FINDING ANSWERS

DOWN THE DRAIN

Q

We are running a French drain into a 4-foot × 4-foot × 4-foot gravel-filled drain lined with filter fabric to prevent earth from falling into the gravel. Is it appropriate for the bottom to be covered in fabric, or will the fabric become clogged with residue and soap? — via e-mail

A

Filter fabric, permeable filter fabric and geotextile fabrics have been used for many years in a variety of functions. Your concern over clogged filter fabric is well-founded. While it still serves an important function, it often becomes clogged and can destroy the drainage it was meant to guarantee. If there is nothing below the drain except native soil, you should first test to see if water will drain down through it. Fill the hole with an amount of water equivalent to that discharged by the washer. If it does drain in a reasonable amount of time, proceed with an unlined drain. If it does not drain, you will need to design an alternative system.

SIGNS OF SPRING

Q

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We have had a bit of warm weather this past month and a few of my perennial plants are turning green at the soil line and look ready to grow. Do I need to be concerned or take action? — via the Internet

A

Perennial plants have a variety of cold tolerances and dormancy requirements. Some need just a few weeks of cold weather and they are ready to grow. Others need warm soils to signal their emergence from the ground. And still others never seem to die down all the way to the ground. There is a temptation to clean the old foliage away from the new. But you should remove old foliage in the fall and apply a new layer of mulch. If you didn't do this, don't panic. Leave the old foliage as long as there is the chance of freezing weather. The old foliage serves as a buffer against damaging cold. If the plants do experience freezing weather, they will probably survive with only a bit of tip burn. Once warm weather arrives, the new growth will cover most of the damaged area. For high profile areas, you may want to cut off the damaged foliage. This is labor intensive and not really necessary for most plantings.

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