New Landscape Project: Smart Irrigation Renovation

December 16, 2014

I've been on garden project hiatus for a good part of this year, due to work, travel and the knowledge that I was going to have to do something about my horribly dated irrigation system. I already have a lot of plantings in my yard and am building and expanding new beds. But, it's a lot of work to water everything by hand (not to mention inefficient) and my old irrigation system simply wastes too much water to use it regularly. I'd reached an impass where I really couldn't continue building and planting any more garden space until I dealt with this watering nightmare. I wanted to garden more, but that meant I needed to create a really efficient and waterwise watering system.

Old spray heads and broken pipes will be removed and replaced with bubblers and drip lines.

My irrigation system was probably installed soon after my house was built, back in 1963. Much of the original copper irrigation plumbing was still active when I bought the house. A a simple automatic controller had been installed and some heads updated when my house was flipped, but they wired in all of three zones for my entire property. That means lots of different plants, with totally different watering needs, were being watered the same. Not efficient.  I have a huge amount of pressure on my system; normally a property my size would have 7-10 distinct zones. The massive pressure meant that enough water could reach the end of the lines in each of the three zones, even though they each had too many heads. But, that high pressure also meant about half of the water being put out was simply getting sprayed into the air, rather than being delivered to the root zones of my plantings.

"I want to use my system for convenience, and to keep my foundation watered, but I just can't waste water like this..." I finally said to myself.

First, we had to move existing valves and run new ones.

SO, I've taken the plunge and am completely renovating my entire irrigation system to a waterwise configuration. I hired Roundtree Landscaping to design and install my new system. They're digging and working as I type! Drip lines and bubblers will be run to all of my plantings, including my vegetable garden and fruit trees. My entire system will be run by a state of the art smart controller: The Weathermatic sl 1600 Smart Link. Yes, I'll even be able to monitor it from my computer or smart phone. Too cool.

Here is line that will connect to a new valve. As you can see, we trench around major tree roots NOT cut them!

You might notice that I have a lot of established shrubs and perennials already growing in my landscape. Not to mention, some existing hardscape and pathways. Does it freak me out to be doing so much digging around them? Well, a little, because they're my babies. But in reality, upgrading an existing system to bulbblers is less invasive than digging for traditional irrigation lines. Because we can run central lines and then run extended drip lines to the shrubs from those main lines, we don't have to do as much trenching. Most of the shrubs can survive a bit of root pruning and because it's winter, they're not growing as actively right now. So all in all, it should be pretty pain free for my existing plants (even if it looks kind of brutal). Now, I will have some reconstruction to do and new plantings after the system is up and running, but that's ok with me.

See those stones the new valve line is running under? That's actually one of my stone pathways. The crew will refill the bedding and replace the stones once they're done!

Il'l be posting more photos and blogs as the project progresses so that you can see more of what this kind of renovation looks like and check out the bubblers and smart controller. Using the smart controller with monitoring, I'll be able to see exactly how much water I'm delivering to each different part of my landscape and control the system remotely. Also, my drip system won't be subject to the current twice per week watering restrictions in place by the City of Dallas. Drip irrigation is so much more efficient and waterwise that I'll be able to run my system any day of the week. I'm really looking forward to finally getting to add more plants, garden more and use less water! It will be fun to compare water bills...

Oh, and in case anyone wonders, yes, I'm paying in full for all of this work and equipment. Folks seem to think that because I'm in the industry, that I get everything for free. No kickbacks here sista! I don't roll like that. Let's just say what my husband doesn't know about my gardening budget won't hurt him.

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