Thursday, October 20, 2016

Building up the new Raised Bed where the Greenhouse was

With the greenhouse gone, and having dug down about 30 inches, we are ready to create the new raised bed.  We start with a hole in the ground, surrounded a wooden frame that used to be the foundation of the greenhouse.

The dirt sides under the frame provide an avenue for roots and such to get into the raised bed-to-be, and we would like to prevent that.  Plus we need a way to raise the bed over the surrounding ground level, maybe by 10 to 16 inches.

Our solution is to use corrugated steel sheets.  These can be bought in 8 foot lengths, and cut in half will then provide 4 foot lengths.  A 4 foot long sheet can be attached to the wooden frame so that 14 inches is above the frame, and 32 inches then extend down into the ground.

We cut the 8 foot lengths in half by using a thin metal cut off wheel for our hand power grinder.  That works pretty well.  Not a perfectly straight edge, but I can put the cut edge down and bury any issues with that edge -- the exposed, top edge is perfectly straight.

We use standard roofing screws, 1.5 inches long, to attach the corrugated steel to the frame.

Three sheets along the back wall.  The first one put up was bent, length-wise, to fit in the corner, so we have the back wall, plus part of one side wall.  We do the same on the other corner and can continue along the sides.

Then we run into a problem.  Caused by poor planning.  We started at the back.  The ground, even the rock layer that we have dug down to, slopes gently from the front to the back.  So the 32 inches of depth that we have in the back, reduces to less at the front.  The result is that the sheet we want to put on the side, again showing only 14 inches above the frame, hits the rock floor with too much showing above the frame -- 15 to 16 inches -- and won't go lower.  We could get out the grinder and cut each sheet to be shorter.  Or we can get out the jack hammer and make the ground lower (at least in a line under the sheet metal), or we can raise the frame.

We decided to raise the frame.

Doing that, we can then continue around the bed, attaching the sheets to the side and the front.

Three more sheets to attach, and once that is done, we have the complete definition of the new raised bed.

There are a couple of details.  Notice, that the corrugated steel sheets are, well, corrugated, but the frame is not.  There is a special piece of trim sold at hardware stores for this, called a closer.

Before attaching the sheet metal, I first tacked the closer onto the frame, and then screwed the sheet metal thru the closer into the frame.  It turns out the waves of the closer are a bit closer together and more "wavy" than the sheet metal.  So if you force the low spot of the sheet metal into the low spot of the closer, you accordion the sheet metal a bit more and it molds to the closer shape.

The other detail is that the ground around the frame has collapsed in spots.  This is most likely because I dug out a bit too much under the frame, combined with the fact that we raised the frame to get it level and high enough for the 48 inch height of the sheet metal.

We will need to fill in and smooth out these areas, after we fill in the raised bed with dirt.  At this point, the raised bed has some dirt in it, the dirt that we never bothered to remove from the pit after we had dug it out.

We add on top of that all the dirt that we dug out and put in a pile in the back yard, mixed with a lot of leaves and grass.  This gives us a clean back yard

and fills the new bed up almost to the point where the screws are that hold the sheet metal to the frame.

 We still need 14 to 16 inches of dirt to fill the bed to the top.  Since the bed is roughly 65 inches by 90 inches, that means about 2 cubic feet more of dirt.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Greenhouse gone, New Raised Bed

Back in 2012, we got a greenhouse from a neighbor, mostly as a favor to them -- they were selling, the buyers did not want it, and they needed to move it.  We felt it would probably be too hot in the Summer.

And we were right.  For us, it was just blazing hot in the summer (it literally would melt crayons) and not insulated enough in the winter to protect from the cold.  So we listed it on Craig's List and it went away to someone else.

That left the gravel that had been the floor of the greenhouse, but another guy took that, so we were left with just the foundation frame and a slight hole.

What to do with this spot?

Linda decided she might like another raised bed.  Basically build up the sides somewhat more, and dig out the insides to put in good dirt.

So the first step is digging out the insides.  This part of the South Bed has not yet been excavated -- we put the greenhouse in before we excavated all around it. But that just means that as we dig it out, we get both rock and dirt.

and after a couple of days of digging out the dirt, separating the rocks and hauling the dirt off to make space

we have a pile of dirt in the back yard (to mix with leaves and grass to make it better dirt):

a pile of rocks on the driveway (to get rid of)

and a hole in the ground, surrounded by the greenhouse frame.

We have one large rock still in the hole; it's too big to lift and I need to built a ramp or step or something to roll it out.

But this only gets us down 18 inches; we want to go deeper.  So we break out the jack hammer and start taking this next layer of rock apart.

This takes several days.

But we are able to get out this layer of rock.

which gets us down to 32 to 34 inches deep (from the top of the wooden frame).

But we can not get out all the rock -- there is still a layer that is under the wooden frame.  This is only on 3 sides; the East side was apparently taken out when the South bed was excavated.  The other three sides, however, either did not go down as low, or did not get as close to the frame.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Irrigation and the Back Bedroom Bed

There are two parts of the in-ground irrigation system that impact the back bedroom bed.

