to drive off the side. I would like
the plant to provide some resistance so that people realize that they're driving off. It
would be nice if the plant did not have really sharp leaves/branches that would scratch up
the car.
2. I would like the plants to be dense enough so that, in the winter, they will stop snow
blowing from the north onto the driveway.
3. I don't want the plants to have roots that spread in a way that they will go under the
driveway and slowly destroy it. Also, the gas, electricity, and cable are buried not far
from the driveway; I don't want to have to kill the plants if one of those companies needs
to dig there.
4. It would be nice if the plants produced berries that I could eat.

My driveway is in northern Indiana. The soil type next to it is called "Troxel Silt Loam"
on the USDA soil survey.

Answer:
I would not recommend that you plant shrubs directly beside the driveway. The shrubs
will cause more snow to be deposited on your driveway because the snow laden wind
will slow as it hits the shrubs. Optimally,the setback for a snow fence or shrubs is about
35 times the height of the fence or shrubs. For a row of shrubs 8 feet tall the setback
would have to be about 150 feet.
Most of the snow trapped by snow fences is actually deposited in front of the fence.

A porous snow fence 4 feet tall would require a setback of 25 times the height. Increasing
the density of the shrubs and adding more rows lowers the required setback but the
shrubs must increase in height. If you have enough room to proceed with installing the
shrub barrier here is a list of shrubs that will meet your requirements:

honeysuckle (edible)

chokecherry (edible)

golden currant (edible)

cotoneaster

plum (edible)

siberian peashrub (edible)

sumac (edible)

privet (edible for birds)

Tall grasslike plants behind the barrier can add to trapping of snow. Corn has been used
as an effective snow barrier in rural areas.

To control vehicle traffic on the driveway,perhaps you could install some kind of
guardrail,a low wall or use bollards. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
123. Basement And Perimeter Drainage:
Question:
I have a bad smell in my basement that I believe is due to water seepage. I have been told
that the rock beds outside my house need to be redone, and elevated right next to the
house. First, how much of an elevation change do I need from the house to the end of the
bed? Also, some people have told me to use sand instead of dirt to build up the rock bed
close to the house.
Answer:
I do not understand what you mean by "rock bed". Are you speaking of a drainage
channel similar to a french drain or a seepage area?

It sounds as if you are describing the structure as constructed above ground but such
structures are always below ground. Piling rocks and soil against your foundation wall
will make the water seepage worse. Sand is used as a filter layer in retention areas. For
quick drainage,use gravel.

Retention areas for water should be kept a minimum of 10 to 15 feet from the house wall.
Drain water away from the foundation wall by using a footing drain and gravel. Consider
placing a 6 inch thick clay cap around the top perimeter of the foundation wall. This will
create a semi permeable layer that will stop some water from soaking into the ground
below around the foundation. Alternatively,if a growing area for plants is desired around
the top of the foundation wall,the clay cap can be placed underground. Or,a concrete or
concrete paver apron or plastic sheeting can be used around the foundation wall. Slope all
drain pipes and other drainage structures a minimum of 1 to 3 percent (1/4 inch to 3
inches fall in elevation for every 10 feet). Maintaining a proper slope will reduce
sediment buildup in the drain structures.

I would also suggest you damp proof or waterproof your basement walls. Consider
removing all soil away from the foundation wall and replacing it with gravel. The gravel
will greatly aid drainage away from the wall and into the footing drain,where it can be
carried to an outlet. Or consider using a FIN drain or "waterboard" against the foundation
wall. This will allow you to skip the expense and labor of bringing in gravel and will
allow you to keep the soil around the foundation in place. These drains are also known as
"dimble membranes" because of their dimbled surface appearance. The membrane
releases its water at the footing drain. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
124. Foundation Wall Grade And Perimeter Drainage:
Question:
Hi, I need to raise the ground level around the foundation of my house, about 6-8", so
that rain water flows away from the house. It is regular grass lawn at the foundation.
What is the best soil/loam/sand to use? Is the any better season(s) in which to do it? I live
in the north east & near the sea.
Answer:
The only weather restrictions on working with soil are frozen ground and overly wet
ground. For the grass to do well you cannot have too much clay or sand. Clay would
produce a semi permeable surface that would promote water running off the surface and
sand would produce a permeable soil. However,grass does best in loam and would not do
well in a highly clay or sandy soil. I would try to obtain the maximum clay content
possible that would still permit the grass to grow. Certain plants,some with a grasslike
appearance, and some ornamental grasses tolerate clay soil. I would aim to make the clay
content near 50 percent.

If you want to keep loam soil next to the foundation then consider placing a clay layer
under the loam.

Sloping the ground will not prevent all water from seeping around the foundation and if
you experience further drainage problems after you slope the ground,you may need to
install subsurface drainage.

Other methods are to use are plastic sheeting to keep water from entering the soil around
the foundation,the use of a concrete apron around the foundation and the use of
underground clay caps and gravel fill. A footing drain is usually necessary. This is a
perforated drain pipe or some other channel that carries water away from the foundation.
Of course the water must discharge into an outlet of some kind or soak into the ground
away from the foundation.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

125. Privacy Without Trees


Hi Mark, I would like to know how can I give my backyard privacy without having too
many trees? My backyard has many trees that I believe previous owners planted for
privacy but I just feel there are too many and make my backyard look like a jungle. Also,
one of the bedrooms in the house faces my neighbor's bedroom. The only good thing
about those tree's is that it blocks the view to my neighbor's window but they look so ugly
that I am having a hard time if whether I should cut them or not?
Answer:
Think about taking out the trees and putting in a fence or wall or a trellis. You might even
want to consider an acoustic wall if the traffic noise from the street is a great nuisance.
The most effective acoustic wall would be made of concrete boards filled with plastic
foam.

You might also want to consider a different type of privacy planting such as a more
compact and upright shrub. Some shrubs can retain their shape with little or no pruning
but most need to be pruned. Try trimming the trees on your property and see if their is an
improvement in appearance. Good luck.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Follow Up:
Hi Mark, I wrote to you previously regarding having privacy in my backyard without too
many trees. You mentioned to use some type of shrubs, are there any names in particular?
I live in southern California. I appreciate your help.
Answer:
Here is a list of privacy shrubs and trees:

Shrubs:

juniper

spruce
arborvitae

privet

holly

forsythia

butterfly bush

lilac

spirea

holly (tall varieties)

Trees:

dogwood

crape myrtle

serviceberry

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

Comment From Questioner:


Thank you Mark, I was so clueless and becoming so frustrated because I don't know
anything about trees and did not know what to do to make my backyard look better. I
appreciate the list of shrubs and trees you provided. I am looking forward for my new
project.

126. Dry Creek Bed


Question:
I'm installing a river rock creekbed as a landscape feature, but that will also channel water
during heavy rains (which we have plenty of in W. Washington!). the soil is a weird mix
around here, but includes plenty of silty material that I'd rather not have flowing out the
lower end the the creek. Is it advisable to lay sand and/or gravel under the river rock?

Answer:
Do not place sand or gravel under the rock. The water will simply wash it back out. Sand
and gravel placed under the rocks will do nothing to aid drainage with such a large
volume of water moving at speed. Since the sand or gravel will likely be undermined,it
will not make a good storage area for sediment and even if it were to remain stable,it
would eventually completely clog with sediment and be rendered ineffective. Cleaning it
out would be inconvenient,since it would be covered with rock and mixed with heavy
sand and gravel.

You should try to capture sediment at the entrance to the creek. This will keep sediment
out of the creek and make cleaning it out more convenient. This can be accomplished by
constructing a pool area with check dams or plants,if necessary,to slow down the water.
The pool should be higher in elevation than the creek and have a spillway for controlling
entry of water into the creek. Line the entry point to the pool with rocks and/or plants to
prevent erosion and plant the entire pool area to further trap sediment. The outlet can be
treated in a similar fashion if erosion will be a problem there. There are devices to control
overflow at the outlet. Good luck.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

127. Water Accumulation On Unistone


We have unistone between our pool and the house. When it rains, the water pools in this
area. We usually go out with a broom and push the accumulated water towards the grass.
We were thinking of pulling up some unistone bricks, installing some kind of pipe to lead
the water off to the grass area, put all the bricks back except one that would be replaced
with a drain.
Is that feasible? Any other suggestions?

