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Backyard design Help!!

I don't have much experience with landscape and i am designing my own backyard. I have this backyard that is located in Sacramento. The soil is clay and relatively flat in the middle and slope of about 12' wide along the fences. This is a new development house and drainage was placed by the builder around the house (horseshoe) with 4" corrugated pipe, the layout of the house and a preliminary design is attached. I have also designed the sprinkler system for the lawn as shown. I need some help to determine the following:
Do i have enough sprinkler to cover the lawn area and don't have dry spot? sprinklers radius is 16', total area is approx. 1500 sqft
Should i use rotors or sprinklers and what is the recommended type?
do i need to add topsoil under the lawn?if so how many inches do i need?
do i need drainage in the Lawn area? how many?
do i need to add drainage at the bottom of the slopes? the slopes will be covered with 50/50 soil and cover with bark and will be for planting (shrubs and flowers)
what is the slope that i should use for lawn?
do i need to add drainage in the playground area (covered with bark)?
what is the recommended type of drainage pipe to use? corrugated or PVC(styrene)?
I will use drip system for the planting areas around the slopes, can i run one or two tubes for the whole area or do i need more?
Any ideas about the type of trees, shrubs, flowers to use in the planting area will be helpful.
I highly appreciate all the ideas and helps that will be provided.


Posts: 11231
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Backyard design Help!!

Usually builders are required to build a swale or French drain for water to flow properly out of the yard without ending up going through the neighboring property. It sounds like French drains were also put in. As long as the swale is maintained by making sure you do not change the grading when you plant, you should not have to add more drainage. A swale is a surface drain usually "U" shaped around the house. Water should be directed away from the foundation and the perimeter and into the swale. It should be the low spot in the yard. Your sprinkler looks like you have pretty good overlap. You should have separate zones for turf, vegetable garden and a separate area for landscape plants and trees. You should have a multi program timer.

Most new developments usualy have only a few inches of soil on top. Most of the time the soil looks good but really between the compaction of the soil during the building and the fact that the soil they bring in may be just screened subsoil, I would consider adding a good 4-6 inches of organic matter into the soil and till it in. If the sprinklers are installed first you have to make sure you know where they are. Be careful to also mark the swale and make sure you keep the grade so it remains intact.

You have slopes on the back portion of your yard. Slopes are hard to work with and maintain. You either plant it in a low maintenance ground cover or if you want to make better use of the slope, terrace it so you will have more useable planting space.

Your map does not give compass point directions.

Ideally a vegetable garden should face south or at least get at least 6-8 hours a day of full sun.

I would make the vegetable garden bed only as wide as you can reach across and you will need to make room for a path to get to the parts of the vegetable garden since you don't want to stand in it. By terracing you can layer the garden. You can run additional water faucets up to the top of the slopes and use a faucet timer to water the slope instead. Especially if you are planning to use a drip system on a slope since low pressure water does not flow uphill very well.

For myself I do not mix perennials and annuals. I find it harder to work around them in the garden. I have fruit trees and long lived shrubs separate from garden vegetables that need frequent harvesting and replanting. I do have some exceptions as I sometimes use the shade of the trees in summer so I can provide shade for some of the leafy vegetables that don't do well in the summer sun. I have a flat yard with no slope, but my friend had a terraced garden and she made sure the plants she needed to tend to most were the easiest to get to and the ones that needed less attention, like the fruit trees were farther away. Her garden was built down into the gully behind her house so the garden went downslope.

My yard is small, the footprint of my house almost fits in your lawn. My house, garage, and driveway occupy approx 1900 sq ft. and I have about 3000 sq ft of yard, parts of which are cemented because there is too much shade to grow anything so I used it for a dog run.

You could actually create more zones by grouping your plants according to watering needs. Plants that need daily watering in one zone. Those that can go 2-3 days in another, and trees and shrubs that just need one long soak a week once they are established in another zone.

I usually run my timer to start at 2 a.m. Mainly because my water pressure is low and there is less demand for water for washing, bathing, cooking at that time and I will get the maximum pressure. My plants are used to it, so they are adapted to it and they will dry out when the sun comes out.

1500 sq ft is a lot of lawn area. If you don't need it all consider using part of that space for a storage building or hobby shed, outdoor play yard for the kids, or outdoor cooking and entertaining space. All those areas would not need to be planted or watered.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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