Monday, September 18, 2017

Front Yard corner near Gas Meter, Part 1

Now that the Zone 9 and Zone 10 irrigation has been fixed (last blog posting), we can start to work on this corner of the front yard.

A long time ago, when we dug up this area before, for the French drain, we removed the small border that separated the yard from the beds.  Now we need to replace that border and continue it to the edge of the yard.  Continuing the border will make this corner by the gas meter an extension of the bed in the front of the house.  We will then extend the River of Rocks from the back yard out to the new border.

So the first job is to dig the trench for the extended border.

Then we pour cement into the trench to create a base and mortar stones in to create the border.  We want the stones to be rough-cut, to match the "rustic" nature of the existing border.  This ended up being more difficult than we remember -- all the stones we found were "sawed" and so smooth on two (opposite) sides.  Eventually we found some cast-offs, but instead of our normal 4x4, they were 8x4, and being cast-offs, somewhat irregular in shape. (Texas Wholesale Stone, $32.72)

But we adjusted the cement base to compensate for the irregular shape of the stones and mortared them in to create a smooth extension of the existing stone border, but twice as deep. (4 bags of Quikrete plus a bag of mortar from Home Depot, $20.35)

With the border in place, we then purchased a cubic yard of dirt (Whittlesey Landscape Supplies, $40.95) and put it in the newly defined bed, to fill in and smooth out.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Zone 9 Irrigation Repair

It turns out Zone 9 of our irrigation system was not working.  It took a while for us to notice, since the system runs in the middle of the night, so we did not see it not watering.  It may have been intermittent since in one case, it came on after leaving Zone 9 on at the controller for about an hour.  So I figured it was probably the valve.

First problem is finding the valve.  I eventually found it, after some trial digging, and looking at the old photos from when the area near the gas meter was dug up years ago.

I contacted American Irrigation Repair, since they had done good work on previous irrigation system repairs that are over my head, and they came out after about 2 weeks.

They agreed that it was the valve -- the wiring is okay, but the value didn't work, so they replaced it.  $223.61.

I took advantage of the need to replace the valve, to redo some of the plumbing.  There are two heads for Zone 9 that are for the front lawn.  All the others are for beds in the West Side and around to the back.  So instead of the previous T connection, they put in a 90 degree turn to go to the back of the house, only.

The next day, I trenched from the nearest head on Zone 10 -- for the front bed, near the corner of the house, over to one of the two heads for the front lawn, and connected them.

Then I capped off the part of the pipe near the Zone 9 valve, and now the two front lawn heads are on Zone 10, which covers this entire side of the front lawn.
Zone 11 does the other side, between the driveway and the sidewalk.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cleaning out the Blue Rock Pool

Back in January 2008, we finished the French Drain by creating a holding pond for the rain water runoff, filling it with rock and topping it with Mexican Beach Rock, creating the Blue Rock Pool.

Overtime, dirt washed down the lawn on the West side of the house and into the Blue Rock Pool, particularly when we had really heavy rains.  In theory, the Rock Retaining Wall, and the terracing of the land in the Shallows should have fixed that (plus raising the level of the rock topping the upside of the pond).  So if that is true, then it is time to clean out the Blue Rock Pool.  It is buried in leaves and mud, and even has plants growing in the pool.

The first step is to remove the layer of blue rocks.

That gets us down to the underlying fill rock.

and that needs to be removed and washed and then put to the side while we continue to dig the fill rock out of the pond.

Washing the rocks was not as easy as I thought it would be.  Eventually I settled on a screen over two wheelbarrow tubs, with an additional PVC structure to support the screen.

We dug out, washed and set aside rocks on the sidewalk, the patio, and even behind the raised garden.  There was a lot of rock.

The pond is a rough trapezoid, 123 inches by 64 inches, by 84 inches by 60 inches.  It varies from 21 to 26 inches deep.  That makes it about 86 cubic feet or over 3 cubic yards.

But eventually, all the fill rock is washed and put back in place.

We then put down a layer of weed barrier and covered that with the Mexican blue rock.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Grass for Central Backyard

With the dirt down, the next step is grass.

We could wait until the Fall, but that would mean a bare dirt back yard for the whole summer.  The weather prediction is for rain this whole next week, so we figured we would try to rush it before the rain.

The last time we bought grass it was Zoysia Palisades from the Grass Outlet.  A rough calculation with the area calculator on their site suggests 1.6 pallets, which since it sells only full pallets, is 2 pallets.  A pallet covers 450 square feet.  We ordered from them, with delivery on Saturday.

The grass arrived on Saturday at 12:00 noon.

and we had it installed -- which is to say spread out on the dirt -- by 3:00.

It took the entire 2 pallets, none left over.  This is with leaving a bed area along the fence from the green electrical box for Linda.  We will extend the bed to the East of the electrical box too, by ripping out the grass that is already there.

Once the grass was in, it appeared to me that there were holes and gaps in the sod and some sod pieces were really thin, so I thought it would be good to top-dress the new sod with dirt.  I got a cubic yard of professional mix from Whittlesey and spread it on the new grass, raking it down so that the grass is still visible.  Hopefully the rain/watering will wash this down to the roots.

It took an afternoon to adjust the height of the sprinkler heads to adjust for the depth of the dirt and grass put on the lawn.  Some of the heads were about 6 inches underground.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dirt for the Central Backyard

With the irrigation system installed, we can now get dirt to fill in the backyard, replacing the rock that has been removed.