First, the main irrigation water supply line runs thru the entire bed, about 8 to 10 inches below the surface.  It runs roughly parallel to the back bedroom exterior wall, from 25 to 27 inches from the concrete wall that seals off the foundation.  When it gets to the Iris bed, it's only 12 inches away from the bed.  On either end, it then disappears under the river of rocks.

The other related irrigation system component is for the bed itself.  This is all done in 1/2 inch PVC, as an extension of Zone 9.    We ran a 1/2 inch PVC line right next to the house, with pop-up sprinkler heads that spray out from the house, covering the bed.  Any over-spray will go onto the river of rocks, and water the monkey grass between the rocks.

There are 4 heads equally spaced along the back of the house in a straight line from the corner to the Iris bed.  We jog out slightly to get around the Iris bed stone work and continue to the end of the bed for one last head.  Each head should be just at ground level, and then pop-up 4 inches.  As with our other new beds, we are using the Rainbird 1800 series heads.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Filling in the Back Bedroom Bed

With the foundation wall in place, and the bed excavated down to 2 to 3 feet,

we can now start to fill it back in.  The first thing we did was empty all of the contents of the compost bin into the bottom of the bed.

and now we are filling the rest of the bed with the contents of the dirt pile in the back yard that we built as we pulled the dirt out of the bed in the first place.

The dirt on the pile is still pretty wet from being rained on, making it heavy and hard to shovel.  This is going to take a few days.

And it does, but it's just moving dirt.

And then, once we have all the dirt in place, we can put the monkey grass between the rocks of the River of Rocks along the bed.

The dirt that is in the bed is all just the dirt that came out of the bed, mixed up and blended with leaves and grass to give it more organic content.  We even had a small amount of dirt left over after filling the bed.  Clearly, it will settle and compact over time -- it is currently full of air and leaves that will break down.  So we intend to leave it alone for a few months -- maybe until next Spring -- and then bring in enough good dirt to level it back up after it settles.

But, for now, after starting the excavation of this bed back in April, seven months later, we are done with the bed.

Replace Front Porch Light Switch

The switch for the front porch light (which is right inside the front door) was a timer, set to come on about 8:30 pm and go off about 11:00 pm.   But it broke; it stopped being able to turn things on or off at particular times.  So we looked to replace it.

A search on Amazon, Lowe's and Home Depot web sites showed a small set of such timers, but one seemed particularly interesting.  One problem of using a fixed time to turn the front lights on is that in the Winter it gets dark earlier, and in the Summer it gets dark later.  The ST01 Timer from Intermatic includes an "Astro" feature that knows when dusk (and dawn) occur in your location and can be set to turn the light on at dusk.  So we bought one of these ($34.55 at Home Depot).

First thing we do is remove the old switch

The other switch is for the light in the entrance way.  We end up with two wires to control the front porch lights.

The ST01 Timer comes with a standard paper installation guide, but the documentation on this guide is terrible.  There is a "mode" button that controls what is happening.  As you cycle thru the modes, there are modes that show up that the installation guide does not even mention.   They say to open the battery drawer to install the battery, but it is not at all clear how to do that (until after you have opened the battery drawer).

But it's a light switch, so from an installation point of view, installation is pretty easy.  Attach the black wire and blue wire to the two wires that go to the front porch lights.  The red wire is not used.  Attach the green wire to the ground wires.  Done. 

Bend the wires so that they all fold into the electrical box and use the two screws (top and bottom) to hold it in place.

Oops.  Now we see that the new switch is one of the large rectangular switches, not the small toggle switch, like the one for the front entranceway. So the old switch plate won't fit.  And if we get a new switch plate, we also need a new switch for the front entranceway.  So back to Home Depot, to get a new switch ($1.98) and switch plate ($1.59) for the "Decora" style of light switch.  Remove the old toggle switch and put in the new Decora switch for the front entranceway, then put on the new switch plate.

So that took longer than expected, because of the unplanned for trip to Home Depot for the new switch and switch plate, but things should work better now -- the front porch lights should come on at dusk and go off at 11:00 pm, when we go to bed.  Even if I forget to turn them on.  Or off.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Back Bedroom Bed Foundation Wall, Part 2

Having dug out as much as we are going to, we can clean up next to the foundation, removing loose rock, trimming roots, and spraying it down to wash any loose dirt off. 

Then we can form up for the concrete

The concrete calculator again says it should take about 28 bags of concrete, but this time we are getting 50 pound bags from Lowe's (on special) for two trips of $28.64, a total of $57.28.  Mix them up and pour them in the form.

The next day we can take down the forms.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Back Bedroom Bed, Part 3

We are continuing the excavation to the bed by the Back Bedroom, after pouring the first part of the concrete wall sealing off the foundation.  A couple of days of digging gets us enough dirt to, when mixed with leaves and grass, fill in the deep area next to the concrete wall.

This also gets us to the point we need to use the jackhammer again, to break up the rock that has been uncovered.

We clean those rocks up.

And continue digging to the end of the bed to expose more rocks.

which brings out the jackhammer to break these up.

And these are also hauled around front to be gotten rid of.

And after another day of digging and hauling off rock, we should be ready to frame the cement wall to run along the foundation.