Answer:
First,if settlement of the pavers has occured,you might want to think about having them
reset. Sounds like settlement may be the cause for the water not draining or perhaps the
pavers were just not set to a steep enough pitch to allow for water drainage. Settlement of
pavers is a common problem and can result from inadequate compaction of the
base,unsuitable base materials,inadequate edging,frost heave and water penetration.
Experience,judgement and skill are necessary to achieve a good paver installation and
these days that is often hard to come by. Installing monolithic paving such as concrete or
asphalt can often compensate for this since less settlement occurs with this type of
pavement
A catch basin or smaller sized direct drain could solve the problem but that will need a
suitable outlet for the water. The grass you mentioned may or may not be one,depending
on how much water will be deposited on it.
Another possibility could be a retention area under the pavers. The existing pavers would
have to be replaced,at least over the inlet area,with permeable pavers or an open gridwork
with spaces to admit water. Good luck.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
128. What Can Be Put In A Landscaping Easement
Can a storm water pipe with holes and a sock over the pipe be placed in a landscaping
easement?
Answer:
You should contact the owner of the easement and request permission to drain the water.
Permission to run the pipe is subject to what impact it would have on the area;for
instance,will it cause flooding or erosion. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further
help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

129. Landscaping As A Profession


Mark: I do not know if my questions are appropriate for this site, but it is information I
need from an "insider". Could you tell me what (or which) trade magazine(s) people in
the landscaping and design business subscribe to. Also, what is the main national trade
show that professional landscapers attend. One more thing, what is the name of the main
trade association to which members of your industry belong to.

Answer:
As stated in my profile,I am not a landscaper. I only do design work,no actual
landscaping. I am not aware of any publications or trade shows concerning installation of
landscapes. I read grounds magazine on the net sometimes but this is geared more
toward golf course maintenance and groundskeeping. I do not subscribe to any design
magazines.
Concerning the design field,there is an organization called The Association of
Professional Landscape Designers and for licensed landscape architects, The American
Society of Landscape Architects. Most licensed landscape architects belong to this
organization. I do not belong to any professional organization and my guess would be
that most landscape designers do not.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

130. Stump Removal


When replacing a huge oak tree on a gentle slope in Georgia, how far down must the
stump be ground and should the ground-up matter be returned to the hole and mixed with
dirt?

Answer:
It would be desirable to remove the entire stump to eliminate the possibility of sprouts
coming back up from the stump and roots. A stump grinder will cut down to about 1 foot.
A tine trencher could be used. This piece of equipment will cut to 3 feet. Or a special
stump cutter could be used.
The chips can be left in place or taken to another part of your garden or put in a compost
pile. When wood decomposes it depletes the soil of nitrogen,so you will have to apply a
fertilizer containing nitrogen if you want to plant in the area.
Hand tools such as a grub hoe,axe,shovel,root saw or wire saw may also prove useful for
anything the stump grinder or cutter cant reach. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of
further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
Comment: Thank you for a very helpful answer!

131. French Drain For Slope Drainage In Winter


I live in New Brunswick, Canada and have a couple of drainage issues (only in the
winter). I live on a hill, the land is slightly higher (than my driveway and basement
windows) on the back side of my home. Snow will melt, and water runs onto the
driveway (later to freeze on the driveway). This ice will build up over the winter
becoming a real pain. Also, I have three basement windows close to grade. When there
is snow on the ground and we get a heavy rain, the snow collects and holds the water,
raising the water enough that it comes into my finished basement through the closed
windows. We have installed window wells however I do not wish to bring them so high
that we can not see out the window. I believe I am going to rent a back hoe to make good
trenches (to move the water to an area that will drain well) filled with 3/4" clear stone. I
think I would prefer to make a trench wider with more stone than to install piping that
may clog later? I am unsure if I should use fabric (thinking it may seal and prevent water
propagation). Also, it would be nice if I could place some soil and seed over the rock
trench system as it is would look best.
What I am wondering is will water freeze on top of the stone, soil, lawn system I propose
to install, sealing off the drainage system from taking water away? Do you have any
other suggestions? I would like to do this fix right the first time and am able to send a
couple of pictures if you feel you could better advise.

Answer:
I would suggest the idea of intercepting the water before it reaches the area. This can be
done by ditch,swale,trench drains or catch basins.
Filter fabric can be omitted if the pitch of the pipe is steep enough to allow fine sediment
to be flushed out. Otherwise it would probably be a good idea to use fabric. The soil
behind the fabric will not cause clogging.
A rock filled french drain will carry less water because the rock displaces it and a such a
french drain will clog as readily as a pipe,perhaps more so. Planting over it would also
slow the water down and give the water time to soak into the drain. I think perhaps you
would be better served by a drain with an open inlet such as a trench drain or catch
basins.
French drains are not suited well for the collection of surface water and so of course are
not suited to intercepting water from slopes,where the water is faster moving. Water
movement through the gravel in the drain would be relatively slow. You need to remove
the water at a fast rate before it can get to your driveway. The gravel in a french drain
only serves as a retention area and as a slower conduit for water and the gravel can serve
as bedding for the pipe. The water builds up and is retained in the gravel of the french
drain and then is drained away at a faster rate by the perforated french drain pipe.
A french drain with soil cover will be even less efficient at intercepting surface flow then
one where the gravel extends up to grade.
Any water frozen over the drainage devices is not moving. As it thaws out it will leak
into the drainage device.
A berm or flood wall could also be a possibility but then a retention area to hold the water
would have to be constructed behind the berm or wall. A french drain could possibly be
used to drain such a retention area.
A pic would be helpful but none of this general advice will substitute for an analysis of
the site and a plan. I would not proceed with construction until I was reasonably sure of a
good solution. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

132. Flower Bed


I want to plant a flower bed.
Do I have to remove the grass in the area I want to plant or can I just dig & turn the grass
over ?

Answer:
Actually it would not be a good idea to plant the flowers immediately after working the
grass into the soil because certain microbial activity will then be taking place in the break
down of the grass and that will interfere with the growth processes of the flowers. The
flowers could be planted after adding the grass to the soil if it has been left in place in the
soil for about 1 month. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

133. Bad Drainage From Neighbor


My climate zone is 2A.
My property and the neighbouring ones on my street all have a gentle slope that drains
into city property bordering a roadway.
My backyard is lower than the ones on either side. After heavy rains, the water from both
houses drains into my yard.
A couple years ago I thought I had fixed the problem by building up the soil level. This
Spring year has been one of the wettest on records and the water problem is back but not
as bad.
I dont feel like adding more soil again. To do this before I had to remove part of the
fence. I have since built a new fence, and my wife has added some nice flower beds and
garden.
Last week I hand dug a trench along each neighbours fence to the lowest point at my
back fence. About 3' wide by 20' long.
This has worked well, and my kids love playing boats in the water.I dont like the idea of
standing water, so need some ideas for landscaping these trenches.
My thoughts are to rake grass and leaves into the trenches until it builds up,hopefully still
able to drain, or can I plant something in there?
Thanks for any thoughts!

Answer:
I would first look into draining the water away to an outlet. If the outlet would be on city
property you will have to apply for a permit to drain to it. Perhaps you could install a
perforated drain pipe and cover it with soil and gravel and create a large french drain.
Another option may be to create an underground retention area. This could be a concrete
or plastic vault,an area of gravel or other permeable media or a series of large diamter
corrugated pipe. The surrounding soil would have to be permeable enough and of
sufficient volume to absorb the drainage water or you an outlet will be needed to drain
the water to. This would allow you to plant over the area. I would not recommend using
leaves for water retention. That could produce odor and attract pests.
An at grade retention area consisting of stones or gravel covered with soil may be an
option if the surrounding soil is permeable enough to accept the drainage water or can be
piped or channeled to another suitable outlet.
A planted or rock lined drainage ditch leading to an outlet could be another option.
Construct the ditch in a V shape. You want to either drain the water away to an outlet or
make structures that will allow the water to drain away into the surrounding soil. Just
ponding the water is not desirable. The water must drain away in 48 to 72 hours. Hope
this helps. Good luck.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

134. Italian Cypress


I live in Foxboro, MA and would like to plant Italian Cypress trees as a buffer between
my property and my neighbors. Am I in the right zone to plant these trees? They will
have sun but my concern is the winter months? Thank you in advance for any advice you
can give me.

