Monday, February 1, 2010

Where the wild spurge was, and where the leaky pipe was

Saturday I weeded spurge all day. Sunday was more fun. Sunday I planted a "river of grasses" or the beginning of one, where the spurge was. I used Nassella lepida, the locally occurring bunch grass, which was my first propagation success.

Above is the view from 2/3 up the hillside, looking up. Next, from the top looking down:

Jeffrey Caldwell told me - what I can observe on our property - that bunch grasses don't make lumpy lawns in nature. They cluster and have outliers. So that's the effect I'm after here, with a few clusters, and outliers, sort of cascading down the hillside (part of the chaparral slope we cleared last spring). I'm planting where there is soil to put them in. The bare patch above the cluster shown above is softish sandstone. There is lots of soil at the beginning of the lower slope where it is not quite so steep. It must have washed down from the steep upper slope over the years.

I also planted bunch grasses along a couple narrow foot paths I'm developing across that part of the hillside, left of the pink steps as you look down from above. Here's the footpaths. Right now they're just trodden dirt and I'm not sure how to make them hold through the rains. They are just for my access, easy to tumble from.

At the foot of the stairs:

Farther along:

Farther along yet at the top of the "river of grasses":

There are a couple more paths lower down of a similar mountain-goatish ilk. Astute readers may notice some rough wood mulch on the river of bunch grasses area. Last spring, the tree company dumped a huge lot of mulch in the parking spot right above the river of grasses, which was great except a bulging big chunk of it slid just over the edge and lodged there. So yesterday I encouraged it to spread downwards. It was kind of fun riding a bulge of mulch down the steep slope.

last spring I propagated over 65 pots of Nassella lepida from seeds. It has been over-ready for planting for a while, and not looking that great. When I was planting I could see why it is not a good idea to use soil in containers. They were waterlogged. The roots were in many cases absent from the bottom half of the pot. This one was better than most but you can see the effect I think. They even smelled a little bit sour.

This batch was the first I propagated from local natives. Next time I a used soil-less medium, and those babies are coming along.

I've tried different mixes now: 1/3 each sand, peat, and perlite, or vermiculite, peat, and perlite, and then more perlite than anything else, and other ratios more casually arrived at (as in "What's left in the wheelbarrow? Looks good, I'll just bulk it up with perlite. And maybe a bit of peat.") .

Rat also had a better day Sunday. If you read Saturday's blog, you'll know that even hefting the sledgehammer mightily had no impact on the solid concrete around our pool. So Sunday Rat did what any self-respecting construction guy would do - he got a bigger hammer.

That did the trick, and he was able to assess the state of the pipe underneath. The pipe dives down near the pool side, and that area was dry and fine.


So we figure the rusting and leaking must be happening farther towards the end of the pipe that comes out just inside the greenhouse (and provides that unwanted water feature I talked of in an earlier post). He ended up fixing it by adding a pipe like a sleeve around the old pipe (so the wires were not in danger of being damaged) and then sealing it around the pipe where it curves downward. Too much detail maybe but there you are. Now I won't have water dripping into the greenhouse and we won't have electrical problems. All we have to do now is patch the concrete. A minor detail!

13 comments:

AnneTanne said...

A river of grass... What a beautiful idea!

Country Mouse said...

Well, AnneTanne, I realize that the idea outstrips the reality at this point! But I know how these grasses will look with their plumes, and I hope they will also spread where they are - these are just the "starter" plants. I'm actually really happy with how this hillside is looking, compared to how it did look just a couple weeks ago. And I'm happy I got in there between rain storms! Two more days or so and back to the downpour.

Christine said...

Perfect timing- you won't have to drag a hose or watering can down that crazy slope! I can't wait to see your river in full bloom.

susie said...

Can't wait to see it all filled in & blooming. Looks great now.

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Ah, I see you have some significant slopes to contend with too! I like your idea of a river of grass. Can't wait to see how it turns out once it's all established!

Country Mouse said...

Yes, steep slopes for sure. I'm using bunch grasses partly for thier extremely long and shaggy roots - to help stabilize the slope. Chaparral shrub roots stabilize deeper but these should hold the soil closer to the surface which is somewhat disturbed. I forgot to mention that in the post itself.

Town Mouse said...

How exciting that the grasses are now in the ground! I actually have a 3 Nesella p. and they want to spread. I'm pulling quite a bit to keep the garden look...

Will be interesting how it all looks in a few months.

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Wow, that's a lot of work going on! I think the river of grass will fill in nicely--it looks great now! I just can't imagine planting grasses now, but then, I'm in Michigan! You seem to have a lovely property to fill in. I know it can seem overwhelming, but it really does look lovely to me!

lostlandscape(James) said...

I like your gardening formula of a hard day's less creative labor followed with a second one that involves planning and planting. Day two isn't necessarily less work, but I always enjoy the second days much better and look at them as my reward for garden maintenance. Good luck with the grass river. The idea of planting for the long-term as well as the immediate effect is an interesting one, and isn't how a lot of gardeners operate.

debsgarden said...

This should be beautiful. I like seeing how you have met the challenge of a steep slope!

Barbara said...

Oh I just love grasses! Keep it up.

Linda said...

hello,

i just found your link from the idora design blog and could not be more delighted. i may have a possible piece of the puzzle to your horizontal paths. my property, 2 1/2 acres of mixed evergreen forest, is backed by a canyon wall. i had removed just about all the ivy i could reach and resigned myself to learning how to rapel over the side. one day i was at a new place at the base and just began following an incline up pulling ivy blissfully as i went and before i realized it i was at the very top. i had probably traversed on a century old deer path. they are impossible to see but once i began it felt very safe. i have to admit it was a bit scarier contemplating the unplanned for descent--the neighbors have it fenced. i think i read at one time that deers always find the most comfortable grade to meander. ls

Town Mouse said...

Linda,

Thanks so much for all your great comments! Your Blogger account is set up so we can't know who you are, but we love your comments!