Monday, October 16, 2017

Irrigation system water usage

With the main backyard work done, and all the irrigation zones repaired (we think, at least for now).  I wanted to find out how much water we use every time we irrigate, by zone.  We did this before, in July 2014.

Our current usage is:

Zone Gallons Time
Zone 1 29 45
Zone 2 131 45
Zone 3 146 20
Zone 4 248 10
Zone 5 57 45
Zone 6 266 10
Zone 7 134 10
Zone 8 263 10
Zone 9 156 10
Zone 10 217 10
Zone 11 212 10
Total 1859

Zone 3 Irrigation Repai

In trying to check what the water usage was for each irrigation zone, I noticed
that Zone 3 used much more water than any of the others.  Zone 3 is an underground drip irrigation zone, with two parts -- one for the South bed, which now has Linda's second raised garden bed, and the North bed which used to have lavender plants (they died).

The South bed has a cut-off value for that bed.

and turning it off did not significantly change the water usage. 

I did not originally have a cut-off valve for the North bed.

So I  added a cut-off valve for the North bed.

But then turning this off still did not change the water usage.  So there must be a leak someplace between the Zone 3 valve and the two beds.

Finding that leak, in the main supply lines way under ground is beyond my skill set, so I called American Irrigation Repair.  They came out and found the leak in short order .. how they knew where to dig to find it, I don't know.

The leak was right at a joint -- a coupling -- as the main supply line for the South bed came out from under the sidewalk.  The pipe had cracked right next to the coupling.  They said it was because the pipe on one side was slightly lower than the pipe on the other side.

Making an in-line repair has always been a mystery to me, and they did this funny out and back to both allow the difference in height and to get enough flexibility in the pipes to put them together.

And that seems to have been that.  $166.  Quick, efficient and done right.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Zone 10 Irrigation Valve Repair

When cutting the grass in the front yard, we noticed a "wet" spot.  A week later, we noticed it was both wet, and had standing water.  This is more or less where the charts show that the valve controllers for Zones 10 and 11 are supposed to be, so the suspicion is a bad valve controller.  And the only reason that a valve controller would leak, that I know of, is a bad diaphragm.

But the first problem is to find them.  Luckily, if the valve is leaking, then the wet spot would be the location of the valve.  So we found the center of the wet area and started to dig there.  Starting with a 2 foot by 2 foot area, we just intersected one of the boxes.  And enlarging it a bit, there was the other box on the other side of the hole.  The boxes are 23 inches apart -- center to center or rim to rim -- and the line between them runs basically parallel to the house or the curb in front of the house.  The one is 33 feet from the corner of the house (by the gas meter), and the other is 33 feet 4 inches.

Turning the water supply line to the irrigation system back on, we see water beginning to appear in the box for Zone 10.

So we dig up more around the valve, and take it apart.  Remove the diaphragm and take it Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply to get a replacement.  They wanted to know what type of valve it was from -- I don't know -- and they guessed an Irritrol 2400S.  $18.79.  Take that back home and it seems to fit fine.

However, in taking the valve apart, I removed the solenoid, and apparently lost the moving part of it.  I don't remember it dropping out; it doesn't seem to be anywhere in the lawn (I used the metal detector to look for it), but it's missing and the solenoid does not work without it.

Using the solenoid from Zone 11, I was able to get Zone 10 working properly; now Zone 11 doesn't work, since it is missing a (working) solenoid.

There was a solenoid with the Irritrol 2400S, but it while it fits, it does not work.  There are apparently 3 different types of irrigation valves (direct, indirect, and semi-direct), and while the diaphragm worked, the solenoid does not.  I was able to get an Orbit Replacement Solenoid Model 57041 from Home Depot which does work.

So Zone 10 has a new diaphragm and Zone 11 has a new solenoid.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Second Backyard Pecan Tree

With the backyard finished, and it being October, we can now put in the second pecan tree.  We had wanted two trees -- one to the East of center, the other West of center -- in the backyard, to create shade.  The first tree was planted in March 2015, before Summer started, and is a Pawnee.  It started at 53 inches tall, and is now (2 summers later) about 120 inches tall (still not a lot of leaves, and no nuts).  We planted that when the East side of the backyard was done, and now that the rest of the backyard is done, we can plant the second tree.

Again, we went to Berdoll Pecan Farm and Nursery to get the tree.  As with the first, this is a medium tree. $49.99 (plus tax).  But this time we got a Choctaw pecan tree.  We dug a hole in the spot reserved for the second tree, and planted it.  It took an extra bag of dirt, plus two bags of mulch.

We trimmed off one of the main roots that looked like it was circling around (from being constrained in the planting pot).  On the one hand, this says it was in the pot too long; on the other hand, it says that this tree really wants to put down a big main root; now it has the space to do that.  The objective is to get it established before winter, so that next Spring, it will be all ready to grow!

At the moment it is 59 inches tall, so half the height of the 1st pecan tree.  The paperwork says that it is 2 years old, while the 1st pecan tree should now be 4 years old.  Pecan trees mature at 7 to 10 years, so by 2025, we should have 2 mature pecan trees in the backyard.  We should get pecans from the first tree in 2019, and the second tree by 2021.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fence Lattice for a Backyard Bed

Linda is busy working on filling in the bed in the center of the back yard, near the electrical box and along the fence.  One of the items she wants to plant is a vine, so she needs a trellis for the vine to grow on.

We are going to use a 4 ft. by 8 ft. wood lattice for the trellis.  To hold it in place, we first attach a couple of 2x4's to the fence, standing out, so that the lattice will be 4 inches (really 3.5 inches) away from the fence.  Both are attached by 1/4 by 6 inch lag screws, "standing up" on the fence.  One is screwed into a 4x4 fence post; the other is screwed into the 2x4 cross beams (behind the fence pickets).

Then the lattice is screwed onto the two supports.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Front Yard corner near Gas Meter, Part 2

With the border in place, we are ready to extend the River of Rocks from the fence/gate to the border.  We have a selection of flattish rocks that we have been putting aside from the work in the back yard.  We start by putting a couple in place near the gate.

Then we extend that with additional rocks, working our way towards the front.

We pick stones and position them to form the River of Rocks, but also to carefully conceal the valve for irrigation Zone 9, so it will be easy to find when we next need to.

Eventually, we have selected and placed rocks all the way back to the front border.

The next step is to dig out the dirt under each rock, so as to make it flat, stable, and level with the dirt.  The rocks closest to the gate have to allow the gate to be opened.  There are significant root issues from the Elm tree, so this takes longer than expected.

But finally we have all the rocks placed, and leveled.  We can fill in with dirt.

As a final step, we transplant monkey grass in-between the rocks.

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.