Answer:
You are located too far north for italian cypress. I would not recommend italian cypress
for a residence anyway because it looks too formal and out of scale in residential settings.
I would suggest the following pyramidal shaped privacy plants:
lombardy poplar:
This tree has risk factors involved in its planting that include disease,invasive roots and
deformation of its form. These things appear mainly in the later growth stages. This tree
also tends to be shorter lived (average 20 years). Other varieties,such as theves and
tower,have less of these problems but are still subject to the same problems to some
degree. The positives are that this tree has a very fast growth rate,can be purchased
cheaply and in its early years,has a very nice shape for a privacy hedge.
arborvitae
thuja
juniperis chinensis (spartan)
leyland cypress
eastern red cedar
blue spruce
These plants will not present any special problems in the winter. I sent this as a rejected
question. Sorry,hit the wrong button. Hope this helps. Good luck.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

135. Shade Tree For Pool And Deck


I am hoping to plant some trees for shade near my above ground swimming pool. I have
a deck around my pool that stands around 6 feet tall with a railing that is another 4 feet
off the floor of the deck (10 feet). My driveway runs right next to the decking leaving a 4
ft. space where I would like to plant the trees. So, I am looking for a type of tree that will
offer some shade to the deck with foilage 10 ft and taller that will not penetrate it's roots
through my driveway ruining the blacktop. I would like to plant them in this 4 ft space. I
am also concerned about trees that flower or fruit because I do not want to attract bees
around the pool. I am also concerned about the leaves in the fall. I don't want a mess to
clean out of the pool every fall. I live in Ohio and the area ranges from wet to dry
depending on the climate. There is not very good drainage from the 4 ft area when it
rains. The area is in full day sun. Temps range from -15 to 105 degrees depending on the
season.Do you have any suggestions for me?????

Answer:
Below is a list of flowering and non-flowering evergreen street trees. Limiting yourself to
non-flowering will reduce your choices,so you may want to reconsider that. None of
these trees will do well in wet soil. If the soil floods and then drains out within 48
hours,that should be fine.
Evergreen Pear (flowering)
Southern Magnolia (flowering)
California Pepper Tree (flowering)
Eucalyptus Microtheca (flowering)
Alligator Juniper (non-flowering,fruit inconspicuous)
Silk Oak (Grevilla robusta) (flowering,fruit inconspicuous)
Sitka Spruce (non-flowering)
Silver Dollar Gum (Eucalyptus polyanthemos) (flowering)
Canary Island Pine (flowers not significant)
Torrey Pine (flowering)
Bishop Pine (flowering)
Red Western Cedar (Thuja Plicata) (flowers not significant)
Carob Tree (flowering)

Hope this helps. Good luck.


Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
Reader Comment: Very fast response and very helpful.

136. Retaining Wall


I have a slight hill around 2-3 feet high at its peak, at the foot of the hill is a sidewalk that
leads right to my pool. The hill keeps washing dirt into the pool at heavy rainstorms. I
was thinking of building a wall out of railroad ties (landscape timbers) with drainage
rocks behind it to prevent the mud slides. How would I go about doing this the right way,
and how much drainage rock would I need?

Answer:
Place drainage gravel no larger than 3/4 inch at the face of the wall. Make the width
about 2 feet and take it to about 1 foot from the top of the wall. A drainage pipe placed at
the bottom of the wall may also be helpful and to further aid drainage,place a swale at the
top of the wall. Filter cloth placed behind the gravel may be a good idea to prevent silt
from clogging the gravel.
Run rebar or threaded rod all the way through each of the timbers and/or nail 1 by 4 or
larger pieces of treated lumber to both faces of the timbers,going perpendicularly to the
timbers.
Heel the bottom of the timber wall into the toe of the hill and tilt the wall back a couple
of degrees to increase the walls resistance to being tipped over. The wall must be
anchored by "deadmen". These could be timbers placed perpendicularly to the face of the
wall and anchored behind the wall with stakes or steel cables tied to concrete anchors.
Hope this helps. Good luck.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
Reader Comment: Thanks a lot! Your answer was a great help!

137. Jacaranda Trees


My mother-in-law lives in the Clovis/Fresno area. She is having a 75th birthday party
and she really wants a Jacaranda Tree. It looks like they may not do well in her area.
She cannot find them in the local nurseries up there.
Will this tree grow in Fresno? If not, can you recommend a tree that might be similar?

Answer:
There have been reports of this tree growing in the Fresno area but for each individual
case it would be an uncertain proposition,so I would not recommend it. The Fresno area
may be too far north for the jacaranda tree. The jacaranda tree is most suited to coastal
regions and would do well along the Central California Coast but would not fare as well
inland.
Here is a list of other drought tolerant specimen trees:
dogwood
maple
cherry
fringetree
birch (gray or poplar)
Hope this helps. Good luck.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
Reader Comment: I felt the response I got was excellent. However, my mother-in-law
is still determined to try to get this Jacaranda tree to live in Clovis. I do believe the
information mark Provided was true and correct. His response was certainly cordial and
polite. I will definately use this service again.

138. Garden Path Border Plants


Hello, Mark. Hope you're having a great weekend! We are located in Zone 5 and have a
large shady garden under a group of pine trees consisting of primarily hosta and ferns
varieties. I will be installing a concrete pathway winding through the area by using a 2 ft.
x 2 ft. plastic template to give the path the appearance of a stone path. I am looking for a
plant variety in the 6 in. to 12 in. height range to line the edges of the entire path. Would
you be kind enough to offer any suggestions for the edging of my shade garden path in
Zone 5? Thanks so much and take care!

Answer:
Traditional plants for such a purpose would include:
astilbe
perrenial cornflower
siberian wallflower
coreopsis
fringed bleeding heart
mist flower
hemerocalllis middendorfi
herchera angguinea
hosta
herbaceous spirea
papaver nudicaule
platycodon mariesi
centaurea
daylily
coralbell
plantainlily
sea lavender
iceland poppy
balloon flower

Not all of these plants grow strictly to 1 foot high but limiting yourself to that height
would substantially narrow the list. The above listed plants do not grow over 2 feet high.
Below is a list of herbs that can be used for a border. These herbs are either edible or
have medicinal value:
thyme
sage
garlic chives
bee balm
circle onion
chrysanthemum
catnip
chamomile
marjoram
oregano
burnet
winter savory
The entire list consists of perrenials. Hope this helps. Good luck.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
Reader Comment: Very thorough answer! Mark gave me more info than I ever expected.
HIGHLY recommended. Thanks, bro!

139. Type Of Shrubs


Hi Mark, I wrote to you previously regarding having privacy in my backyard without too
many trees. You mentioned to use some type of shrubs, are there any names in particular?
I live in southern California. I appreciate your help.

Answer:
Here is a list of privacy shrubs and trees:
Shrubs:
juniper
spruce
arborvitae
privet
holly
forsythia
butterfly bush
lilac
spirea
holly (tall varieties)

Trees:
dogwood
crape myrtle
serviceberry

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
Reader Comment: Thank you Mark, I was so clueless and becoming so frustrated
because I don't know anything about trees and did not know what to do to make my
backyard look better. I appreciate the list of shrubs and trees you provided. I am looking
forward for my new project.

140. River Rock Creekbed


I'm installing a river rock creekbed as a landscape feature, but that will also channel water
during heavy rains (which we have plenty of in W. Washington!). the soil is a weird mix
around here, but includes plenty of silty material that I'd rather not have flowing out the
lower end the the creek. Is it advisable to lay sand and/or gravel under the river rock?

Answer:
Do not place sand or gravel under the rock. The water will simply wash it back out. Sand
and gravel placed under the rocks will do nothing to aid drainage with such a large
volume of water moving at speed. Since the sand or gravel will likely be undermined,it
will not make a good storage area for sediment and even if it were to remain stable,it
would eventually completely clog with sediment and be rendered ineffective. Cleaning it
out would be inconvenient,since it would be covered with rock and mixed with heavy
sand and gravel.
If you would like to avoid this maintenance it may be possible to simply "let ole mother
nature have her way" and let the sediment build up naturally. Such a situation would be
what occurs in a natural stream bed. The water will change course as the sediment
deposits,creating an "ox bow" effect and the sediment will fan out.
You should try to capture sediment at the entrance to the creek. This will keep sediment
out of the creek and make cleaning it out more convenient. This can be accomplished by
constructing a pool area with check dams or plants,if necessary,to slow down the water.
The pool should be higher in elevation than the creek and have a spillway for controlling
entry of water into the creek. Line the entry point to the pool with rocks and/or plants to
prevent erosion and plant the entire pool area to further trap sediment. The outlet can be
treated in a similar fashion if erosion will be a problem there. There are devices to control
overflow at the outlet. Good luck.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
Reader Comment: Mark not only answered my question very clearly, but offered
additional very helpful advice in a related area that I wasn't smart enough to even ask the
question.

141. Drain Pipe Decoration


I have just replaced the underground pipe that my downspouts %26 gutters are attached
to. It drains into a flowerbed at the lower portion of my property at the road. I would like
cover the end of the pipe with something ornate such as a flower or a lions head etc.that
the water can flow through. I need something to dress it up. The pipe is 3". Any ideas?

