Thursday, November 25, 2021

Excavating the Front Flower Bed

There is a bed in-between the house (the front bedroom) and the retaining wall for the front yard.  This has had Nandina for years.  In fact, we excavated this bed once before, in 2008, and just avoided the Nandina.  However, Linda says that Nandina is (a) non-native, and (b) invasive, and so we removed it. 


And having removed it, we can now excavate the entire bed to improve the dirt and remove rock.

We started in the corner, near the door, but soon realized that would be difficult to expand.

 So we moved down to the far end and started digging there.  We know that we did a lot of work when we removed the Mountain Laurel, so we just started next to the Turk's Cap.

Expanding the digging back towards the front porch.

Most of the dirt we dug out went in a pile on the front lawn, near Fuzzy, but eventually we started back-filling the area we had dug with the dirt, mixed with leaves.

As we got closer to the front porch, we uncovered an elevated section of rock.

which we broke up with the jack hammer

and removed.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Removing Two Elm Trees

 The February Freeze killed the Monterrey Oak tree, but it also caused a lot of damage with the Elm trees on the other side of the house.  There was the possibility they would recover, despite the damage, but by September it seemed clear that at least two of them would need to be removed.

We got a couple of quotes, and chose Good Guys Tree Service, who did the air-spading work, to remove the trees.  $2850.  As with the other tree work, it took about a month or so from when we said to do the work for them to show up.

But they showed up on Wednesday, about 2:30 pm. and got right to work.  There was a crew of 7 guys.  Some worked from the roof; some from the ground; some from in the trees; some for the neighbor's yard.

They started with the older, larger tree in the middle,


, removing limbs and trimming it back to just one large trunk.

 And eventually even that trunk came down.

Then they did the same to the other tree.

By 4:30, both trees were down and all the branches, trunks, and wood was cleared off.

leaving only two stumps in the ground

We will see how the Texas Sedge and Inland Sea Oaks recover.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Rock Wall around Fuzzy

 Once the air spading is done, we know how to work around the roots to construct a retaining wall around Fuzzy.  That will allow us to bring in more dirt and improve the slope of this section of the front yard.  Of course, we have a sort of mock-up of what the wall will look like.

but now we want to do it for real.

To define where the wall would be, we use a string and stakes to lay it out and get it level.  We tried draping the string with plastic, to get a better idea of the placement, but I think that was of limited benefit.

We begin on one side.  We have to dis-assemble the existing mock up, both to give us room to work, and for the rocks to use.

Then we start to work across the yard, from the sidewalk towards the driveway.

Selecting and placing the rocks.

Sometimes we have to remove some rocks and start over with different ones, but we continue to the corner and then up next to the driveway.

Then we roll the extra rocks up out of the way

And we move the sprinkler head near the driveway in the middle of this section of the yard to be in the corner of the terraced bed.

Then we rent a pick-up (from U-Haul, $62.98) and make two trips to Whittlesey Landscape for 2 cubic yards of professional mix (2.5 for the second trip) $105.36 and $128.67.

Our computations said we needed about 4 cubic yards -- a wedge  11 feet on a side, 13 feet wide and 16 inches tall -- but the two trips seem to fill it pretty well.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Air Spading around Fuzzy

 The live oak planted in the front yard, between the driveway and the sidewalk we call Fuzzy.  The last section of the house to dig up is from Fuzzy to the house.


Our experience with the Spanish Oak in the front yard, and, to a lesser extent, the Monterrey Oak in the back, is that trees are not happy when you dig around their roots, and even when you try to stay well back, they can die.  We don't want that to happen to Fuzzy, so we want to be very careful of it's roots while planning and digging.

Our plan is to terrace the area under Fuzzy, just as we did on the main front yard, so that we provide more, better, dirt for Fuzzy's roots.  We have a temporary retaining wall around it, and just need to make that permanent.

What do we need to protect, in terms of Fuzzy's roots?  Searching, we find something called the Critical Root Zone.  The Critical Root Zone for a tree shows how far out you need to be to preserve the roots.

This picture is for a 20-inch diameter tree; Fuzzy is about 22 inches, so measures should be about 10% more.  But certainly 1/2 CRZ at 11 feet is a point we should try not to disturb.  Which means we can put our retaining wall at 11 feet (from Fuzzy).

We marked off where the wall would go then.

But to put the wall here, we need to know where the major roots are, so that we do not damage them in the construction of the wall.  And this is where Air Spading comes in.

Air Spading is basically using high pressure air to break up and move the dirt.  While it is enough force to break up the dirt, it is not enough to hurt the roots, so it removes the dirt, but leaves the roots.  It basically is like a high pressure washer, but with air instead of water.  It takes a big compressor and a special air spading nozzle.

