I have a new favorite yard tool. It cost next to nothing, and it’s going to save me, well a little. After the last monsoon to roll through the area, I got a little tired of river that runs from the neighbors yard, across our brick patio, and into the basement door. Eventually, I’m going to have to regrade the entire patio, but in the mean time there’s one thing I can do. The main problem has been is that somebody in the past thought it would be a good idea to put the basement walk-out door about 8 inches below grade with a nice little well outside it. When it rains, any water that falls into that well has only one way to go: into the basement. The problem has gotten worse since the uphill neighbors did some landscaping that has apparently improved their drainage, resulting in the aforementioned river.
The brick patio doesn’t appear to have been put in correctly, as the worms can come up through, do their business, and so gradually the process of turning a nice brick patio into an impenetrable weed bed.* My inattention has certainly also contributed, but the fact is that the brick patio is going to have to be pulled up and done properly at some time. When I do it, I might as well grade it properly as well.
In the mean time, I’ve been lowering the gravel paths to create a sluice for the water to continue on its way from our back door.
I call them gravel paths because that’s what they clearly used to be, although they’re grass now. In digging them out, I found a very distinct strata of gravel about three inches down (worms again). Apart from the gravel, the soil is wonderful, and would do well in the flower or vegetable garden. To get the gravel out, I through together a sifter out of scrap lumber.
The sides are made out of 2x4. I've seen them made out of wider stock, resulting in a deeper box when you flip it over. I think that's overkill, because the temptation is always going to be to fill the space available, and then good luck picking it up and shaking it. As it is, I found I could get most of the soil to fall through by pushing it around with a hoe (also not really feasible if you fill a box made of 2x6's or 2x8's). Also, the shallower depth makes it a manageable job for PP to be my garden helper.
The final result is a pile of white gravel, and a wheel barrow full of this gorgeous soil. I shouldn't get so excited about this soil, but I feel like much of my childhood was spent making trips to the compost bin so my father could gradually turn the garden into soil like this. Thank you worms!