As before, we are getting Professional Mix from Whittlesey Landscape Supplies in Round Rock.  We had been bringing in 8 cubic yards, but in this case we ordered 12 cubic yards.  With an $80 delivery charge, this comes to $568.12.  It was delivered at about 1:00 PM on Monday.

After about 10 hours (5 hours on Monday and 5 hours on Tuesday) of shoveling the dirt into the wheelbarrow and carting it around back, spreading it in the central backyard, this is done.

The backyard starts with the combination of leaves, grass and dirt that was there in the beginning.

After the first 5 hours, we have a strip closest to the established lawn, and along the back fence partially filled.

And after the next 5 hours, we have a strip that goes all along the sidewalk over to the irrigation valves for Zone 6 and Zone 7, extending about halfway across the yard to the fence.

Clearly, we need more dirt.

We spread 3 full bags (3 cubic feet each) of Peat Moss across the central backyard.

And then another 12 cubic yards of dirt.

This fills in the back yard pretty well.  But the dirt is dry, light and fluffy.  While we have compressed it some by walking around on it, we thought it might need a bit more.  So we rented a "lawn roller" from Home Depot ($13.10 for 4 hours).  It's just a plastic cylinder on a handle, but you can fill it with water to make it 250 pounds heavy, and then roll it around on the lawn.

I did one pass horizontally and one pass vertically.

As a measure of the amount of dirt (other than 24 cubic yards), at the stick (where the tree is to be planted), we have 11 inches of new dirt (professional mix) to get the backyard leveled.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Zone 6 Irrigation System

Zone 6 is the central backyard.  It is a more complicated area than Zone 7, which is long and thin.  Trying to draw the zone to scale shows that it is both wide and deep.  The width is constrained by Zone 4 on the East and Zone 7 on the West.  The depth is constrained by the sidewalk on the North and the fence on the South.

Since there are heads on both the East and West adjacent to the new Zone 6, we can put the heads for Zone 6 in a ways from the edges, so as not to water the edges twice, from both Zone 6 and the neighboring zones.

The beginning of the zone is the valve, which is over in Zone 7.  We will need to run a 1 inch PVC pipe from the valve over to the corner of Zone 6 where we need it.  That is shown in "yellow".  Then we can switch to 3/4 inch PVC (in "orange") for the actual zone itself.  We will put one head in the middle of the 1 inch supply line.  And since the lower left corner where we start the actual irrigation is complicated enough, being both an unusual angle, and having one input line and two output lines, plus a head, we delay converting one of the output lines from 1 inch to 3/4 inch until we get to the next head.  We can get a tee fitting that is 1 x 1 x 3/4; I don't think there is a 1 x 3/4 x 3/4.

From this design, we can go buy the fittings and pipe and lay things out.  The main purchase at Home Depot was for $125.48.  There were multiple additional trips to multiple Home Depots to get all the fittings we needed.  But once we had them, we could lay things out and start to trench where the lines will go.

We have 15 heads, plus two bubblers, one on each side of the "tree", or at least where we expect the tree to go.

Zone 6 starts at the valve and extends along next to the Retaining wall to the sidewalk, with one head half-way in-between.

The corner by the sidewalk is particularly complicated.  It has a head, plus it goes East along the sidewalk and South towards the fence.  It has to do this while missing the main irrigation water supply line.

As it heads South, towards the fence, it makes a little 10 x 10 box in order to (a) cover the center of the zone, and (b) provide a bubbler for where the tree will be planted.

Once it gets to the fence, there is a slight jog to the West, to put in a head

and then straight alone the fence to the electrical box.

The line goes out around the concrete pad that the electrical box sits on, and then heads North across the yard back to the sidewalk.  This is designed to be perpendicular to the sidewalk, so there is a bit of an angle at the electrical box, since the fence and the sidewalk are not parallel.

Across the yard to the sidewalk

and then along the sidewalk back to the beginning.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Zone 7 Irrigation System

Having finished the excavation of all the rock in the backyard, the next step is to install the irrigation system for the backyard.  We have kept two zones, 6 and 7, from the previous layout for this purpose.  Zone 7 will be the Bottoms; Zone 6 will be the central backyard.

Since we have not yet put the final layer of top soil on these areas, the idea is we can install the irrigation, and then cover it with the top soil.  For the Bottoms, that seems to not be true.  It is mostly filled in, and while we were excavating the central backyard, settled.  So we have to trench it.

Our initial design for Zone 7 was to run heads down one side, next to the Retaining Wall, and back the other, next to the Jungle.  But most of this area is only 9 to 12 feet across, so one head, spraying from 8 to 15 feet, should cover the entire area.  So we simply run the lines along the bottom of the Retaining Wall, and stop at the fence.

There is one exception.  At the widest point, the entrance to the Bottoms next to the irrigation valves, it seems reasonable to put a head next to the Jungle, since these heads spray not only the Bottoms, but out into the central backyard in the transition from one area to the other.

This results in 6 heads for Zone 7, one head next to the Jungle and 5 spaced out along the Retaining wall from the valve to the fence, approximately 10 feet apart.  All of the line is 3/4 inch PVC.  The pipe, fittings, and heads ran $76.81 at Home Depot.

Once the lines are laid, and cemented together, we can bury all of this with the pile of good soil that we have left over.  We will need additional soil, but this is a start.