Garden drip irrigation systems must be installed properly

typical garden drip irrigation system layoutIrrigation systems for landscaping are often installed improperly or don’t even exist. This observation is from my many years remodeling the landscapes of homeowner’s properties. Fixing an improperly installed drip irrigation system is a very common need for most landscape remodeling projects. Here is how to set up a proper garden drip irrigation system.

Proper Planting Design

An irrigation system is designed based on the layout of the plants. Proper irrigation design is best when the planting design is done with the irrigation system in mind. Plantings are not only selected for their form, shape and structure, but for their sun/shade requirements. The concept of planting zones will dictate the way the irrigation system is set up.

Create Irrigation Zones Based on the Plantings

Zones allow for the garden drip irrigation system to deliver water at different durations and frequency. Thus an irrigation station or individual valve is dedicated to a particular zone.  Examples of zones would be front lawn, rear lawn, trees, front shrubs, north shrubs, Xeriscape area, food garden, containers, etc. Note that each of these zones requires different amounts of water. Some require daily watering, others only once per week.

Determine Valve Control Box Location

Once you have a layout of which zones are to be irrigated, you then figure out where the valves should be located. The control valves will need a source of water, so where that point of connection is will affect the location of the control box.

On newer homes, the mainline feeding the house may have a pressure reducer and a line going into the house exposed on the outside of the house. Sometimes, they will install a stub out tee fitting for connection to the garden drip irrigation system, if not, you will have to tie into that mainline and run a line to your valves.

Locate the Irrigation Controller

The valves should be automated and controlled by an irrigation controller. The controller should have as many available stations as you have valves. The controller may be located indoors or outdoors and in either case, connected to a source of electricity. Control wire will run from the controller location to each of the valves so it’s not critical to locate the valves close to the controller.

Install the Lateral Lines and Emitters

Once you set up the mainline connection, your valves and controller, you can run your “lateral” lines that feed each of the zones. For a typical drip system, the lateral will be a ½” tube with separate ¼” tubing for each individual plant. The emitters can be anywhere from ½ GPH (gallons per hour) to 5 GPH.

Keep in mind that if you have one plant with a 1 GPH emitter and another with a 5 GPH on the same zone, one plant will be getting five times more water. Perhaps these plants were not properly chosen nor the irrigation system designed in conjunction with the planting design or installation.

The emitter output should be consistent among all emitters on each zone. This is determined at the time the plants are selected and designed. Since you can’t be perfect with this, some plants that are otherwise considered to have the same watering needs may require different amounts due to variations in soil moisture and sun exposure.

Does Your Planting Design Match the Irrigation System Design?

A proper garden drip irrigation system starts with the design of the planting plan. Unfortunately, too many landscapes are installed in a hodgepodge manner with no plan and consequently, the irrigation system is installed inefficiently resulting in higher maintenance and over watering. Unless you follow these guidelines, consult a professional for your next project to fix your existing system. Your plants will thrive being given the right amount of water.

For another post on drip irrigation systems, see my post called the top 10 drip irrigation mistakes and how to avoid them.

 

Sedona Second Home Landscaping Tips for Prospective Owners

You’re shopping for a second home in Sedona and will use it part of the year or perhaps move into it full time when you retire. Since you will not be there full time, how much effort should you put into your Sedona second home landscaping? The answer depends on the current state of the landscaping and whether you intend to live in it part time or rent it out.

second home landscaping tips

Landscaping is included when shopping for a second home

For instance, the home may be a foreclosure or bank owned with neglected landscaping. Or it may be fully landscaped in good shape and you will need to continue the maintenance. It may have been a rental with minimal landscape improvements.

Regardless of the type of property it was, you need to assess the current state of the landscaping. It could be anywhere from a landscape that was disregarded (yes, even in Sedona), to a high end outdoor living environment where the owners valued professional landscaping and invested in a custom design and installation.

The current state of second home landscaping falls into three general categories:

1) The Clean Slate (needs a complete landscape)

These types of properties are homes that may have never been landscaped except for a few trees and shrubs and gravel cover. They are homes where the owners did not value upgrading the landscaping by installing improvements such as a patio, nice fencing, or other elements. There may be a lot of native vegetation left in its natural state.

