Make it rain, or how to install your own DIY irrigation system

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Despite how hideous our lawn has been looking, my husband wisely pointed out that we probably aren't ready to install new sod yet. He reminded me that we're missing something really important: a reliable way to irrigate new sod.

I pointed out that we have a functional sprinkler and a long hose. He said I was crazy.

Okay, not really. But he did say that there was no way he was going to drag a hose around the yard for weeks and weeks to make sure that the new sod wouldn't fry in our hot Florida summers. I had to admit -- he had a valid point.

So we decided to spend our Independence Day weekend installing a proper irrigation system.

All in all, I think we dug at least 130 linear feet of trench. Since our soil is so sandy, it was relatively easy to get the trenches dug. I say "relatively" because it's still a lot of heavy lifting compared to the desk jockey stuff I do on a day-to-day basis. If we were going to do it again, I might want to rent a trencher. Of course, that requires advance planning, and we didn't decide that we were embarking on this project until sometime on Saturday.

On the positive side, we did have a few extra bodies who stopped by while we were digging trenches.

Our dogs love spending time with us when we're working in the yard, and being the softies we are, we let them. The black one is hilarious -- any time we dig a hole, he always starts rooting around in the soil like a pig hunting for truffles. Here he is sniffing the soil and digging deeper. If only we could train him to dig in a controlled fashion!

It took awhile, but ultimately we got all of the trenches dug and all of the pipes and irrigation heads laid out and glued together. We opted for overhead spray heads rather than drip emitters, since those are the best option for irrigating lawn areas. We even installed a timer and a rain sensor so that the system will run only when the lawn needs water.

Here's the finished project, with the soil tamped back in place. Now we just need sod!

Would I do it again? Absolutely. It was a lot of work but it saved us a ton of money to do it ourselves. Our cost for materials was about $300, whereas we would've paid a professional upwards of $1,000 to do the same job. Plus we ended up with a huge feeling of satisfaction, which is priceless.

For anyone who's interested, here's a fun time lapse video that we took on the second day of the project.

Lush lawns: the must-have accessory for bold gardens

Friday, July 15, 2011

Good-ness! It's been awhile since I posted. Here's the quick update on the seedlings. A good number of them survived, despite the fact that I neglected to transplant most of them out of their six-packs.

These castor beans were a few of the ones that found permanent homes in the yard, and well, now I think they're just showing off to make the others jealous.

It's pretty amazing, really. Some of the plants that were stuck in six-packs were 18" tall and had shoved their little roots out the bottoms of the pots and into the soil below. I'm convinced that the only reason they survived at all was because of the microirrigation system that my husband set up. I seriously love that man.

And speaking of irrigation and why I love my husband, that brings me to my next tale.

For awhile now, we've been making plans to replace our old "mixed" lawn with a new, freshly sodded, beautiful green lawn. My husband is a turfgrass researcher, so it's perhaps not surprising that he wants a nice lawn in front of our house. Of course his specialty is golf courses and athletic fields, so I'm pretty confident he'll never turn into one of those crazy lawn-obsessed men who you see weeding their yard with tweezers every Saturday morning!

I've never been the kind of person who felt compelled to have a nice lawn. Mostly it's because I'm lazy busy with other things and don't like the maintenance involved.

That being said, I've come to realize that a good looking lawn can work wonders in a garden. As y'all know, I'm the kind of gardener who likes to mix lots of bold textures and colors in my plant beds. As lovely as that can look, it can sometimes be a little visually overwhelming. That's why you need a quiet place for the eye to rest -- like a lawn.

Lush container at McMayhill & Baker home


Landscape bed at Bates Garden in Portland

Think of it as the gardening equivalent of a neutral. Having that constant green backdrop will help make your bold and exciting plants really pop.

So we've been trying to kill off what's left of our current lawn. In short, it's ugly. After the winter rye grass petered out, we were left with brown, brown, and more brown. Ugh. I'm somewhat embarrassed about what my garden looks like right now. I know it's temporary, but I still feel like the neighbors probably drive by every day and wonder what the hell we're up to.

As I said, our plan is to completely re-sod the front yard, but there's something important we had to tackle first. Check back tomorrow for the full post on how we installed our own irrigation system!