Answer:
Concrete,metal and plastic garden art is available in the form of fountains and plaques
that may suit your tastes and perhaps you could have something custom made,if you dont
find something that fits off the rack,so to speak. Perhaps you could place a small pool at
the end of the pipe,combined with some aquatic or semi-aquatic plants or something like
ornamental grass or sedge for an area that will not always contain water.
The pipe outlet should have some kind of erosion control and so perhaps you could place
attractive rocks,such as flagstone, at the end of the pipe. Water coming out of the end of
the pipe at speed tends to scour away the soil,so rocks or some other method to break the
speed of the water should be placed at the pipe end. Good luck.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
Reader Comment: THANK YOU MARK

142. Poplar Roots


Our neighbour planted a poplar tree five years ago. It has grown quickly and I can see
suckers coming up in my lawn, and I thik they are sucking up the nutrients and killing the
grass. Can I dig up and cut the roots without killing the tree?

Answer:
The roots can be removed. Use some type of manual cutting tool or use a stump grinder.
A wire saw may prove to be a convenient tool since you would only have to slip it under
the root. Burning may also prove effective. This method may stop the roots from
growing. Mechanical removal methods do not stop the roots from growing again. In
general,remove no more than 1 third of the total tree roots and stay outside of the drip
line (the circular line on the ground defined by the edge of the tree canopy). Good luck.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

143. Will Chlorine Harm Plants


I have an above ground pool. I am putting rocks around the pool, but would like to put
some plants in a few spots. What kind of plants would hold up to the chlorine water
hitting them? Also, the area receives a lot of sun.
Answer:
There have been no reports of chlorine in pool water harming plants. The chlorine level
of the pool water is relatively low and is not much greater than the chlorine content of
ordinary tap water,which is used to water plants. Salt water is harmful to plants and
contains a much higher chlorine content than pool water. Even salt spray on plants can
hinder their growth or kill them.
The main concern you will have with full sun in the pool area is an elevated temperature
and that will mean your plants will require more water,so you may want to choose
drought tolerant plants. Mulch the plants whenever possible to conserve moisture. Good
luck.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

144. Lawn Drainage


I have had standing water issues as well as soggy areas every few years since I have
owned my home. Some years back I had a contractor install french drains to keep the
water from coming into my basement and it worked well. However, since my water table
is high and we have underground springs, every few years some portion of my lawn has
water when the springs change direction. I have researched how to do the french drain
my self and have dug a trench 60 X 12 feet to the previous french drain and have a decent
pitch to make sure it flows in that direction. Yet, I can't seem to get the water to flow in
the direction I want. Do you think I just need to continue to dredge the trench until it
flows in the direction I want? If the pitch was decent enough, shouldn't I see the water
going in the direction I want after digging the trench and even before I lay the piping?

Any guidance would be appreciated!

ANSWER:
Perhaps the problem is that the outlet for the pipes is not extending past the groundwater.
If the entire structure of piping is sitting under groundwater than no positive drainage will
take place. To drain groundwater,a herringbone or some other grid structure of piping is
necessary,spaced according to soil type.
There could be several drainage solutions,depending on a drainage analysis of the
property. A grid structure of drainage pipe is one of the most common approaches for
draining groundwater but springs can sometimes make other methods necessary as they
present a different set of problems than groundwater alone.
The water has to flow to some point. Where does the trench you dug lead to. If it leads to
an area of more groundwater or an impervious layer of soil there will not be drainage.
Good luck.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

FOLLOW-UP
Hello and thank you for your earlier reply. At present, I have not placed the pipes in my
trench. I have been attempting to get the water to flow in the direction I want first. That
is toward the existing french drain that a contractor placed for me about 5 years ago. I
have begun the trench at about 6 inches and have dug about 18 -24 inches toward the
direction I wish for it to go. My research on the web tells me that with such a pitch it
should flow in the direction I want. However, it isn't and the trench has most of the water
at the end I don't want. I do not know if there are actually underground springs. A
neighbor was sharing with me that we had such. I just can't seem to get the pitch right to
get the water going in the direction I want. My question is .......if the pitch is correct in
the trench ( before I lay the pipes) shouldn't the water flow in the direction I want?

Answer:
Perhaps the problem is that the outlet for the pipes is not extending past the groundwater.
If the entire structure of piping is sitting under groundwater than no positive drainage will
take place. To drain groundwater,a herringbone or some other grid structure of piping is
necessary,spaced according to soil type.
There could be several drainage solutions,depending on a drainage analysis of the
property. A grid structure of drainage pipe is one of the most common approaches for
draining groundwater but springs can sometimes make other methods necessary as they
present a different set of problems than groundwater alone.
The water has to flow to some point. Where does the trench you dug lead to. If it leads to
an area of more groundwater or an impervious layer of soil there will not be drainage.

The pitch should be a minimum of 1/4 inch per 1 foot. This means that for every 1 linear
foot there should be a drop in elevation of 1/4 inch. Sometimes the pitch has to be greater
to compensate for friction. The surface of a bare trench is not the same as the surface of a
plastic,metal or concrete pipe. The pitch can be adjusted up higher to achieve different
flow velocities. The flow velocity of a 1/4 inch in 1 foot pitch on bare soil will not be the
same velocity as in a pipe. If possible,making the pitch somewhat greater will help clear
out sediment but either too little or too much flow velocity is not desirable.
The existing french drains may not have the capacity to handle more water placed in
them from the pipes you are proposing. As I mentioned earlier,if you have
groundwater,take the traditional gridwork pipe structure approach. This is the same
technique used to drain agricultural fields. Perhaps the french drains are clogged and have
stopped working.
Determine the high point and low point of the pipe run and then fasten a string between
these two points. Keep the grading even with the string.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

145. Shade Tolerant Grass


What type of grass is better for shade? Please advise. Thanks.

Answer:
First on the list would be fescue. This is a very shade tolerant and hardy grass. Also,there
are plants that highly resemble grass such as liriope ("monkey grass") and the mondo
grasses. Shade tolerant ground covers would include pachysandra and periwinkle. Good
luck.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
146. Median Strip Planting
The entry to our neighborhood has a median strip about 3 to 4 feet wide (I'm not sure
how long but long). The builder had planted flowering trees, all but one has died and I
think that one is on its way out. I'm guessing the space is too small for the trees and/or
their roots. Right now there is one tree and some tulips and that is it. What plant or plants
can be put in there that will work and enhance the curb appeal of the entry to the
neighborhood? Since it's a median strip, nothing too high. The trees were fine since they
were spaced far enough apart to see through them. Probably need low maintenance plants
and possibly drought resistance. We are in zone 7.

ANSWER:
Use a visibility triangle. The apex is typically 50 feet from the intersection and then the
sides of the triangle extend out about 50 to 200 feet. Any low plants in this area should
not exceed a height of 2 feet 6 inches. High branched street trees may be used in the area
if not too closely spaced. Keep the spacing about 10 to 12 feet apart.
Consider planting a low shrub mass and/or ornamental grass in combination with street
trees. Consult with someone knowledgeable about trees and the soil conditions there. The
spacing sounds adequate for street trees. There could be many reasons why the trees died.
Examples of drought resistant street trees would include:
green ash
hedge maple
golden rain tree
callery pear
amur maple
Juniper and yew are examples of drought resistant shrubs. Good luck.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
--------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

With the triangle idea, just to clarify, the median strip is long and skinny (3 to 4 feet
across or wide), so I'm not sure what you mean about the triangle idea. This strip
separates the road coming into the neighborhood with the outgoing road and it not very
wide. I LOVE the golden rain tree idea. I think that might work.

Answer:
The visibility triangle applies to intersections. Perhaps I misunderstood and there is no
intersection but you mentioned not wanting the plants too high and mention another road
involved. If there is no intersection then I see no reason for height restrictions. You cant
have plants too high at the corners of intersections because they will block the view of
oncoming traffic from drivers who are turning from one road to the other. A certain
distance measured down one side of the corner makes the first leg of the triangle and then
a certain distanced measured down the other side makes the second leg. The third line is
the hypotenuse. This is similarly done on the other corner and the lines of the two
hypotenuse when extended until they meet will determine an area of clear visibility for
drivers in the intersection. For the type of divided road you have mentioned,the triangle
may have to extend out 250 feet on the drivers side of the intersection.
All plants and objects exceeding a height of 2 feet 6 inches must be kept out of the area
defined by the triangle.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

147. 6x6 Cedar Post - Structurally sound?


