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.

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.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Digging up the Central Backyard, Part 3

Having finished the rebuild of the main irrigation water line, and Zone 5 water supply, we return to the excavation of the central backyard.  We have dug up the portion just next to the sidewalk; we still have the portion that goes back to the rear fence.

First, we dig back along the established lawn line to the electrical box.  Then we move West a bit and do it again.

Instead of continuing to dig all the way back, we can dig all the way across.  Doing this exposes a layer of rock.

And continued to dig along the edge, we expose more, and more of this layer of rock.

Using the pry bar, I can separate this into 4 large pieces.

Then, using the jack hammer, we can break these into pieces that we can manage.

We can then roll these to the side, and clean up the dirt and debris that is left.

Several hours of moving these out of the pit and to the front, to be hauled away.


produces a big empty pit.

From this, we keep digging back closer to the fence, and find several more, smaller rocks. plus an abandoned PVC sprinkler line.

More digging, to the fence line.

Day after day, keep expanding the dug out area.

Until, finally, the entire area is excavated.

All the rock is dug out, down to bedrock, and the dirt mixed with leaves and grass to improve it's organic content.  Now we just have to put the dirt (that we dug out and is in piles around the hole) back in the hole and smooth everything out.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Leveling the backyard, part 1

As we have excavated the central back yard, we piled up the dirt on part of the Bottoms that has already been excavated.

But as we got more and more of the central back yard dug up, and particularly after lowering the main irrigation water line, it seemed we could move the dirt back to where it will eventually be.  So we took some time to dig all that dirt up out of the Bottoms

 and move it to the ditches that were the result of our digging, levelling off the back yard, more or less.

This "level" is still several inches below where the lawn level will eventually be, still leaves some substantial ditches, adjacent to where we will be continuing to dig.

But it gets things to the point that we will begin to cover up things we may eventually need to find, specifically with the underground irrigation system.

The control value for Zone 5, which controls the sprinklers for  the Iris bed and the Herb Garden beds, is just off the sidewalk.  It's about 7 inches from the sidewalk and 11 inches down from the level of the sidewalk.

The main irrigation water line  runs way down at bedrock, until it gets to the River of Rocks, where the River of Rocks terminates at the back sidewalk.  Then it comes up to a more "normal" depth and continues around the house.  It rises up to 8 inches below the level of the River of Rocks, and the sidewalk, and is 13 inches away from the sidewalk.  (It basically runs parallel to the sidewalk, 12 to 13 inches away from the sidewalk, for the entire length of the house.)

The valves for Zones 6 and 7, which will be used to water the central backyard and the Bottoms (respectively), and buried in the Bottoms, just off of the Rock Retaining wall.  One of the rocks in the Retaining wall is more or less rectangular and sticks up an inch or two above the top of the rest of the wall.  From the top of that rock, it's 21 inches down to the valve covers and 14 inches away from the Retaining wall itself.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rebuilding the Front Porch Planters

We have three large planters on the front porch.  Linda got these years ago and has been trying to keep plants growing in them.  But they get limited sunlight -- on the North side of the house -- and limited water -- under the front porch, so no rain, they have to be hand watered.  And then in the winter, the North wind blows and everything freezes.

So Linda has decided to rebuild these.

First we took out all the existing (mostly dead) plants, and then dug out the soil to get an empty planter.

We made sure that the two drainage holes were open.  Then covered the bottom with a weed barrier, to keep the soil from leaking out, or clogging, the drainage holes.

Next, Linda made up a mixture of Perlite and Coir coconut fiber and filled the bottom half of the planter with that.

This is to provide a base that is good, permeable, soil.  The coconut coir fiber comes in these compressed blocks and has to be soaked to allow it to expand and be worked.

On top of this base, Linda put pots with the plants she wants and then put a decorative layer of moss around them.

The hope is that this will allow the plants to be easily replaced if need be, and to be brought into the garage if it gets too cold.

Repeat for all three of the planters.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Digging up the Central Backyard, Part 2

With the irrigation lines re-built, we continue digging.  The current focus is to dig up and move the Yucca plant.

As we dig to get to the Yucca plant, we mix the dirt with leaves and use it to bury the new irrigation lines.

and keep digging.

until the Yucca plant is completely isolated, and finally falls over.

It was sitting on top of a big pile of really rocky dirt.  Separate out the rocks, add in leaves, and this area is cleaned up.  Move the Yucca out of the way, and we have finished this section of the central backyard.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Lowering the Main Irrigation Water Supply Line

Back in November, 2012, we excavated the East side of the backyard.  As part of that, we exposed the main irrigation water supply line, and to make sure it was well out of the way, we lowered it all the way down to the bedrock.  We had to raise it back up to interface with the existing pipe where we were not (yet) digging.

Now we are digging back to that point, from the other direction.

And today, we dug all the way over to where the pipe drops.

The objective is to dig out all the dirt and rock under the existing pipe, down to bedrock, and then re-do the linkage to the pipe on the East side to lower this section that goes along the center of the yard.

More digging exposes not just the main irrigation supply line, but also the line for Zone 5, and an old (unused) PVC line (which we have now removed).

 Using the jack hammer to break up and remove the rock that has been exposed, we can excavate all the way down to bedrock.

Looking at the far end of the trench shows how the previous work had to "step up" to connect with the un-excavated main supply line:

The first step is to remove all the old PVC pipe.   Then we lay new PVC pipe and couple it directly into the main water supply line. ($34.38 at Home Depot for PVC pipe and pieces).

This is a new 1.5 inch Schedule 40 PVC pipe.  It runs along the ground until it gets to the valve for the Zone 5 beds.  At that point we "tee" off to a 1 inch PVC line going up.

We continue along at ground level until we get to the end of the pit, next to the end of the River of Rocks.  At this point, we must once more "step up" to connect to the rest of the (unexcavated) main water supply line as it continues around the house.

Since both ends of the pipe are fixed, we have to do something to finish the last connection.  We used an NDS 1.5 inch Pro-Span Coupling, which cost $20.65.

From the valve box for Zone 5, we ran 3/4 inch PVC back to the Iris bed and to the Herb bed.

Since this was only 3/4 inch PVC, it was more flexible and we were able to use standard couplings.