by Layne Knoche, Project Landscape Designer

While Tony Heath was out of town Friday, Layne Knoche managed the construction site. Layne is also making preparations for Phase II (plant installation). This blog post covers August 15th and 16th. 

THU, AUG 15: This was the first day I had been to the Rain Garden since construction started. I was excited to see how much had changed and the amount of work being accomplished.

At 10:00 a.m., Eliana, Kate and I met at the greenhouse with botanist Bill Handel. I’d been looking forward to meeting Bill for quite some time. We went over some plants in detail that he had provided us. While we were there, we noticed a tray of a species that had been misidentified as Smooth Ironweed. The plant is actually an Obedient Plant and will need to be relabeled. The Smooth Ironweed will also need to be identified, since this changes the quantity we have documented.

Bill Handel and Layne Knoche at the greenhouse.
Photo by Eliana Brown

I spoke with Facilities & Services Grounds employee Wayne Bugaj about the plan for spreading mulch the following day, since I was going to be managing the site. I also wanted to test out their plant installation drill in the garden to ensure it would work as intended. Because we have so many plants going in, it will take substantial time and effort to drill that many holes and proper drill usage is essential. Eliana and I purchased a plant auger, which is used with the drill. Later that afternoon, Wayne demonstrated how to use and handle their drill properly and ergonomically, which wasn’t as simple as one might think. His very useful information will be included in volunteer orientation. We also discussed that he would not be on-site Friday, so he named Isaac as my point of contact for that day.

Before heading back to the office, I noticed a couple of areas of concern in the south cell where I didn’t think the grade was high enough. After I briefed Eliana, we returned on-site with the construction drawings and a ruler. We confirmed that there were areas where the grade needed to be raised and may need a few more loads of soil trucked in. While on-site, Eliana noticed a second issue: an area on the far east side of the cell that had been over-excavated. At this point, we contacted Tony, who after review and discussion was able to confirm an error: the far east edge was marked at 11′ instead of 7′. The plan is to speak to Facilities & Services about correcting this for us tomorrow. Should be an easy enough fix.

Ruler showing depth as 18″ instead of 8″.
Photo by Layne Knoche.

FRI, AUG 16: I’m managing the site while Tony is out of town so I feel obligated to kick it off with a “Howdy!”. Howdy! Friday was another busy — some may say hectic — day at the Rain Garden. Buckle up and get ready for an action-packed rollercoaster ride!

My day started around 7:30 a.m. when I met with operating engineer Stephanie, who was already running the backhoe. She had just started finishing a few areas in the south cell where rough grading wasn’t completed yesterday. I checked in with her to clarify a few things, and I showed her a couple of areas that needed to be raised. One location in particular was about 10″ lower than the plan called for, but by redistributing some of the soil mix in the cell, we were able to get the grading closer to the construction plans. This should give the plants there a better chance to thrive, since they were specified to be drier species and wouldn’t do well in a deep swale.

As mentioned, the east edge of the garden had been mismarked, which led to a ~100 ft² area that was over-excavated and backfilled with our soil mix. Josh, Stephanie, Eliana and I decided that the best way to correct it was to remove the soil mix (see photo below) and relocate it where needed to correct the 10″ grading gap. The over-excavated hole was then backfilled to original grade using our stockpiled topsoil.

Afterwards, Josh completed the cell’s finish grading. He worked his way from the center of the cell outwards, ensuring that depressions and ridges were smoothed out. He gave a little more definition to the bottom of the swale. At this point, I began spreading the mycorrhizal fungi over the finished grade. I used a handheld crank seed spreader, which worked quite well. I applied nearly a full bag to the south cell, and the coverage can be seen in the photo.

By 8:30 a.m., he Landscape Recycling Center (LRC) brought the first tandem load of shredded mulch. Stephanie and I decided to pile the mulch closer to the south cell in the grass for ease of access. That first load was followed by a second about 20 minutes later… followed by another truck 20 minutes after that. That’s when I stopped the driver to make sure we were only supposed to have the 13 cubic yards of mulch delivered today. That is what we thought the understanding was, but apparently Friday was the last day for LRC to have a tandem truck, meaning all 62 cubic yards for the entire garden needed to be delivered. Today. Since (we thought) we had 11 Allen Hall parking spaces through Wednesday’s workday, we decided to send the other mulch loads there, which is closer to the north cell where it will be used. After everything was delivered, the nearly 50 cubic yard mulch stockpile covered about 5 parking spaces.

At 11:20 a.m. the Grounds crew arrived to spread the mulch 2″ thick over the entire south cell, leaving an 18″ space clearance on the inside edge of the sidewalk, which will later be filled in with crushed granite bordered by a metal edge. Stephanie perched the backhoe at the southeast edge of the garden and scooped mulch from the pile towards the center of the cell. Again, the crew worked from the inside out, ensuring as much smoothness as possible. Overall, this process went quickly, and they only had a little more to do when they returned from their lunch break.

A challenge popped up when Facilities & Services’ Stacey DeLorenzo let me know that we actually only have the parking spaces through Monday’s workday instead of Wednesday’s to allow for early student move-in. The ~50 cubic yards of mulch that we had just finished stockpiling there will have to be moved to the other side of the site, near the south cell. Since it was nearly the end of the workday, Stephanie, Josh and I made the decision to move it on Monday. Later, Eliana spoke to Stacey, who kindly said that we will be allowed to use 2 of the spaces until the end of Wednesday. We can make this work.

One last issue was made apparent upon my return after eating a late lunch. Stephanie and Josh had just started excavating the base for the north sidewalk width expansion. They said that they were told to dig for a 6′ sidewalk expansion, not the 4′ expansion that was specified in the construction documents. After some discussion, Stacey, Eliana and I agreed that the 4′ expansion width is appropriate to safeguard the London Planetree. So, the width expansion will be 6′ starting at the northwestern point and ending at the boardwalk (shown in red below). It will be 4′ starting at the boardwalk — heading southeast past the London Planetree — and ending at the sidewalk juncture. This revision allows us to keep some of the intended planting plan in this area, which is designed to be beautiful and soothing. I look forward to that!