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A MATTER OF LANDSCAPING

Landscape is the process, which can sometimes reach the level of art, of making a yard or piece of land more attractive by altering the existing design by planting trees and shrubs and adding ornamental figures.


Now, let’s say that you have finally reached the stage where you can just realize the residential landscaping that you have always dreamed off, after all, a great, lovely yard will make your house all the more beautiful and dreamy. Maybe you’ve chosen designs, looked up references, carefully selected the natural and/or man-made elements to use, hand picked the vegetation and carefully laid out a floor plan.


But one thing, however, that sometimes goes over homeowner’s heads when thinking about landscaping is the foundation and how landscaping can have a direct (and adverse) impact on the foundation.


The first thing to take into account before landscaping is understanding the properties of your yard. So there are quite a few things to have in mind. First of all, what is the current slope around your home? Does water flow naturally away from your home? Or does it flow toward your home? If it is the latter, then it is what you call a negative slope. Alternatively referred to as negative drainage. And for the sake of your foundation this needs to be addressed, as soon as possible, so when landscaping you will need to level your soil to adequate drainage: this is the process known as grading and it is not as difficult as it may sound as it doesn't require much expertise or skill, even though previous research is advised. But how do you go about grading your yard? Well, if you have shrubs, bushes and previous landscaping around the negative slope, you’ll have to dig out those plants and scoop the surrounding areas, finally filling the natural area with more soil, effectively raising the grade. A slope around 5% is ideal, or in other words 6 inches for the first 10 feet.


What about placement? You will have to think where you will place your plants taking in consideration their purpose beyond aesthetics. Knowing and understanding the purpose you need from your landscaping will help determine what precautionary measure you need to take into account. A mix of plants that range from garden beds, small bulbs and small trees is recommended. A foundation planting can help control soil erosion around the perimeter fo your home. Grass and low covers help keep your solid in place, protecting it from erosion that may come about due to heavy rains. For the well-being of your foundation, you should leave at least three feet of space between your foundation and plants or there is a high risk that when watering your plants you might also water your foundation, which can lead to mold, termites and damage to the foundation.


Which takes us to the next thing you need to have in mind before starting your landscaping project.


When talking about foundation damage/repair in the state of Texas, expansive clay soil always coms up. Always. But there are many different types of soil across the state; and this means that while some plants will thrive in some parts of the state they wouldn’t last a week in other areas of Texas. Herein lies the importance of understanding the type of soil in your area; to help you determine what are the right plants for your yard; and from those plants, to determine which ones will not cause foundation damage.


To find out exactly what type of soil you have you have to test it. You can send it to the lab or do it yourself. However there are certain common or more prominent soil types based on locations. For this entry we will focus specifically on the Dallas-Forth Worth Metroplex area.


Now you’d expect that Dallas and Fort Worth being so near to one another, effectively the same metroplex would mean that they would have the exact type of soil, but turns out that is not the case. The Fort Worth / Tarrant County soil is called Silt Loam and Clay, which is a soil compromised of very fine particles, mainly minerals. Not much organic material in it, that why it is stickier and harder to drain. 


Given expansive clay soil compacts so much, water tends to puddle. That is why it is imperative to have proper drainage and irrigation systems in protect your foundation. Now, while it may not be propitious for many flowers and vegetables, that does not mean that this soil is sterile. Far from it. Given how nutrient rich and how it so easily retains moisture, there are many beautiful plants that will flourish in such clay.


Alternatively, if you are living in Fort Worth or Tarrant County, your yard could be comprised of silt loam. Loam soil is any soil that is in equal parts silt, clay and sand. It just means that the amount of silt is a little bit more present. Luckily for those with this type of soil, it is very balanced, meaning that it can support quite a wide variety of plant life.


If you live in Dallas, then Dark Gray to Black Alkaline Clay is what you will find in your clay. The alkalinity means that nutrients are not so rich than in clay soul, so stunted plants are more common. In this case, shale and compost can greatly help restore nutrients, which will be of great benefit to your plants.


This takes us to vegetation itself. You should always consider the full mature height and width of shrubs and bushes. Knowing this will allow you to make an informed decision as to where you need/can plant these shrubs. Follow the rule of thumb of the three feet or more. This means that medium-height shrubs should be planted at least three feet away from the foundation, while larger shrubs should be at least 5-6 feet away or more in case the shrub grows even bigger.


As for trees, there are two primary factors to take into account; their growth rate and their respective root systems. Fast growing trees and trees with extensive roots should be avoided as these can be a major risk to your foundation. Remember that a tree’s root system is quite often much longer than its canopy. And as beautiful as they are poplars, sycamores, oaks and ash trees are the biggest threat to a foundation. Just picture how huge those trees are, now imagine an even larger set of roots growing beneath your soil. They can quite easily reach your foundation even tho they might be quite a few feet away from it.


Now that we have told you which type of soils are the most common on the different areas of our metroplex here is a list of the different plants that will help you set up a beautiful lush landscape, and their characteristics:


Perennials: These are plants that live more than two years. The term is commonly used to refer to plants with little or no woody growth.

Shrubs: Also called bushes, are small to medium sized perennial woody plants.

Trees: No need of a definition for this one, do we? Well, in any case, a tree is also a perennial plant  consisting of an elongated trunk which supports branches and leaves.


What follows is a list of the different types of plants that are ideal for the different types of soil in our metroplex:


Alkaline soils

Perennials include lavender, black-eyed sysans, mums and day lilies. For shrubs; arbovitae, lilac bushes and yew bushes while the ideal trees for alkaline soils are beech trees.



Loam Soils

Dog’s tooth violet and delphiniums for perennials. Shrubs include rubus tricolor and hydrangeas and dogwood and redbud for trees.



Clay Soils

Perennials: Miscanthus, hosta and Iris. Shrubs: aronia and flowering quince, with Crabapples for trees.



As a final note, remember that independent of what type of greenery you end up with, to fully protect your foundation you need a proper drainage system. There are different drainage systems which are surface drains, channel drains and french drains. Which one is the best option for your yard will depend on the size, condition, layout and landscaping.


So if you have any doubts regarding landscaping your yard, slopes, grading, drainage systems and how to protect your foundation before landscaping or if you suspect there might already be some foundation damage, then don’t forget to call the experts to help you sort all of these out so you will have the most beautiful, lush and mesmerizing yard of them all.

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