Good afternoon!
I'm working on the design for a fence...and I've almost made up my mind. The kicker is
what size fence posts to use. My choices are an 8x8 cedar post or a 6x6 cedar post.
Obviously, the 6x6 is cheaper and, personally, I think it will look aesthetically more
pleasing next to the 6x6 posts that are on my pergola over the back porch.
My question. I plan on mortising, in the middle (actually, offset slightly to allow for the
pickets), for the 2x4 runners. Let me throw some measurements at you:
Mortise in 2" on each side (maybe only 1.75"). This leaves either 2 or 2.5 inches in the
middle from one direction. I'll mortise in 1 7/8" from the rear and 2 5/8" from the front
(my picket size is a full 3/4"). Thus, at three spots on my 6 foot cedar post I will have
about a 2x2" "weak spot".
What do you think? Is that structurally sound? If not, I could go with the 8x8; however,
I'd much prefer the 6x6.
Thanks for any advice you may have! I mainly just want your honest opinion :). FYI -
I'm also an expert on Allexperts...Microsoft Excel forum.

Answer:
By allowing 1-3/4 inch for each 2 by 4 rail you will have a total of 2-1/2 inches of free
space in which to adjust the location of the rails. I would just locate the rails through the
center of the 6 by 6 posts if the offset you mentioned is not critical to the design. A 6 by 6
post can accomodate two 2 by 4 rails without any loss of strength. Offsetting the location
of the rails should not be a problem.
You have chosen a good way to construct a fence and you have chosen a good
material,cedar,which is highly resistant to rot and is produced naturally. The mortise
method of course requires no fasteners and is actually stronger than other connection
methods. Good luck. I will check out your post on all experts.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
Reader Comment: Thanks for the expert opinion! I like your idea of going with the
2.5" buffer instead of the 2"...glad you agree that the post will still be strong. Thanks!

148. Concrete Retaining Wall Question


I need to build a small retaining wall on the lower side of my house. It'll be about two
feet high at the edge of the house, making a 90-degree turn (curved, not sharp) and going
along my driveway. The total length will be about 23 feet, and at the other end it's only
going to be about a foot high. I am going to put some topsoil behind it, and some sod on
top...so it does need to be fairly sturdy. I would LIKE to build it out of poured concrete,
then later on put some faux-stone on it so it'll look a little better.
My biggest problem is figuring out how to build a mold to include that curved 90-degree
turn. I thought maybe I could use some quarter-inch plywood, and I wanted to know if
you thought that would work. Also, any suggestions or recommendations you might
have (even on other forms of construction) would be very welcome.

Answer:
Materials you can use include plywood,masonite,bender board (redwood and plastic) and
other forms of composite, bendable concrete form material (some claim to have superior
bending properties).
If you use plywood,stay with 1/4 inch. This size will be much easier to bend. Wetting the
plywood will aid in bending. Construct a frame to mount the plywood or other material
to. This could be perhaps pieces made of thicker 1/2 inch strips of plywood or bender
board. Bender board comes in 2 x 4 size strips and in lesser sizes. Use spacer sticks to
keep the form a uniform width and tie the two sides together with heavy wire or threaded
rod. Mount support braces to the sides and to the ends. A frame and bracing is necessary
so that no bulges form in the sides of the wall. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of
further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
Reader Comment: Very quick and thorough response, along with some helpful
suggestions. Thanks, Mark!

149. French Drains For Basement Drainage


Three years ago I relocated to DC from the midwest. For a myriad of reasons, I
hate my house and the one redeeming feature was the yard. UNTIL, last year I started
having severe drainage issues. I have pooled water in a low area of the yard that rarely
dries out and my sump pump (in a below grade basement) gushes every 2 minutes on
average. While the water is entertaining for the cat, it does not amuse me. Every
contractor I speak with suggests french drains but I wonder about their viability given
that the basement is below grade and the sump pump below the basement. I need help
and a plan! I've attached a series of photos that I sent to one of the contractors requesting
clarification. If you see anything helpful I'd sure appreciate any help you could give.

Answer:
French drains can be useful for intercepting water around the perimeter of a house and
thus stop it before it gets to the basement. Perhaps that is what the contractor is
suggesting.
If the problem is groundwater then a french drain may not be effective since such a drain
cannot function below the water table. Perforated drain pipe is one method to deal with
groundwater. A footing drain around the perimeter of the foundation may be another part
of solving the problem,assuming you do not already have such a drain. This type of drain
can be used in combination with a FIN drain,which is a permeable board attached to the
foundation wall.
You should of course understand what the contractor is proposing to do and what the
reasons are for any structures. Your property should be analyzed as a whole to arrive at a
satisfactory drainage solution. You say that the pool rarely dries out and that strongly
suggests groundwater.
French drains will reduce the load on the sump pump if the water in question is surface
water. You can apply for a permit to attach the sump pump to a storm drain. Such a
connection must be installed by a licensed plumber. Other options may include disposing
of all or some of the water on your own property by discharing it into a permeable
detention area of some type but if the general area contains high groundwater this may
not be an option. An underdrainage system connected to some kind of outlet sounds like a
better solution. Filling the pooled area in could be an option. A permit is needed to work
with any amount of soil over 5 cubic yards. Hauling soil in can be expensive but perhaps
the soil could be borrowed from another spot on the site.
Perhaps the water could be pumped out of the pooled area. Having a pump constantly
running is not desirable but depending on how much water there is and at what rate it is
infiltrating the area,the pump may be able to remove enough water to keep the area dry or
simply moist without running constantly. Wind or solar power could reduce the energy
costs of such pumping.
I received only one photo. There appears to be a natural swale near the bush to the right
of the tree. Perhaps that could be used to some advantage after you get a clear picture of
what the exact drainage problem is and obtain a plan of what actions need to be taken.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

150. Tree For Small Area


I’m hoping you can help me…
I have a 8’x8’ garden, in which I’d like to plant a tree. There are no overhead wires, and
the tree canopy can be large as there is nothing near by. Here’s the catch…surrounding
the 8’x8’ garden is mostly concrete (driveway, patio, etc). Also, I live in Minneapolis,
Minnesota. (it gets cold here in the winter!)
Is there a species that will do better in that type of space?

Answer:
Choose a tree from a list that have proven to perform well in tight urban situations. These
trees are commonly known as "street trees". A partial list is given below:
allee elm (good canopy tree,can be planted at large size)
linden (street and canopy tree)
green ash
quaking aspen
birch
maple

These trees will grow in your zone. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

151. Root Barriers


I have been told by a foundation repair company that the hollies planted near my
foundation take more water out of the foundation than a tree and they should all be pulled
out. Do you agree they should not be planted around foundations?

ANSWER:
Doesnt sound very likely that you could have enough hollies to match the water holding
capacities of a tree but in general all shrubs should be kept a minimum of 5 feet from the
foundation wall and trees should be kept a minimum of 15 feet or the distance of the
canopy spread from the wall. keep shrubs 5 feet from the wall in order to avoid problems
caused to the foundation wall by watering the shrubs.
Trees can remove enough water from the soil and cause problems if they are planted too
close to the foundation wall. Water problems of this nature (shrink/swell) occur with
sensitive clay soils. If too much water is added to the soil then swelling occurs,which can
cause the foundation to move and crack and similarly,if too much water is withdrawn
from the soil,the foundation can move. This movement is known as differential
movement. Movement is promoted by having a wet area next to a dry area. When there is
a uniform,evenly distributed state of moisture,movement is less likely. Water problems of
this type are not likely with loam/sand soil or gravel fill.
You may be fine with leaving the holly in place if you have good drainage around the
wall. Watering the holly would not have anymore effect than rain. Depending on the
situation some foundation walls will have moisture problems where others will not. Some
walls need only a footing drain while others may benefit from an impermeable layer,such
as a concrete apron around the perimeter,a FIN drain and waterproofing. Water can have
a damaging cumulative effect over a period of years,however. Considering this fact,it is
always a good idea to keep as much water as possible away from foundation walls. Some
houses have roof overhangs that may provide all or most of the protection that an
impermeable perimeter apron would provide. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of
further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Thanks for your time Mark. I have another question....what are your thoughts on root
barriers for trees? I have a 22 yr old tree about 15 feet from the foundation and have
been advised I need to put in a root barrier between the tree and house for the tune of
approx $600. My soil is CLAY -North Texas!

