Planting a salt-tolerant sideyard

Old 08-30-17, 11:12 AM
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Planting a salt-tolerant sideyard

I have a sideyard sitting between the house and a saltwater bay. Despite having been built up, it's subject to periodic coastal flooding, more so than the rest of the property. Recent attempts at grass (sod and seed) have failed, and I don't think further attempts will be successful, certainly not more than the very short term.

A bit of additional background: the town did a street raising project a number of years ago and they sort of screwed us on that, making the side yard lower than the street so that rain as well as coastal storms could flood the yard. Very recently, they attempted to ameliorate what they'd done by adding the ironically named dry wells, two of which you can see in the picture below. They connect to each other with pipes, and eventually out to the street catch basins (through one-way valves) eventually leading out to the bay. The contractor who did this did a sort of Three Stooges job; the soil they put down is pretty hard-packed, so the more recent lawn problems are likely linked to that as well.

My thought is to give up on a lawn entirely, and go with larger, salt-tolerant plants. I have stuff like this in mind, all native plants and they're supposed to be salt tolerant. I'd like a mix of low stuff and taller ones, in part to serve as a privacy barrier from the street; with that in mind, at least some mix of evergreens in there. Maybe various grasses serving as the bulk, though since they die back so much in the winter I'm of a mixed mind there.

The last issue is what goes in between--what should go onto the dirt?. With periodic flooding, I'm concerned that I'll just keep losing the smaller, lighter stuff; I might have to mulch on several times a year. Any ideas about how I can lay this out and what to put in?

The yard measures approximately 35x50':
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BTW, here's what things look like during a coastal flood--not a hurricane or a nor'easter, but just one the pesky things we get a few times a year (screenshot from a video):
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Old 08-31-17, 10:59 AM
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Where are you located?

If that area floods with every spring tide then you're going to have it tough. The best option is to raise the area so it doesn't flood. If that's not an option I'd start looking at options other than grass. While there are grasses that are salt tolerant I don't know of any that can survive submersion under salt water. Maybe turn the area into a "natural" dune landscape with salt tolerant plants.

St. Augustine and zoysia are probably the best grasses for salt tolerance. They can tolerate some salt spray but I've not seen them do well when they get immersed. It's somewhat OK with a hurricane or storm surge because the salt water recedes and there is usually torrential rain to wash the salt out of the soil. Periodic tidal flooding is a totally different matter as the salt remains after the water recedes.
Old 09-01-17, 12:28 PM
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Thanks for the reply. It's Long Island, NY. They're not spring tides but tides and storm surge usually associated with some sort of a coastal storm (again, not even counting nor'easters and hurricanes), though if you look at the second picture the water is pretty calm--just one of those weird things. I can't count on rainwater washing the flooding away no matter the storm--usually the rain is long gone by the time the coastal flooding subsides.

By "grass" I I did actually mean dune-type grass, not lawn-type--the sort that grows tall near the shoreline, the sorts I'd noted in the link I'd included. I do plant with an eye towards salt tolerance and more than a few things survive immersion. I suppose the thing I'm looking for is how plant an approximately 35x50 area that way--how to intersperse shrubs, trees, and grasses (grasses, not grass) and what to do about the areas in between (bare dirt wouldn't look good and would be carried away).

There's also just something strange about that sideyard--grass doesn't last there. I'm not even sure if it's always because of the same reason; lately, it could be because the "soil" the town's contractors put down was just plain awful that the grass just soaked and rotted, even with just rain.

The area HAS in fact been raised already. Raising it further isn't practical due to certain practical considerations that are too complex and tangential to get into, though I'll be adding a few inches at least of topsoil, 'cause what the town's contractor put down was pretty awful (I'm going to have my landscaper evaluate what needs to be done).
Old 09-01-17, 12:46 PM
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I would think a local landscaper or nursery would be your best sources of information. Have you asked the plant question of your landscaper?
Old 09-02-17, 04:55 AM
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If you want to consider something with native grasses and plants, I'd check with NY Riverkeeper organization.
They're a clean-waterways group, they'll have a contact list and information about native plants and shrubs.
They're usually looking for demonstration sites to replace cut-grass lawns with native-plants for landscaping,
so you should probably ask them about grants / nursery discounts or credits etc.

I've helped out on a few streambank repair and replanting projects around Philly, usually they're along creeks in public parks,
but some were basically somebody's suburban back yard. You might be able to work out something similar.

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