Grading the ground sustainably
The sustainable approach to grading is to do as little as possible (because soil is damaged by moving it around) and to have specific reasons to grade, such as conserving water on site, preventing erosion, or keeping the house from flooding. Here are some basic grading principles:
- Check all existing grades with a sighting level or have the area surveyed; then plan a grading strategy to accomplish your objectives.
- Talk to a geologist if you have any potentially unstable areas. Never use terracing or water-harvesting strategies on unstable slopes. (You can find information on terracing and water harvesting in Chapter 8.)
- Evaluate the site for desirable features, such as trees or native ecosystems, and grade to protect those features. Fence off protected areas.
- Follow or restore the natural landform where possible, or use the information in Chapter 7 to develop a water-harvesting strategy for your land. Water harvesting modifies the terrain so it soaks up water.
- Avoid rototilling, which destroys soil structure. Similarly, avoid compacting the soil with heavy equipment if grading by hand is feasible. And never work soil when it's wet, because you can severely damage it. Instead, wait until dry weather.
- Never add sand to clay soils unless you're planning to build walls with the resulting glop.
- Talk to an arborist before grading around mature trees.
- Don't add amendments except in special circumstances. Do add small amounts of living compost and mycorrhizal fungi to planted areas at planting time, not during grading. (See Chapter 16 for more information on soil preparation.)
- For major grade changes, remove the topsoil, regrade the subsoil, and then replace the topsoil. This practice will make a big difference in plant growth.
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How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.
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