I hadn't had the time until now to finish telling the story of our earthwork adventures. Now we're getting close to the end of this episode, so it's probably a good time.
While we were waiting for our friend the plumber to come and save the water tank's pump, I added some sand to make the soil a little less compact; I also replanted the flower beds that had been removed or damaged during the earthworks.
In the flower bed under the balcony, the gaura and the Graham's sage had suffered quite a lot from their staying in buckets (there was a lot of rain then, the buckets were full and the water didn't flow away). The gaura's roots were rotten, and it's dead. I'm giving the sage a chance. I also took the opportunity to make a few changes: adding one of the rosebushes and the caenothus that used to be above the water tank, as well as a few new plants, and making sure the plants were far enough from the path (last time their branches were quite annoying as they were in the way). It looked mostly OK mid-September.
Now, on the side of the water tank's flower bed, I replanted most of the plants that were there before, and I added a few. Still mid-September, it was looking mostly decent again, although one part of it is still quite empty (on the right) and I have a few worries regarding the creeping rosebush which got removed rather brutally by the earthwork contractors. At the time it was quite impossible to break the clods as they were really sticky - and that did not help.
Right now I'm rather encouraged: both the creeping rosebush and the sage are growing new leaves again, so they're not dead. And everything else looks like it's doing OK:
- Under the balcony:
- Above the water tank:
OK, I have to admit it's covered in various weeds I need to remove, and attentive readers will have noticed that there's still a hydrangea in a bucket and a pile of earth in the back above the water tank. The "save the water pump" turned out to be quite epic, as the plumber had to come here 3 times.
- The first time he came, he noticed that the leak was on the outside after he cut through the wall of the server room. And after digging on the outside he discovered that the water junction (which had been changed last year) at the bottom of the drainpipe was leaking. Probably yet another consequence of the earthwork contractor falling In addition, he didn't have the right pipes to fix the water circuit and when he tried to "hack" it together it ended up with a few geysers. According to Manu he barely avoided being shot in the face by one of these.
- The second time he fixed most of the problem but there was still a leak further down the pipe which he didn't see as he couldn't test the circuit.
- The third time he was finally able to complete the repairs.
For now we've kept the hole in the server room's wall for now, until the earthwork contractors come back to fix the water junction. Just in case. In addition, the mini-excavator destroyed the concrete paths, so we'll have to replace them earlier than we'd anticipated...
Who said making the foundations waterproof was a simple job, eh?
As can be expected from very small companies, our friends the earthwork contractors did not visit us as initially announced. And since we are, as always, really good at being haunted by Murphy's law, there was a rather huge storm on August the 22nd (70 mm of water in only a few hours), just before they actually came. Consequences:
- We spent a lovely morning mopping water from the basement and throwing buckets full of water out in the street. It was definitely an involuntary wet t-shirt contest! Without the neighbour's help we would have been truly flooded.
- I had a lot of plants in buckets outside; well, the buckets were full of water, and I was unable to remove it all. The plants didn't like that
The earthwork contractors came two days after that. But since their secretary had no clue how large an area needed to be prepared, some of the plants we hadn't removed had to be rather savagely dug out or ended up under the heaps of earth that were extracted.
After a full day's work, we have:
- One big heap in the middle of the path,
- A partial trench under the balcony,
- Another trench between the wall and the water tank, with the corresponding heap...
The nice earthwork contractors came back the next day to install a drain as well as a waterproof layer along the wall. Of course, it went catastrophically bad when they discovered their drilling machine was too short and couldn't be used at the right angle to go through the wall and have the drain's pipe join the appropriate sink hole... They really had a hard time!
The earthwork contractors seem to have been contaminated by our tendency to suffer from Murphy's law, and thus it started raining. The soil is sticky, it gets really hard to dig using only a pickaxe and a shovel - so they end up renting a mini-excavator (they had some of these, but theirs were bigger and didn't fit through the gates) in order to finish putting the earth back into the trenches. Which leads to the following:
- The excavator in the middle of my lovely flower bed. It was nice before, wasn't it? :s
- The trench along the water tank being filled again:
And to add insult to injury, one of the contractors fell on the pipe that is used to pump water from the tank and to the taps. They changed the pipe, but it is now impossible to pump water: the pump is no longer primed and water starts flowing under the server room's floor if we try to prime it using the town's water - which means that the pipe must be disconnected or broken somewhere behind the server room's wall... We called the plumber but the guy who came wasn't the one who installed that and didn't dare to try as he doesn't know exactly where the pipes are. So we're waiting for the original plumber to be available so he can fix that...
