Rain Garden Angst: I Need Help

Day’s Verse:
It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

OK, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned our rain garden plans, but here’s the skinny. Every winter, our back yard miraculously transforms from a pleasant grassy space to a wetland. Migratory birds stop there. Frogs ribbit. Sedges and reeds proliferate. When Carmel is over, she comes back muddy to her knees. Some of that is hyperbole, but not egregiously so.

All this to say that we have a drainage problem in the back yard. Happily, my friend Karissa is a civil engineer, and has some experience with drainage and construction. Because she’s a wonderful person, she’s helping us design and dig a rain garden that will help reduce the boglike aspects of the yard. Actually, we’re just going to be moving the boglike aspect and making it more visually appealing by specifically planting water-loving native plants in the wet space.

I’m pretty excited about this, actually, because I love the idea of capturing the water rather than shunting it into the storm drain system (a la French drains) or letting our yard remain an impassible, not to mention unmowable, morass for 9 months of year.

We made good progress in the planning stage, but as the dig date approached, I balked and postponed. I have so many details I haven’t figured out, and I don’t know how to figure them out, either. To wit:

  1. What do we do with the 15 cubic feet of dirt and grass we’ll be removing from the rain garden space?
  2. Who will help us dig this rain garden? We have a 50-foot long trench to dig, plus that 15 cubic feet of dirt to move from the garden area itself, and although I can ride 150 miles, I can’t dig worth beans.
  3. Where is the special rain garden dirt mix coming from?
  4. What native plants should I choose, and where should I get them? How do I plant them and keep them alive?
  5. Where is the doggone drainage pipe from the downspout in the back of our house to the storm drain? Need to find that to deal with the garden overflow, since it won’t be big enough to deal with all the water that flows into our yard.
  6. What do we do with the two perfectly healthy small ornamental evergreens we’ll be uprooting?

I am feeling overwhelmed because this is completely outside of my experience. I’m good at bicycling and teaching bicycling-related material; baking and eating baked goods; reading and, sometimes, writing books; using computers; and writing and editing. I don’t know anything about digging, construction, gardening, landscaping, or anything else that might be useful for this project, and I’m punier than a 98-lb weakling when it comes to upper body/digging muscles. It’s humbling and stressful at the same time.

Thankfully, I don’t exist in a vacuum. I think I have enough friends to help with the digging, and surely some of them know about this other stuff that’s outside of my ken. SO! If any of you knows an answer to any of my questions, or if you’re available September 24 and have a shovel that needs some love, please let me know ASAP.