Answer:
I place no faith at all in root barriers. They do not have a proven track record and often in
fact, the tree roots simply go under the barrier or over it in search of water. These barriers
have proven useful in clay soil because they can cause the clay to retain water and keep
the water content of the clay in a balanced state. If you have heavy clay around your
foundation wall,then such a barrier may be useful for that purpose. It may cost about the
same or a bit more to have the tree removed if it becomes a problem, rather than use a
root barrier.
The tree roots are not likely to damage your foundation wall or remove an appreciable
amount of water from around the wall. In their natural state,tree roots spread out close to
the surface in order to collect water and nutrients and since a root barrier forces the roots
downward,there is some concern that root barriers are not healthy for trees. The main
idea is to use the right tree in the right place and so expensive "fixes" like root barriers
will not be necessary. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
Reader Comment: Great advice Mark. Thank you for volunteering your time - this is a
great website. I've recommended it to several friends.

152. Landscaping For Driveway


I am looking to install landscaping along the driveway side of my home. My driveway is
stone and the area is 30'x4'. I am looking for suggestions in what material to use for
edging and how much topsoil I will need in order for the shrubs to grow. The topsoil and
edging material will be installed directly over the existing stone driveway.
Answer:
A variety of materials could be used as a container for the shrubs,including
concrete,brick,wood and stone. The depth of the container would depend on what size the
shrubs are. The soil under the driveway should be relatively porous to allow for good
drainage,otherwise the container may flood or water will pour out from the bottom onto
other areas. Make drain holes in the bottom of the driveway. Alternatively,install a drain
under the planter to carry any excess water to a disposal point. Good luck. Let me know
if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

153. Raised Flower Bed Next To Garage


I would like to build a raised flower bed along the side of my garage where weeds love to
grow. How far away from the wall of the garage do I need to place the flower bed? Also,
the yard tends to be wet. Will the flower bed help keep water away from the garage or
make the problem worse?

Answer:
Locating the bed a mimimum of 5 feet from the wall would be a good way to prevent
water collecting around the garage wall,but of course that would not allow you to address
the weed problem near the wall.
Another option may be to build the bed next to the wall but with a plastic,clay,concrete or
concrete paver apron underneath to keep water from soaking down around the wall. It
would be desirable to have the ground sloped away from the garage.
Yet another option may be to install an underdrain at the footing of the garage foundation
and perhaps a dimbled memebrane or "waterboard" on the surface of the garage
foundation wall. This FIN drain will drain water away vertically from the wall and empty
out into the footing drain. The footing drain of course needs an outlet. A better idea
would be to keep water away from the wall to begin with by using the above mentioned
aprons or locating the bed away from the wall.
The bed will not have any effect in keeping water away from the wall. If installed next to
the wall without drainage,the problem of water collecting around the garage foundation
wall will vary in intensity,depending on how large the bed is and how much water gets in
it. If the soil contains alot of clay then swelling could become a problem and that could
crack or move the foundation. A footing drain or other drainage structures around the
permimeter of the garage would be a better option to deal with water problems around the
garage.
It is also a good idea not to have any kind of organic mulch around buildings. This could
attract termites and other nuisance insects. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further
help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

Reader Comment: The expert's reply was very good. Unfortunately, it was not very
helpful, since I own only a sliver of the land to the north of my driveway; although he has
prevented me from increasing the amount of snow on my driveway.

154. Outside Basement Doors


Question: We are about to landscape our backyard, but we do not want our outside
cellar doors showing? Any suggestions?

Answer:
Place plantings in front of the door or place plantings to block the point of view from the
landscaped area to the door. Another option may be to place a fence or trellis in front of
the door. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

155. Soil Against Foundation


Hi, I need to raise the ground level around the foundation of my house, about 6-8", so
that rain water flows away from the house. It is regular grass lawn at the foundation.
What is the best soil/loam/sand to use? Is the any better season(s) in which to do it? I live
in the north east & near the sea.Thanks, Gregg
Answer:
The only weather restrictions on working with soil are frozen ground and overly wet
ground. For the grass to do well you cannot have too much clay or sand. Clay would
produce a semi permeable surface that would promote water running off the surface and
sand would produce a permeable soil. However,grass does best in loam and would not do
well in a highly clay or sandy soil. I would try to obtain the maximum clay content
possible that would still permit the grass to grow. Certain plants,some with a grasslike
appearance, and some ornamental grasses tolerate clay soil. I would aim to make the clay
content near 50 percent.
If you want to keep loam soil next to the foundation then consider placing a clay layer
under the loam.
Sloping the ground will not prevent all water from seeping around the foundation and if
you experience further drainage problems after you slope the ground,you may need to
install subsurface drainage.
Other methods are to use are plastic sheeting to keep water from entering the soil around
the foundation,the use of a concrete apron around the foundation and the use of
underground clay caps and gravel fill. A footing drain is usually necessary. This is a
perforated drain pipe or some other channel that carries water away from the foundation.
Of course the water must discharge into an outlet of some kind or soak into the ground
away from the foundation.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
Comment: Useful, thanks!

156. Covering An Unsightly Area On Outside Brick Wall


Thanks for taking your time to help me out on this problem if you can. We have an area
on the outside of our stucco brick house where the airconditioner used to be. We moved it
to the back of the house, and now there's this large area from the ground up that was
patched where the piping was. It was patched but because it is stucco brick it looks like a
patch job. Can you give me ANY suggestions on ways to cover this part of the wall up
without it looking like we were trying to patch a patch job???

Answer:
Painting may hide the patch or consider using a finely meshed trellis (with or without
plants). Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

157. Wet Yard


At the back of my yard I have a small brook,my yard gets sun all day.When I cut the
grass (mostly weed)it always seams damp no matter what time of day.when it rains it
seams to hold water for a while.What can I do to get the yard to dry out faster,and what
kind of grass can I put down that will grow nice under these conduction.(rain gutters do
not run into back yard)
Answer:
Sounds like you may have a marsh type of ground there. Consider using drainage pipe
under the area. There must be an outlet for the pipe. If the soil is clay add organic matter
and coarse sand,crushed rock or pea gravel to improve drainage. The sand or crushed
rock must be coarse. Fine sand will further harden clay soil. Pea gravel should not be
over 3/8 inch in diameter. Decomposed granite is a good crushed rock product to improve
drainage in clay soil. Use a 1 to 1 ratio for these amendments.

The following plants may do well in moist conditions:


lemon grass
rye grass
monkey grass
ornamental grass
meadow grass
sedge
marsh marigold

Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.


Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

158. Plants That Absorb Lots Of Water!


I live in zone 5 (Chicago) and have a back yard which floods in one area when the rain is
heavy. This is an area that is shaded by trees. We have installed a drain, but I was
hoping there might be some plants that I could plant in abundance to help.

Answer:
It is not practical to use plants to drain an area. Drainage is done with permeable
soil,retention areas,rain gardens,drywells,french drains,etc... Let me know if I can be of
further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

159. Flooding
My backyard has a low area that repeatedly floods. Researching for solutions all suggest
drainage tubing, berms, swells, ditches, etc. Due to the small size of my yard,the
proximity of my neighbors, and the main fact that all of the surrounding area is uphill
from the low area, these are not workable. I've looked at dry well kits sold at local home
stores, but I don't think they would be able to handle the amount of water I get.
Answer:
The plastic drywells from the kits can be placed together in battery form. It would be a
matter of determining the volume of water involved and placing the required number of
drywells accordingly. You would have to excavate an area approximately 4 to 6 feet deep
to place the drywells. A more shallow excavation containing permeable material such as
gravel or rocks or sections of sealed large diameter corrugated drain pipe could also be a
possibility but this would have to spread over a wider area than drywells. Any retention
area containing gravel or rocks or any permeable material reduces the volume of water
that can be contained because the material takes up space in the area. Drywells and drain
pipe contain only empty space and so can hold more water. The drywells you saw at your
local home store may be smaller than drywells available elsewhere.
Another possibility could be to install a cistern. This could be constructed of concrete or
masonry. This method would prevent water from saturating the surrounding soil and
would also aid in maintenance as it would be easier to service in the way of cleaning than
a filled retention basin. Over time a filled retention basin will fill with silt and the
materials must be replaced. The water could slowly leak out through a hole in the bottom
or sides. An overflow pipe would relieve any excess water. This method would also allow
you to use the water for your garden or some other purpose. Water could enter the cistern
from a top drain inlet,screened to exclude debri. Covered with a layer of soil of about 18
inches,this method would allow you to use the ground above and would offer more
storage volume than a filled retention basin. Prefabricated plastic cisterns are available.
I would also suggest a retention basin,which is sometimes also called a rain garden or
bioretention basin. It could simply be an area of permeable soil or some type of
"engineered soil" placed in various layers to achieve the greatest degree of drainage
possible. With a rain garden you will have to accept a certain amount of water for up to
48 hours and this will restrict your use of the area but if you want to use the area for
planting,then you could fill the area with plants that thrive in rain gardens. These plants
could also include certain edible types. The soil surrounding the retention basin must be
permeable enough to allow the water to drain sufficiently.
An outlet for some of the water may be desirable. You may want to try to get permission
from your municipality to connect to the storm drain. Most often the connection must be
done by a licensed plumber. It may also be possible to discharge some of the water off
site,say onto a low traffic road but there must be no possibility of water standing on the
road. This water could cause a traffic hazard and can freeze in winter.
The lifespan of these structures can be extended by using some type of device to trap
sediment before it reaches the structure. These sediment traps require periodic cleaning.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
Reader Comment: Mark responded quickly to my question. It was easy to understand
and has given me ideas to look into.

