Thursday, January 28, 2010

Microsprinkler Drip Irrigation - the Green Choice

I installed a drip irrigation system yesterday. Drip irrigation uses less than half the water of traditional sprinkler systems, while also costing less to install. I used commercial half inch polyethylene tubing for the main line and then inserted 8" rods with microsprinklers attached at intervals. Here is one of the microsprinklers:

The stated cast area for the microsprinklers is ten feet and I found this to be accurate - and since they cast such a wide water "net", you don't need to run an individual dripper to each plant, so it's a much less fussy and involved setup than older forms of drip irrigation. You just run the half inch poly main line through your flower beds, winding around major plantings and trees, using plastic stakes to hold the line in place in the mulch:

And then you insert the microsprinkler rods at intervals roughly corresponding to their cast area, with a little overlap for good measure:

The half inch poly is a new commercial blend that is strong and resilient, yet pliable - and once it's warmed up in the sun a little you can bend it around obstacles such as tree roots or hardscaping - here a tree root also protects the line from mower blades:

All of this hooks up to a standard hose faucet so no serious plumbing work is usually required - and because poly is more pliable and less brittle than schedule 40 PVC it's also less likely to freeze in cold weather - pretty cool huh? The head unit at the faucet is comprised of 5 parts that takes about 30 minutes to install:

Component #1: Attach a simple pressure regulator that reduces the household water pressure from the faucet down to 50 PSI to avoid blowing out the tubing connections between the poly and the rods.
#2: Attach a Y joint so that a garden hose can still be used at the faucet.
#3: Attach an electronic timer control unit which can be set like any hardwired sprinkler unit - here I set it for 15 minutes at 6 AM every other day.
#4: A backflow antisiphon valve to prevent water from siphoning back up into the house.
Finally #5: a hose to poly coupler - and then you're done. I also used plumber's tape on all of the thread connections between these components just to be safe and prevent leakage:

So what is microspinkler drip irrigation NOT good for? Large lawns with lots of turf and heavy foot traffic. Football fields. Municipal open spaces. But if you've got a "green" yard with a combination of mulched flower beds and native plantings, or a vegetable or flower garden that needs consistent, precise watering during the growing season, microsprinklers will save you 50% off your water bill while reducing runoff, overspray and unnecessary waste. And the install process is relatively painless and inexpensive - so in my book it's a great option for many homeowners and a win win.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tumbled Paving Stones as Borders and Edging

Tumbled paving stones make great borders and edging for flower beds, patios and driveways. The ones I use are relatively inexpensive and easy to get at Home Depot. If the spot where they are to be placed is properly dug out, the stones can be dry stacked - no mortar necessary, although it can certainly be used - and I usually like to use an alternating small large small pattern. When paired with bark chips and hardy annuals such as snapdragons, kale or ivy I think you get a really strong and attractive landscape. Examples:

Working with tree roots

I like to dig out around the roots at the base of a great big tree - a live oak here - and plant small annuals such as flowers or herbs in the nooks and crannies. Then cover with mulch - I prefer bark chips because they stay in place better than the ubiquitous pine straw. You get whimsical, beautiful shapes:

Or sometimes just taking a single root and pairing it with a flower or plant:

Driveway Widening

A little bit of work with Quikrete and some tumbled paving stones as an edge:

Blue Flower Arbor

This is an arbor of pressure treated 4x4 lumber with a honeysuckle vine planted at the base, a birdfeeder integrated into the top, and decorative blue flower pieces:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Woodworking Details

I like to use a common theme - such as earth tones or greens - with a single accent color such as sky blue.

Vertical emphasis looks better - I'm not sure why.

Also a light coat of cedar stain for weather resistance.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Corner Arbor

Corner arbor of pressure treated lumber painted to match the house trim, Confederate Jasmine vine trained up the side, moderate art deco style.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Paving Stone Patio

Tumbled paving stones - arranged in a rustic, "weathered" pattern. This was fun to do and not particularly difficult - when dry stacked on a flat prepared surface and filled in with soil, you don't need mortar and can plant small succulents like sedum and portulaca between the stones for a very picturesque look.

Close up: tea leaf camellia shrub, crimson snapdragons, Irish moss - you're supposed to be able to make green tea out of the camellia leaves - same family as the plant they make real tea from - but I haven't tried this yet.