To some degree, these properties are like a clean slate because there isn’t much that you need to rip out and redo the way you want it or to correct mistakes in terms of taste or poor quality work. These properties include foreclosures, rentals and older properties.

2) The Remodel (needs repairs and a makeover)

Your new home may be equipped with a concrete driveway, block walls, brick patios, a barbeque island and would appear that it was installed as a complete landscape project at one point. It may have been installed by professional landscapers, or some of the improvements could have been homeowner built.

When a landscape needs a makeover or renovation, it’s often because it doesn’t work for the new owner. It may need repairs, it may lack certain elements, it may not have enough patio space, the front may lack any curb appeal, the barbeque island was placed in an unacceptable location and so forth.

3) The Acceptable Landscape (fully landscaped)

The home may have been fully landscaped with an irrigation system, drain lines, a lawn, a fountain, decking, nice trees and shrubs and was maintained either by the owner or a maintenance service. This type of landscape requires minimal improvements except for areas where you would like to customize or add something it lacks. While being an absentee owner, you will need to make sure it is maintained.

Now ask yourself these questions:

Will it be vacant while you are not using it?

If it is an Acceptable Landscape, you may not need to do much at all except engage the services of a maintenance service so it looks good when you do visit.

If it’s a Remodel, you may be compelled to make a lot of improvements so that when you are visiting, it will accommodate your needs and wants and allow you to enjoy the outside without being reminded of all the fixing and replacing it needs.

If it’s a Clean Slate, how enjoyable will your second home be if there is not much to the landscaping? You will certainly want to make some improvements and here is where you can start from scratch and design the whole yard the way you want.

Will you rent it out so its not a financial burden?

If you will not be visiting your Sedona second home on a regular basis as in the case of the vacant property, you will most likely view it as an investment property with the intention of either changing it from being a rental to an actual second home or moving in when you can retire and relocate to Sedona.

The decision regarding how much you should landscape the property will often be made soon after you purchase the property and the current state of the landscape will affect your ability to market the rental for the going market rent for the price range of the home. For instance, a high end Sedona property that rents for at least $2000/month will need to have decent and well maintained landscaping. A property that is either a Clean Slate or a Remodel will need its landscaping to be acceptable and comparable to the rental amount.

Being a rental, most landlords are not inclined to make improvements that do not make a return on the investment, so they tend to keep everything as is. They will wait until they move in themselves to make significant changes to the landscape.

If you are currently looking for property for a second home or investment, consider hiring a landscape professional who can give you a Sedona second home landscaping assessment of the improvements required to bring the landscaping up to the standards you require depending on how you are going to use the home.

Top 5 Reasons to Use Concrete Pavers in Your Landscape

Whether its for a driveway, a patio sitting area, a walkway or pool decking, concrete pavers should be considered as an alternative material choice in every landscape design. There are numerous reasons why they have captured such a huge part of the landscape flooring market and here we discuss what those benefits are that make them so popular.

Concrete pavers have evolved over the years from being used in many commercial applications to simulate the look of bricks to now simulating the look of real stone. They color blends and textures have now allowed designers to use concrete pavers in applications that call for an economical alternative to using real stone materials.

Concrete pavers cannot compete with real stone such as travertine flooring or random flagstone, but it is considered because of several factors. Lets see why concrete pavers are indeed so popular and why the manufacturers are coming out with more and more variations on the basic design.

1) Flexibility in Design

Pavers come in a variety of patterns, textures and colors from contemporary patterns to combinations of units that mimic European cobblestone. Because they are molded, texture can be created to not only resemble a brick but a rounded stone or even a piece of cut flagstone.

Pavers are generally smaller units and can be laid to follow the terrain. They can be installed directly on the contours of the land. If you have a driveway that dips down and then slopes back up, pavers will look natural over the topography. There is no need to have level sections such as when using wood.

2) Very Low Maintenance

Unlike wood or real stone, concrete pavers do not crack or react to absorption of water. Wood will rot if not sealed to resist the penetration of water. Real stone will also become vulnerable to constant moisture. Pavers do absorb water, but do not change their inherent structure. They do not flake or become weakened by the presence of water or moisture.

