I'm on a city lot and have decided not to continure putting off my permaculture dreams in hopes of having more land someday. I would greatly appreciate if anyone with more experience would read over my tentative plan for my first patch design and just let me know if you see any red flags. If you have specific suggestions I'd like to hear those too, but I'm mostly wanting to make sure I don't make any easily avoidable mistakes.
Basics: I'm zone 8b/9a in Alabama. I've got some farming and gardening experience, but new to permaculture.
Situation: I'm starting with the area about 14'x34', at the west side of the house (back yard). Receives full sun for about 7hrs/day most the year. This side has a screened in, concrete slab patio/utility room. I'm starting here against the back of the house for several reasons, chief of them being that it's the biggest problem area in our yard. The property slopes northeast, more east than north though, and our house sits facing east (so land slopes gently toward back of house). We drive through the middle of the back yard to access a carport (and that's not changing anytime soon) so that compacts the middle third of the yard, creating more runoffwater towards the house. In heavy rain, we get standing water starting about 10' out from the patio, and some right at the patio door. Around the north corner it starts going downhill over grass into the front yard. Around the south corner, there is a paved driveway that runs right against the house's cinder block foundation wall, all the way downhill to the street.
We also have a very large surface area of roof that is sending an abundance of rain water into the old worn out gutter here on the west side of the house. So we're getting runoff from both directions, but especially the gutter because it's crappy and overflows in pouring rain (it's not clogged, btw). The gutter will be replaced as soon as we're able; the rainwater overflowing it is causing trouble (picture a small waterfall, really big, gently sloped roof back here). The spilled over water seeps back against the concrete slab of the patio (home is crawl space, patio was added later), then runs along and finds its way into the utility room, which is recessed into the ground like a basement somewhat on the downhill (north) corner. The worst it's been was enough water to float my laundry hamper, but it drains well enough for now through holes in the slab designed for the purpose.
Goals: Most important is better managing rain water. I also want it to produce food for us and wildlife (thinking I can fit two small fruittrees here that sort of share a guild) as well as provide some privacy for the patio (satsumas or figs for food and evergreen/dense foliage?).
My ideas: 1. Get a new gutter, with a proper downspout on the north end (and eventually rain barrels on that small piece of slab you see at the corner in the north side pic).
2. Grade a walking path from the patio door to around the north corner going downhill, following path of least resistance. I'm thinking I would keep this path mulched with wood chips or similar. I've got an A frame level built already. Hoping this would channel water away from the doorway.
3. Build up the soil against west side of house (only by about 2", any more and it'll be sitting against the vinyl siding) to make it slope away from the patio. Should I get rid of the drawf azaleas there first?
4. Improve soil/kill grass over the whole area using sheet mulch (though I may skip the cardboard in key areas due to runoff) and sow clover as cover while everything's percolating. Thinking clover will help prevent weeds and add to water catchment capacity? Then I might also have my ground cover in place when I start planting other things?
5. Cut privets on each end down to ground just before planting my "canopy" layer for this area. They make great bird habitat and give us shade and privacy on the patio until I am ready to plant other things. I thought I would cut them to the ground and cover roots with cardboard or even plastic, thoughts?
6. Plant two small fruit trees, one to south side, one to north side however I can get them in there, followed by supporting plants. (totally open to tree/guild suggestions, and I really want to know if there's anything I shouldn't plant for the "canopy" layer as far as aggressive roots being near the patio slab, etc.)
With some mulch, more plant roots, and more permeable soil in this area, we may not need to take further steps to prevent the standing water issue coming across from the back of the yard in heavy rain, I'm not sure. If it's still an issue, I would consider a berm around the west edge of the bed, with rocks and stuff on the side catching the runoff and water loving, deep rooted edibles on top. It would make a nice definition between the food growing space and the area we drive on as well. I'm thinking the berm could curve around on both sides to direct water around the house. Is there any reason not to put a berm close by uphill from a structure? It'd be about 14' feet away, but curving closer toward the ends.
Any and all commentary appreciated! Especially on any glaring flaws in this plan, please!
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