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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Jun 24

Plan Ahead

Posted on June 24, 2016 at 10:16 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Successful gardening requires forward thinking on many levels. Oft times we are enticed by a plant sale without first considering where those special deals will go in our garden—or the ground that needs to be cleared and amended before the plants can go in. Worse yet, the topography or drainage may require extensive work such as terracing, grading, or installation of drain pipe before that section of the garden is ready for the new plants.

On a larger scale, planning ahead also considers the use of an area. Do children need a play area, or have they outgrown that space? If so, how can that area be transformed? How will the garden be accessed? Will paths meander through, or will extensive ground covers lead the way? Are patios/decks needed and if so, will large parties spill out into the garden or does entertaining intimate parties of a few couples seem more likely? And how will all of these decisions impact water consumption?

Irrigation also must be considered before moving ahead with a project. How does the area get watered? Do the plants like overhead spray? Can a drip system work if your vision includes ground covers such as creeping thyme? Do new plants going into that location have the same water requirements as the existing plants—that is, do they belong in the same hydrozone?

These are a lot of questions. The concerns arise as I look around. A friend recently showed me a small triangular space about 5 feet long and 3 feet wide at the base. She lamented that she may have over-planted, as she wanted the area to look full right away. Instead of using annuals as fillers, she chose perennial plants such as peonies that do not like their roots disturbed once they are established. Her haste may have created waste. Another friend wanted to plant lavender on the north side of her house but sought advice first, discovering that lavender is a sun-lover. She was wise enough to check before moving forward.

Future patio area
 Future patio area
Planning for hardscapes such as permanent pathways, patios, and decks requires even more forethought. Yours truly is currently working on such a project. When we built our home in Lassen, we included large covered decks in front and back to protect from snow and direct sun. But entertaining from the decks was left unresolved for the backyard. Time revealed the backyard is used for large groups of people who enjoy the pastoral ambiance there, and the two decks in the back are insufficient. Luckily, the unlandscaped area is an open canvas to plan and develop. I'm now considering pathways to draw people into future garden walks, as well as a stone patio strategically placed in a level area to capture both sun and shade.

If this, too, is your plan of attack, use garden hoses or sprinkle bags of flour to identify the shapes of the hardscapes as well as define pathways before installation occurs. Thinking ahead may also include installing several sections of 1½-inch pipe (chaser pipes) under hardscapes. This will ensure access for any future gas, electric, or water lines should a gas fireplace, BBQ, lighting, or irrigation be needed. (Planning ahead also includes reviewing MMWD's plan review requirements.)

Planning ahead requires the ability to study an area before moving forward. Live with the space to define its use or focus. Are you considering new plantings or major landscaping? Plan ahead!

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