Debris that accumulates naturally simply needs to be swept or hosed off. Application of a sealer is optional and not required. Sealers are often used where someone wants the pavers to take on an enhanced tone. Sealers will also help to resist the absorption of stains as concrete pavers are porous just like natural stone.

3) Pavers Will Not Crack

Compared to regular concrete, pavers are crack free. Their inherent design allows them to flex and move because of their many dry joints between the individual pavers. No poured concrete is used in the installation, only a compacted aggregate base and sand. Edge restraints can be packed concrete along the outer perimeter or special plastic edge restraints designed specifically for pavers.

Tile, stone, flagstone or any other material that must be installed over a concrete slab is subject to cracking of the underlying slab. Poured concrete without stone on top will also crack because it’s the nature of concrete to crack. Expansion joints are intentionally placed in poured concrete applications to allow for this natural cracking. Unfortunately, concrete does not always crack along the expansion joints. And when it doesn’t the whole appearance can be ruined.

4) Paver Cost is Reasonable

A cost comparison of alternative flooring surfaces will show that  pavers are in the mid range of available options. Materials such as higher end travertine or flagstone are at the top along with premium wood or composite wood. At the low end of landscape flooring options, we have basic gravel, then loose flagstone pieces set in sand and then basic natural gray poured concrete which is why so many of our driveways and sidewalks use basic natural gray concrete.

But if you want to stretch your budget a bit and get something that has a completely more exciting look and feel compared to basic concrete, using pavers is a great option.

When you embellish basic concrete by adding color or perhaps adding aggregate for texture, you are adding to the overall cost, but remember, you still have the risk of cracking.

5) Innovation is Improving with Paver Technology

The styles and shapes now available in the market give the designer a lot of flexibility to emulate the appearance of natural stone. Travertine quarries have even created cut travertine stones that are typically 6” x 12” and thick enough to be used in lieu of concrete type pavers. Other natural stone is not conducive to being cut in this fashion. But travertine pavers are also popular for the application where a natural stone is preferred and the budget is a bit higher than for concrete pavers.

 

The case in favor of real turf grass

The Lawn Institute has an extensive list of benefits and value of maintaining natural lawns or real turf grass in our society. They point out a number of benefits including environmental, economical and even psychological issues to make the case in favor of real turf grass. They do not however, make a side by side comparison to the artificial grass alternative. So as you read through all of these benefits, think if artificial grass would provide the same benefits.

I  particularly liked the quote , “Surveys conducted by … bare out the fact that green space and especially green lawns may be as American as apple pie, hot dogs and baseball”. The issue is green open space.

The following survey results speak for themselves:

Psychological Health

  • 93% of homeowners rank green space important
  • 86% find that a nice lawn is a positive reflection on the homeowner
  • 63% of homeowners feel a landscape is an outlet for self-expression and creativity

Regional Economics

More than 90% of homeowners surveyed feel that having a well maintained lawn improves property values.

  • Roughly 74% of homeowners feel lawns and landscapes of neighbors are important when buying a house
  • 73% said the lawn is an important consideration when buying a house

The artificial grass alternative

I often bring up artificial grass as an alternative to real turf grass in most cases where the grass area considered is not too large. Since artificial grass costs much more than natural sod, homeowners often ask, “how much more is it?”. I have found that it is generally 2.5 to 3 times more in terms of initial costs. The maintenance costs including the cost of water should also be factored in over time.

Costs however may not be the only deciding factor and that is where the quote about grass being “as American as apple pie, hot dogs and baseball” is intriguing. I cannot cite an actual survey, but I do believe that all costs and environmental comparisons put aside, people would prefer the real thing over the fake alternative. People naturally will gravitate towards something natural when presented with a “fake” substitute.

Artificial is perceived as having less value and desirability. It’s also perceived as being inferior, cheap, less prestigious and not as sophisticated as the real thing. This is often true with plastic alternatives to natural materials such as stone or plants.  Fake indoor plants are lifeless substitutes for real indoor plants. So of course we would prefer real grass over something fake until we educate ourselves beyond this simple fake vs. real comparison.