There are a couple of companies in town that advertise they do air spading.  We contacted two.  The person from the first company was uncertain how it worked, and what it was for, so they priced it at $350 for the first hour and $150 for each hour after that.  The second company, Good Guys Tree Service, understood what I wanted, and priced it at $700.  We went with Good Guys, since they apparently had more experience.  Their estimate said:

"PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING: Airspading is a necessarily dusty and messy task that is designed to protect and prevent damage to the tree's root system. Dirt particulates, small rocks and materials may be jetted up to 50' from project area.  Large Stones, Objects, or any other discoveries that will not be displaced by the air jet will be left as found. Exposed roots should be re-covered with a light layer no more then 3/4" thick of hardwood mulch within 2 weeks of airspade exposure."

They took about an hour to do the work.  They showed up with a pick-up truck towing a large compressor, attached a hose to the compressor, and the air spade to the hose and went to work.

The result was a trench blown out of the dirt, exposing the roots.  Dirt everywhere!

(I expect that the soil being pretty dry helped.)

This exposes the root very well.  We can see that there are some large roots, especially on both ends of the trench.

while other sections have much smaller roots.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Planting the Front Yard

 Linda has selected a number of native plants and grasses to plant in the front yard.

The bulk of the area is to be a form of prairie grass developed by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  We have sown it over much of the front yard. It is a mixture of Buffalo grass, Blue Grama, and Curly Mesquite.

 Before we were aware of this, Linda had separately sown some  Blue Grama, and so our mix may have more of that than the Wildflower Center.

 In addition, she wants to put a set of taller grasses in the back:  Mexican feather grass, Lindheimer muhly, Bamboo muhly, Gulf muhly and Sideoats grama.  Then we planted some Bluebonnets. 

And she planted a bunch of other native plants:  Blackfoot daisy, Gregg's mist flower, salvia greggi, Barbados cherry, mealy blue sage, purple coneflower.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Final Dirt for the Front Yard

With the sprinkler system and heads installed, we could order the final layer of dirt for the front yard.  Working from the estimated size of the front yard (1370 square feet) and the depth that we were missing to the top of the stone retaining wall (from 2 to 6 inches -- assume 4 on average), we computed we needed 17 cubic yards of dirt.  

Plus we would like to cover the spot in the back yard where the Monterrey Oak had just been removed -- a semi-circle with a radius of 11 feet about 2 inches deep.

So we ordered 18 cubic yards of dirt from Whittlesey Landscape Supplies.  The price of dirt has significantly increased -- $47.85 per yard for the Professional Mix we use, plus delivery of $130 now, for a total of $1073.08.  But they were able to dump it right into the front yard, which put it where it needed to be.

This was followed by several days of spreading the dirt around, trying to level the front yard.

But the front yard is now ready for planting.

There is one problem -- the dirt was dumped right smack on top of one of the sprinkler heads.   But after spreading the dirt out, the head could be easily located by turning on Zone 10, and the missing head pops right up!

And we had a bit of dirt left over for the spot where the Monterey Oak had been.

and to try to smooth out the slope of the lawn where it had been too steep.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Zone 10 -- Front Yard Irrigation System

 In digging up the front yard, we completely destroyed Zone 10 of the irrigation system.  Having finished the excavation, we can now put it back.  We start with a layout of the new front yard.

This was created by using a photo editor on the drone photos from June 2021,

We want to try using a different form of sprinkler head in the front -- one designed to generate less mist.  We selected the Rain Bird 8SAFPROPR (360 degrees) and 8SAPROPR (adjustable) Mini Rotor Sprinklers.

These can cover up to 14 feet.  Then we need heads in the corners.  A couple more along the sides to fill the long runs.  And two in the center to cover everything else.  This gives us a design like:

We can then connect the heads with supply lines.  All the lines are 3/4 inch PVC.  Create a parts list and go to Home Depot to get the parts.  The heads have to be special ordered.  I wanted the "PR" versions which are supposed to be pressure regulated, so that if the water pressure is too high, it still works correctly.  The heads cost $135.13; all the other parts are $87.10

This was followed by a couple of days of trenching.  We do not have the final layer of dirt on the yard, so we don't have to trench as far down, but still the pipes and such should be another 4 to 6 inches deep, to allow 4 more inches of dirt and the standard 8 inch sprinkler heads plus an inch spacer and the pipe itself.

We started on the Western edge.

Then we ran the two lines that go across the yard. 

And then splice in the lines running back to the house

 and up to the street

Once all the lines are in, we installed the heads.

Then we could flush the system and test all of them.

Once it is all in, and the dirt is in place, and we are starting to plant, I ran a test to see how much water it uses.  Running it for 30 minutes, and reading the water meter before and after, it uses 190 gallons, in 30 minutes.  About 6 gallons a minute.  And at 7.5 gallons per cubic foot, we have about 25 cubic feet of water (in 30 minutes).  Spread over 1370 square feet of dirt, that comes to .22 inch deep.  So we need to run this zone 10 about 2 hours to get one inch for the yard.