Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On My Drawing Board – Phase One.

I know this might bore some of you. This article isn’t about beautiful flowers and plants or stunning design, but it is about what to expect during the installation process.

Ok, so in the last post we had and approved design and we had already selected and scheduled contractors for the demolition, the concrete work and the irrigation system. If you remember there were some Bermuda grass patches and probably lots of Bermuda roots just waiting for an irrigation system to sprout new grass all over the place. The home owners didn’t want to wait to kill the Bermuda first since it can take over a month to kill it correctly. They wanted a patio and a lawn for their little boy to enjoy ASAP.

A word about Bermuda grass.

Normally we kill the Bermuda first because it is so much more difficult to kill after the plants and gravel are installed as you can see in this photo above. In there somewhere is a Red Lantana. Bermuda grass is very tenacious stuff. Just because it is brown doesn’t mean it is dead. It can wait in a dormant state for a very long time and green up with watering in 7 to 10 days. Also, Bermuda that has been worn away on the surface still has productive roots waiting for moisture below the surface. The process is detailed here and you may want to consider bio-remediation afterward to “normalize” the Glyphosate you will be applying to your soil.

Again, since this project will be phased to fit the home owner’s budget, the Bermuda can be killed while we wait for phase two to begin.

Project Phasing.

A project can be phased in order to fit a customers financial situation. You can still have a beautiful yard, it just takes a little longer. Sometimes a customer would really like to have a $10,000 or $15,000 yard, but they only have maybe $5,000 or $8,000 to spend right now. A Master Plan can be developed with a phased installation in mind. Then the project can be installed in two or three phases to fit the customers comfort zone. The Master Plan will help make sure everything fits together when the job is complete and no work is somehow duplicated.

There are three basic issues to consider; what the customer wants right away, any element that might be covered or blocked or destroyed by later work, and or course the current available budget. Obviously demolition comes first, then traditionally underground elements like drainage, irrigation, electrical and gas lines can be considered for installation. Then comes the concrete footings, patio surfaces and structures. I like to install 2” diameter sleeves under the concrete slabs, curbs and footings and use them for irrigation access later. This way I can wait on the irrigation system till the last phase if I need to.

In this case, the customer wants a patio and a lawn as soon as possible so the job order will be:

Demolition - Concrete work- Irrigation System - Kill the Bermuda.

Above you can see the yard has been pretty much cleaned out. The demo crew still needs to remove another load of trash, but we have the concrete crew setting forms already. The concrete contractor was eager and offered to include the curbing free if we used him for the patios. YES!

Form setting is all about levels and lasers. You can see the laser level on the tripod to the left above. The forms may look hap-hazard, but they are not at all. The top of the boards are the top of the new concrete patio and curbing. The new concrete patios will have a very slight slope so water will run off away from the house.

Here we see the finished concrete after it has cured for a couple of days. I’ve set flags for the drip emitters and the irrigation crew has set the emitters and tree rings in place. The tree holes have been started for 24” boxed trees. The irrigation system is simple but efficient.

The red flags are where a 2 gallon per hour emitter will be placed. The white flag designates a 1 gallon drip emitter. The tree rings have multiple emitters placed at about a 2' interval. These rings of tubing will be placed at the outside edge of the root ball of the tree. Later it will be easily moved to the "Drip line" or canopy edge of the tree as it grows and matures.

Here you can see the tubing looped in the fountain area. Eventually there will be plants and annual flowers planted around the fountain so we'll have to have irrigation ready. The new lawn area has been graded and is ready for soil and sod. Sprinklers with MP rotator nozzles have been set and are ready to go. Now to kill the Bermuda.

The irrigation system here is simple but an efficient design with excellent quality components. I’ll cover all the pieces of an efficient irrigation system in the next installment.


  1. Excellent to see this! What lucky clients they are! Looking forward to seeing the next stage. :)

  2. Hi Mo,

    Thanks Mo! I was affraid this post would bore everyone. Things can look pretty rough while the job is in the middle somewhere.

    The homeowners are currently learning how to kill bermuda grass. There aren't really any short cuts there.

    Good to hear from you, Mo.

  3. I'm really enjoying this Bill! It's such a priviledge to see how you are planning and developing, and to learn about your phasing stages. I'm not familiar with irrigation systems - the only place I have seen any is in Lanzarote.

    PS Thanks for asking about my garden - it's fine - you may be amused by my current post on my gardening in an inch of soil!

  4. Ahh, but I love that last bench of the week post. So different from the landscapes around here.

    The irrigation system is next.

    Thanks for stopping by PC.

  5. I'm glad to see the use of tree rings. These are used far too infrequently--probably to save money by the landscape contractors--but it is truly the best way to assure proper tree irrigation. This back yard looks like it's going to be really beautiful.

  6. Interesting you noticed. Most people don't know what I'm even talking about or why. I've been using them since 94'or 95'. I'm convinced one reason so many trees blow over here during the mansoon is emitter placement. Check the root system the next time you see a tree blow over.

    Thanks for the post Aiyana.