Studies have shown that patients in hospitals and nursing homes that have view onto a natural landscape, perhaps one with a nice green lawn improve their conditions compared to patients who are not exposed to those same views. I wonder if those same benefits would be experienced if artificial grass were present. Given today’s technology of being able to make fake grass look as real as natural grass, I would guess that it would have the same psychological effects.

Americans love affair with the natural lawn

63% of homeowners feel a landscape is an outlet for self-expression and creativity (1)

Another psychological factor is the degree of enjoy-ability. Some people take great pride in maintaining their lawns even though they spend hours maintaining it. They see their lawns as an extension of their own identity, and if exposed to the public as in the case of the front lawn, may even be more sensitive of how they (and their lawn) are perceived by their neighbors. Artificial turf takes away any ego identification with how well it is being maintained. They may even be concerned about being labeled as “the guy with the fake grass”.

But as the technology to recreate the real lifelike appearance of natural grass improves with the synthetic alternatives, more and more people will be fooled into believing it is indeed real. And when that happens without the homeowner disclosing that its fake at the outset, they can only feel proud of their choice because almost everyone is usually quite astonished when they are told that it is indeed artificial grass.

Here is the laundry list of benefits of real grass as cited by The Lawn Institute.  and where you can find the citations made regarding the survey results.

Thought about having a small container water garden for your patio or deck? Water gardening is a great hobby, but a container with aquatic plants and perhaps some fish will also look great greeting visitors by the front door. Here are some container water gardening ideas that will help you decide just how to create one or more.

A container water garden can be created using any type of container provided it is water sealed. A container that is not otherwise considered or designed to function as a fountain, must be fixed up so it can hold water and not deteriorate form being wet. Large ceramic pots work well as long as the insides are watersealed. Probably the most popular idea is to purchase a kit that uses a Whiskey Barrel design with a pre-formed plastic liner that fits inside to hold the water while still maintaining the rustic outer whiskey barrel appearance.

The larger the water surface area of the container, the more aquatic plants you can have. So you may want to get several containers and group them, perhaps even create a tiered grouping to create more visual interest and variety of heights. These container water gardening ideas ares also used when dealing with traditional containers for plants alone. You can work them in with your regular planting containers.

A container water garden should be designed primarily around the kind of aquatic plants you would like. You may want to create a Zen like container water garden with a low profile container with a single Lotus or single Water lily. The design principles of arranging plants in a conventional container apply to a water garden as well. Groupings of plants that provide contrast, a variety of textures and colors will add to its appeal. Select plants of different shapes and size and make sure you read about how large they grow and their tolerance to freezing temperatures. Also consider the balance of water surface to the plants so it doesn’t look crowded or overgrown.

If you add fish to your water garden, the volume of water the container can hold will be important. The more the volume the better as the temperature of the water will not undergo drastic extremes which most fish do not like. Mosquito fish however, can tolerate warm water quite well. If your container holds more than 20 gallons of water you can add any type of goldfish.

With the addition of fish, along with the plants, you are creating a mini ecosystem and as such, a harmonic balance must be achieved between the capacity of the bacteria in the container and the debris and waste contributed by the fish. Adequate oxygen levels must also be provided and so a small recirculating pump that has some kind of way to aerate the water should be included. This could also provide the element of sound and splashing. It will also disturb the water’s surface and prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.

If you have ever had a fish aquarium, you are probably familiar with feeding the fish, adding aquatic plants and cleaning out the aquarium’s filter from time to time. The maintenance of a container water garden outdoors is quite easy since the plants do much to keep the water clean. Just don’t add too many fish that exceeds the ability of the bacteria to break down the waste material. The water will evaporate over time so keep an eye on the level or better yet, install a float valve connected to a water source and you won’t have to worry about evaporation.

Don’t limit your ability to have more than just a container water garden. Consider other waterfeatures as well. Waterfeatures is a collective term that includes all types of fountain like designs such as tabletop fountains, container water gardens, stand-alone fountains, bubbling urns, rock waterfalls and ponds.

 Page 5 of 12  « First  ... « 3  4  5  6  7 » ...  Last » 
/* */