160. Invasive Willow Tree


Last year I had five blue spruces installed in the west part of my yard 15 feet from the
property line. My neighbor planted a willow in the same area, but a foot from the
property line. We live in Northwest part of Illinois. Will the willows trunk begin to
grow onto our property and will the tree over shadow my evergreen trees?

Answer:
The weeping willow has a spread of 35 feet and reaches a mature height of 30 to 40 feet
high. Other species of willow can be 10 feet less in spread and height. The blue spruce
reaches a mature height of 50 to 75 feet and sometimes reaches a height of 100 feet. Its
spread is 25 feet. The spread is the diameter of the tree canopy measured from the center
of the trunk. Depending on the species,the branches of the willow could reach 10 to 12
feet onto your property. It is likely that your blue spruce will not be impacted by the
willows branches but the willow may compete with the spruce for water.
The average trunk diameter of weeping willow is 2 feet. The roots of willow can be very
invasive. The roots will spread far out in search of water and so if you have a sidewalk or
pipes near the tree in question you could get damage to these structures. Good luck. Let
me know if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

161. Garden Trees


I am dividing a section of the garden but do not want to use a hedge or fence - approx 15
m. I want to use trees with rounded doming habit if possible but they should not get
beyond 10 m finished height - not topierised or pleached - does not need to be evergreen.
Any ideas gratefully accepted and ideas of where to get them for planting this year. I
thought about mulberry but can only get a feathered tree of 4 foot so just too small to start
with.
Answer:
Here is a list of trees meeting your requirements:
allee elm (good canopy tree,can be planted at large size)
linden (street and canopy tree)
birch
maple
hybrid willow
oak
siberian elm
green ash
quaking aspen
hawthorn

The only suggestion I can give about obtaining these trees is check with a local nursery.
Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

162. Hardscaping
Hi my name is Jeff. I live in the Hamilton NJ area. I am a lawn service. I am starting to
do hardscaping. I need to know the right way to price retaining walls and patios. I don't
know if its by the sq ft or by the job. I was hoping to get some advice because I don't
want to lose money on this type of thing I want to make money. So if you can get back to
me on how I can do this while Im on the job or if its better to go home to do it on my
computer. Please get back to me and give me a good way of doing this so I can take it out
on the field and do it the right way.

Answer:
I would not make any cost estimates without drawings,produced by you or your client.
With a drawing,based on a careful survey of the site,you can get a much more accurate
cost estimate,than one produced by "guesstimating".
Breaking the structures to be constructed into square or lineal foot units is a convenient
way to take the total cost of doing the job and transfer it to the project.
I suppose you could base some of your work on sketches made in the field but to make
details and refine the drawing you will have to go back to an office. You will also have to
check material prices and look up other references,which would require you to return to
your office. Similarly,if you are given a concept or final drawing by your client,its usual
to go back to an office. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.
Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

163. Area Of Polygons


What's the best way to measure square ft. if the area is asymmetrical in shape. It
has 9 sides.
Answer:
First,break the area up into polygons such as triangles and parallelograms. Then compute
the area of the individual polygons.

The formula for computing the area of a triangle is:

A = .5bh

where A is the area

.5 is half the product of the base and height

b is the base

h is the height

The formula for computing a parallelogram is as follows:

A = bh

where A is the area

b is the base

h is the height
Formula for computing the area of a rhombus:

A = .5d1d2

where A is the area

d1 is the first diagonal

d2 is the second diagonal

Formula for computing the area of a trapezoid:

A = .5h(b1 + b2)

where A is the area

.5h is the height multiplied by half

b1 and b2 are the bases.

The area of any regular polygon,when the perimeter and apothem (a line from the
midpoint of one of the sides to the center of the polygon) is known,is:
A = .5aP

The area equals 0.5 multiplied by the apothem and perimeter.

Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

164. Stone For Slope Erosion


I have a steep driveway. On one side of the driveway (the down side) is a steep
hillside that worries me. The vegetation is brush, weeds and pampas grass. In
other words nothing I want to keep. Fearing the downside will erode and I will
lose my driveway I am thinking of rocking the hillside using 6 inch to 10 inch
diameter rocks. How do I go about this task?
Answer:
Placing stone or what is called "rip rap" will not be effective on a slope greater than 45
degrees.

Clear the slope of all vegetation and compact the soil to a density similar to the
surrounding undisturbed soil.
Layer the stone a mimimum of 9 inches thick.

Dig a keyway trench at the foot of the slope to hold the stone in place.

Lay filter fabric on the compacted slope and lay 6 inches of sand or gravel over the fabric
and then lay the stone on top. The sand/gravel and fabric will aid in holding the
underlying soil in place. Bury the fabric at the top of the slope and key it in at the bottom
of the slope.

Install a drain at the bottom of the slope if needed to channel away water from the slope.

Planting shrubs at the top of the slope,immediately above the stone,will aid in further
reducing erosion.

Good luck. Let me know if you need further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

165. Concrete Dust Killed Cedars


Greetings! We planted a row of 6' cedars along the rear of our property line this past
May. They were planted in new triple mix (to 3'), were watered every few days, and we
used 5-15-5 root stimulator. They get at least 6 hours of sun a day. They seemed to be
doing okay, until just recently. Several are looking very dry & brown in the centre. Is it
possible that concrete dust blowing on them for the past 2 weeks from a neighbours
pool/interlock patio project could have affected them? Do you have suggestions to revive
them?
Answer:
Concrete contains sodium hydroxide. Plants are very sensitive to any salt (sodium) and
can be readily killed by it. The alkalinity of the concrete dust would also act to kill plants.
The only advice I can give is to hose down the cedar and hope it lives. There is no way to
"revive" a plant poisoned by salt. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
Comment: excellent information

How can I slope my yard so the rain water will drain away from the house. It appears my
home sits lower than the rest of my yard. It also has a few low spots where water gather
and drains towards the house. I have sent a picture that may help.
Answer:
I would suggest building a swale around your house. The french drains may be carrying
some water away but it doesnt appear they are effective to control flooding around your
home. If the french drains were not covered by the sod and had an open design they
would be more effective but still not as effective as a swale,combined with drainage pipe
and trench drains or catch basins if necessary.

If a swale is too disruptive of the landscape,catch basins,located at strategic low points or


an open inlet trench drain may also prove effective or perhaps these devices could be
integrated with a smaller swale. The swale and any other drainage device will of course
need a discharge point for the water. Regarding that hump indicated by the red box,you
may want to try and level that out. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

Behind my house is a hill that is fairly steep - you can't push a wheelbarrow up the hill or
walk without walking at an incline. The area is shaded with filtered sunlight. It also has
a lot of shale rock and it is clay, has a lot of Poplar trees. I have planted azalea's, liriope,
hostas, and a few other plants for shade. Only the azalea's and hostas's have survived. It
is very dry and when it rains it is like a flood, however, I did put in a drainage wall with
piping so that my patio is not washed out. Here is the question, is there anything I can do
to this bank without spending thousands?
Answer:
First,that hill looks pretty stripped of vegetation and so look into planting some shade
tolerant,soil holding ground cover,preferably something that can also act to slow the
water down on the hill as that may be a contributing factor to the flooding. When the
water is slowed down on a hill,more of it has time to soak into the soil and therefore the
flooding will be reduced.

The roots of the ground cover will also make the soil more porous and lessen runoff on
the slope. Various types of cover crops are well adapted to performing this function.

There is probably an abundance of leaves and twigs on the slope. Till that into the soil.
This will increase the porosity of the clay and aid in the infiltration of water into the slope
and provide a more fertile soil for the plants you wish to place there. Wattles (rolls of
straw) could be staked to the slope and used to slow down the water. Fescue grass is very
shade tolerant and so you might want to consider that.