We were subjected to a rather big storm early in June - with somewhat... dramatic... consequences. Short version: some water sept in through the basement's walls on the front side of the house. We spent a good part of the night "playing" around with floor clothes and buckets. That's what it looked like in the morning:
This is the other part of the basement:
We definitely needed to take action quickly. Feeling paranoid and checking the basement every 5 minutes whenever it rains doesn't sound like much of a long-term plan. So we had an earthwork contractor come over to give us a quotation on weatherproofing the house's foundations on the front of the house.
As it turns out, it's kind of a good news/bad news scenario.
The good news: the contractor is (well, should be, anyway) coming this week to do the actual work. So, if everything goes as planned, we'll be able to stop worrying whenever it rains.
The bad news: we need to clear 1.5 to 2m of terrain along the wall.
So I had to remove all of this :
I started by moving annual plants (well, you never know, some of them might survive it), and today I moved all remaining perennial plants (or put them into jars).
I also had to clear the area between the manhole on the right and the right border of the picture below:
It took a while, but now I have a wonderful mine field where the lovely flower bed used to be
So where did the plants go? Well, I re-planted annuals wherever I could. Perennial plants are waiting in jars or buckets... That's what it looks like:
There were quite a few petunias amongst the annual plants I moved, and they're not in a very good shape for now. However the rest don't look too bad for now... Even if they were dying, it would not be a serious problem. Most perennial plants are looking fine as well, I'm only a little worried about rose bushes. Worst case scenario, I'll have to prune them to reduce the amount of leaves and flower buds they need to feed.
I find the situation quite annoying at any rate - having to destroy one of the few areas of the garden that really started to look good... On the other hand it's better to do it now, I suppose, as the plants haven't been taking root for too long. If we'd found out about the flooding later, their roots would have been more developed and it would have damaged them even more.
Still in the "mine field" category, but somewhat more rejoicing: I dug up some of the potatoes (the earliest cultivar).
Granted, most of them are really small, and the yield is low. On the other hand, this Spring was really dry and the soil was poor, so it's mostly a good surprise; in addition, potatoes seem to really improve the soil, as they break clods.
And yes, there are two types of potatoes on the picture: the red ones grew in the compost heap, probably from potato peelings!
In the "lots of work" category for this year, there's something I hadn't posted yet but that was still worth a look: the flower bed above the water tank.
That's what the corner in front of the house at the left of the garden's gate used to look like:
... basically a privet hedge (some of which were either dead or dying), a hydrangea and a snowball tree - very lovely in Spring according to the former owners but that had two major downsides: it was covered in scale insects and was partially blocking sunlight to the window just behind it. In addition, the area was covered in various weeds.
In August 2010, we started removing the privets, which were replaced with yet another hydrangea (that used to be in what is now the vegetable garden), a mahonia and a snowberry. Two other hydrangeas (also from the vegetable garden) were planted behind the snowball tree.
Then, in Autumn, big problem: when the various contractors were getting ready to do the work we needed them to do, we discussed the location of the water tank with the master builder and the earthwork contractors. And that lead to a change of plan: it would be more appropriate for the tank (which was initially supposed to end up buried under the carport) to be located... under the snowball tree (because this is were the rainwater pipes are). So, we had to move everything we had planted there so far, and give up on the snowball tree: it was too big to be relocated. As for the hydrangea which was already there, we couldn't unearth it, as most of its roots were under the concrete path. The rest (mahonia, snowberry and hydrangeas) was put into pots.
That's what they installed:
I dug the soil in March. It was horrible: huge pieces of slate everywhere, along with some concrete blocks and some mostly unidentifiable junk. Anyway, I was able to plant the hydrangeas and the "hedge-to-be" again. I added a few rhododendrons that were vaguely surviving in other parts of the garden.
I started adding more plants in early April: a variegated foliage rhododendron, a fuchsia (f. magellanica), a creeping ceanothus, as well as some small(ish) perennials: moss phlox, wood-sorrels, spiderwort, astilbe, maiden pink, daylily, pasque flower, carex buchananii and globe flower.
The idea was to do that over some time:
It was definitely looking better in mid-April, and everything I had planted had survived.
It improved rather suddenly after that, as a colleague of mine gave me a bunch of rosebushes which had to be planted as soon as possible. Five of them ended up above the water tank!
I added some ground cover a few days later: tickseed, gypsophila, crossworts and Convolvulus sabatius.
It is definitely looking better now:
Now I need to wait until everything's grown a bit to know whether I need to plant a few more things or not.