Monday, August 29, 2011

Drip irrigation set up

I spent the last week learning how to set up a drip irrigation system for our back-yard using 1/2" poly tubing. Unlike a traditional sprinkler system that is expensive to set up, requires lots of trench digging, wastes more water than necessary, and complicated plumber skills, drip irrigation is very do-it-yourself friendly. This will save me some time so that I can spend it on other things like shaping and taking care of the trees and plants. It will also keep everything alive while we go on vacation.

We have no sprinkler system so I'm setting up a simple drip system connected directly to the hose bib with a 4-way manifold attached. I measured that our hose bib outputs 4.5 gallons per minute (or 270 gallons per hour). We have a clay-like soil. I am using all DIG brand drip irrigation parts bought from Home Depot. While you browse at HD, grab one of those free DIG pamphlets because they tell you everything you need to know to set your drip irrigation system up. We only have small trees and shrubs, potted plants, hanging baskets, a few window boxes, and we have a strip of ground cover in the front yard. I only read what applies to the kinds of plants we have. Setting up the drip irrigation system isn't rocket science, it just takes a little bit of research and is very inexpensive compared to hiring a professional to install a traditional sprinkler system. Here are some important notes I gathered from the free DIG pamphlet:

- You should not exceed 220 GPH (3.6 GPM) total through a 1/2" line, and no more than 25 GPH on a 1/4" line.

- For small trees and shrubs in clay soil, use one 1GPH dripper; for loamy and sandy soil, use one to two 1GPH drippers spaced every 12-18" apart.

- For hanging baskets, pots, and boxes 1-25 gallons, use one .5 gallon dripper. Or use one sprayer on a spike for a 5-25 gallon sized plants.

I'm using mist sprayers for my potted plants because most of my soil is so coarse that a drip emitter would pass the water straight through the soil to the drainage hole before the roots get to absorb any of it.

My hanging baskets have more dense soil that can hold more water so I will use a .5 gallon per hour drip emitter.

All the small trees and shrubs are using two 1 gallon per hour drip emitters except for the Manzanita because it's not recommended that they be watered by drip irrigation. I will hand water the Manzanita when it's thirsty.

I will use jet spray emitters for the ground cover in the front yard once I'm done with the back-yard.

To automate everything, I bought a 9001EZ, 3/4" Hose end timer connected to a 4 way hose bib manifold. This allows me to attach a hose to hand water anything that has special watering needs. In the future, I will call a professional to install a carbon water filter to remove the chlorine out of the garden water and use mycorrhizae applications to optimize tree and plant growth.

Useful resource links:

You can set up a very easy drip watering system by getting these parts at any Home Depot or Lowes.  You can use drip emitters, micro sprinklers with all different kinds of spray patterns, misters which are good for pots, and even soaker hoses.  In addition, you can get a timer and you're set to go on vacation!

For those of you who have a sprinkler system, you can get this retrofit adapter to attach to a sprinkler head and it will allow you to convert it to a drip system.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Landscaping Momentum - Dry Japanese Garden

Yesterday, my neighbor Arnolfo came over and offered me a bunch of his big specimen, I should say landscape sized cacti. It was very kind of him. One of the cactus is called Ming thing (Cereus validus f. monstrose), another was something that looks like notocactus, and a blue column called pilocerus palmeri. I have to give him some avocados when they are ready.

I just can't stop thinking about our backyard so I worked on it a little bit on this long weekend of mine. I just can't focus on drawing anything else at the moment. I was sketching out some character designs for one of my comic book characters and the drawing was going nowhere. It just wasn't working. So I went out and bought five bougainvillea plants yesterday. Today my good friend Yuho helped me to go buy the last tree I need for the backyard; a juniper prostrata from Ben K bonsai nursery. Once I get the trees into the ground I can begin to train them into the shape and grow them to the size that I want. The sun has been scorching our backyard and that is what keeps us from being able to enjoy that really nice big space. We desperately need some shade trees. We're in temperature zone 9 and it gets hot!

This time, due to budget constraints, I have to start with only the bare essentials, which are just the trees. We'll save up for the gravel for the dry garden idea later. I still plan to create that Japanese garden look, but with plants that are hardy in our temperature zone 9. This means instead of Azelia shrub balls, I will substitute with bougainvillea. I am still using pines, a juniper, kaki persimmon,and camelias so those are still traditional. However, I'm also using a Dr. Hurd manzanita in the very back southeast corner so things will definitely be interesting. I'm excited to move forward. I think it'll take about ten years to grow everything to what I have in mind. :) I made this drawing to visualize what I want our dry Japanese Garden to look like on the south wall.

The blue balls are bougainvillea shrubs. The darker taller shrubs will be camelias. The two trees in the back are Japanese Black Pines and in the far back on the right side will be the Manzanita. The black silhouette of the tree in the front will be the juniper.

This is a prostrate Juniper in a 15 gallon pot that I paid $85 for from Ben K Nursery in Rosemead, CA.  Bonsai benches or stands will be along the back wall. I drew a stone triad but again, that is maybe an idea for later when we have money.