Is enough water being carried away at the foot of the slope. You say you have a wall and
pipe there but simply a drainage pipe may not be adequate. A channel able to accept a
high flow volume and carry the water away quickly could be a better solution. This could
include a trench drain,ditch or swale. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

We have unistone between our pool and the house. When it rains, the water pools in this
area. We usually go out with a broom and push the accumulated water towards the grass.
We were thinking of pulling up some unistone bricks, installing some kind of pipe to lead
the water off to the grass area, put all the bricks back except one that would be replaced
with a drain.

Is that feasible? Any other suggestions?


Answer:
First,if settlement of the pavers has occured,you might want to think about having them
reset. Sounds like settlement may be the cause for the water not draining or perhaps the
pavers were just not set to a steep enough pitch to allow for water drainage. Settlement of
pavers is a common problem and can result from inadequate compaction of the
base,unsuitable base materials,inadequate edging,frost heave and water penetration.

Experience,judgement and skill are necessary to achieve a good paver installation and
these days that is often hard to come by. Installing monolithic paving such as concrete or
asphalt can often compensate for this since less settlement occurs with this type of
pavement

A catch basin or smaller sized direct drain could solve the problem but that will need a
suitable outlet for the water. The grass you mentioned may or may not be one,depending
on how much water will be deposited on it.

Another possibility could be a retention area under the pavers. The existing pavers would
have to be replaced,at least over the inlet area,with permeable pavers or an open gridwork
with spaces to admit water. Good luck.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
Can a storm water pipe with holes and a sock over the pipe be placed in a landscaping
easement?
Answer:
You should contact the owner of the easement and request permission to drain the water.
Permission to run the pipe is subject to what impact it would have on the area;for
instance,will it cause flooding or erosion. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further
help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com

Mark: I do not know if my questions are appropriate for this site, but it is information I
need from an "insider". Could you tell me what (or which) trade magazine(s) people in
the landscaping and design business subscribe to. Also, what is the main national trade
show that professional landscapers attend. One more thing, what is the name of the main
trade association to which members of your industry belong to.
Answer:
As stated in my profile,I am not a landscaper. I only do design work,no actual
landscaping. I am not aware of any publications or trade shows concerning installation of
landscapes. I read grounds magazine on the net sometimes but this is geared more
toward golf course maintenance and groundskeeping. I do not subscribe to any design
magazines.

Concerning the design field,there is an organization called The Association of


Professional Landscape Designers and for licensed landscape architects, The American
Society of Landscape Architects. Most licensed landscape architects belong to this
organization. I do not belong to any professional organization and my guess would be
that most landscape designers do not.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
When replacing a huge oak tree on a gentle slope in Georgia, how far down must the
stump be ground and should the ground-up matter be returned to the hole and mixed with
dirt?
Answer:
It would be desirable to remove the entire stump to eliminate the possibility of sprouts
coming back up from the stump and roots. A stump grinder will cut down to about 1 foot.
A tine trencher could be used. This piece of equipment will cut to 3 feet. Or a special
stump cutter could be used.

The chips can be left in place or taken to another part of your garden or put in a compost
pile. When wood decomposes it depletes the soil of nitrogen,so you will have to apply a
fertilizer containing nitrogen if you want to plant in the area.

Hand tools such as a grub hoe,axe,shovel,root saw or wire saw may also prove useful for
anything the stump grinder or cutter cant reach. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of
further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
Comment: Thank you for a very helpful answer!

I live in New Brunswick, Canada and have a couple of drainage issues (only in the
winter). I live on a hill, the land is slightly higher (than my driveway and basement
windows) on the back side of my home. Snow will melt, and water runs onto the
driveway (later to freeze on the driveway). This ice will build up over the winter
becoming a real pain. Also, I have three basement windows close to grade. When there
is snow on the ground and we get a heavy rain, the snow collects and holds the water,
raising the water enough that it comes into my finished basement through the closed
windows. We have installed window wells however I do not wish to bring them so high
that we can not see out the window. I believe I am going to rent a back hoe to make good
trenches (to move the water to an area that will drain well) filled with 3/4" clear stone. I
think I would prefer to make a trench wider with more stone than to install piping that
may clog later? I am unsure if I should use fabric (thinking it may seal and prevent water
propagation). Also, it would be nice if I could place some soil and seed over the rock
trench system as it is would look best.
What I am wondering is will water freeze on top of the stone, soil, lawn system I propose
to install, sealing off the drainage system from taking water away? Do you have any
other suggestions? I would like to do this fix right the first time and am able to send a
couple of pictures if you feel you could better advise.
Answer:
I would suggest the idea of intercepting the water before it reaches the area. This can be
done by ditch,swale,trench drains or catch basins.

Filter fabric can be omitted if the pitch of the pipe is steep enough to allow fine sediment
to be flushed out. Otherwise it would probably be a good idea to use fabric. The soil
behind the fabric will not cause clogging.

A rock filled french drain will carry less water because the rock displaces it and a such a
french drain will clog as readily as a pipe,perhaps more so. Planting over it would also
slow the water down and give the water time to soak into the drain. I think perhaps you
would be better served by a drain with an open inlet such as a trench drain or catch
basins.

French drains are not suited well for the collection of surface water and so of course are
not suited to intercepting water from slopes,where the water is faster moving. Water
movement through the gravel in the drain would be relatively slow. You need to remove
the water at a fast rate before it can get to your driveway. The gravel in a french drain
only serves as a retention area and as a slower conduit for water and the gravel can serve
as bedding for the pipe. The water builds up and is retained in the gravel of the french
drain and then is drained away at a faster rate by the perforated french drain pipe.

A french drain with soil cover will be even less efficient at intercepting surface flow then
one where the gravel extends up to grade.
Any water frozen over the drainage devices is not moving. As it thaws out it will leak
into the drainage device.

A berm or flood wall could also be a possibility but then a retention area to hold the water
would have to be constructed behind the berm or wall. A french drain could possibly be
used to drain such a retention area.

A pic would be helpful but none of this general advice will substitute for an analysis of
the site and a plan. I would not proceed with construction until I was reasonably sure of a
good solution. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47

I want to plant a flower bed.


Do i have to remove the grass in the area i want to plant or can i just dig & turn the grass
over ?
Answer:
Actually it would not be a good idea to plant the flowers immediately after working the
grass into the soil because certain microbial activity will then be taking place in the break
down of the grass and that will interfere with the growth processes of the flowers. The
flowers could be planted after adding the grass to the soil if it has been left in place in the
soil for about 1 month. Good luck. Let me know if I can be of further help.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47
Mark
My climate zone is 2A.
My property and the neighbouring ones on my street all have a gentle slope that drains
into city property bordering a roadway.
My backyard is lower than the ones on either side. After heavy rains, the water from both
houses drains into my yard.
A couple years ago I thought I had fixed the problem by building up the soil level. This
Spring year has been one of the wettest on records and the water problem is back but not
as bad.
I dont feel like adding more soil again. To do this before I had to remove part of the
fence. I have since built a new fence, and my wife has added some nice flower beds and
garden.
Last week I hand dug a trench along each neighbours fence to the lowest point at my
back fence. About 3' wide by 20' long.
This has worked well, and my kids love playing boats in the water.I dont like the idea of
standing water, so need some ideas for landscaping these trenches.
My thoughts are to rake grass and leaves into the trenches until it builds up,hopefully still
able to drain, or can I plant something in there?
Thanks for any thoughts!
Answer:
I would first look into draining the water away to an outlet. If the outlet would be on city
property you will have to apply for a permit to drain to it. Perhaps you could install a
perforated drain pipe and cover it with soil and gravel and create a large french drain.

Another option may be to create an underground retention area. This could be a concrete
or plastic vault,an area of gravel or other permeable media or a series of large diamter
corrugated pipe. The surrounding soil would have to be permeable enough and of
sufficient volume to absorb the drainage water or you an outlet will be needed to drain
the water to. This would allow you to plant over the area. I would not recommend using
leaves for water retention. That could produce odor and attract pests.
An at grade retention area consisting of stones or gravel covered with soil may be an
option if the surrounding soil is permeable enough to accept the drainage water or can be
piped or channeled to another suitable outlet.

A planted or rock lined drainage ditch leading to an outlet could be another option.
Construct the ditch in a V shape. You want to either drain the water away to an outlet or
make structures that will allow the water to drain away into the surrounding soil. Just
ponding the water is not desirable. The water must drain away in 48 to 72 hours. Hope
this helps. Good luck.

Mark Harshman
http://www.mahdrafting.com
Email: mark@mahdrafting.com
http://www.scribd.com/markscrib47