Planting the front garden

Another garden project was to plant our front garden. It used to have a tall hemlock tree, but it died and had to be cut down several years ago — some large rounds of that remain at the back of the garden. We had a grand plan to add a stream and such, so left it empty for years awaiting that, but we finally decided to not bother with that, and do a simpler design.

Here’s the garden cart with the green Japanese maple tree, barberry, nandina, and Japanese forest grass, plus the empty garden:

Cart with plant and empty garden

We planted the Japanese maple tree in the center of the garden, then laid out the other plants around it:

Laying out plants

While Jenn did the planting, I installed irrigation pipes and emitters. Here’s the result:

Planted and irrigated

Manual water timer:

Water timer

Another angle, showing an overview of the finished plants and irrigation; the pipes will eventually be hidden under bark:

Plants and irrigation

A closer look; irrigation for the green Japanese maple:

Plants and irrigation

Wide-angle irrigation for three triangles of Japanese forest grass:

Plants and irrigation

Individual irrigation for barberry and nandina plants:

Plants and irrigation

The view from my office window upstairs:

View from my office window

Much nicer than the empty garden!

We might add a few more plants to fill in some holes. And as mentioned, later we’ll add a layer of bark to give it a finishing touch.

Veggie garden irrigation addition

The other day I noticed that the soaker hose for one of the beds in the veggie garden had burst, as they are wont to do:

Burst soaker hose

Burst soaker hose

So on Saturday I replaced that hose with better irrigation, like I did earlier for a couple of other beds:

New irrigation

Veggie bed with new irrigation

Veggie bed with new irrigation

Veggie bed with new irrigation

Veggie bed with new irrigation

There is now one bed remaining with a soaker hose in the main part of the veggie garden, plus the ones in the berry cage. I’ll replace those over time when their soaker hoses fail. We’re slowly phasing out the soaker hoses; irrigation tubing and emitters work much better, as they are more reliable, and the irrigation can be more focused and adjustable as needed.

Converting the fountain into a garden, part 2

Last week I posted part one of a project to convert our fountain into a garden. Here’s the thrilling conclusion.

You may recall that I drilled a hole though the base of the fountain wall, and ran an irrigation tube across the bricks, at the back where it isn’t usually visible. To make that tidier and reduce the risk of tripping on the tube, I added a pipe cover:

Pipe cover

I added more soil:

Adding more soil

And scoria to the fountain bowl, to aid in drainage:

Adding gravel to bowl

Scoria and soil in progress:

Gravel and soil

More soil:

More soil

A much smaller soil pile; the remainder will be used in the veggie garden, and possibly elsewhere:

Smaller soil pile

Adding plants:

Adding plants

A hose valve for the tube to the top of the fountain (as seen on my What’s It Wednesday question and answer yesterday), to enable adjusting its pressure independently of the irrigation emitters for the bottom level:

Hose valve

Irrigation tubing; half inch tubing to the top of the fountain and down one side of the bottom level, with quarter inch tubing off the latter leading to emitters:

Irrigation tubing

An irrigation emitter; this style has an adjustable spread, so can cover anything from inches to several feet:

Irrigaton emitter

Pulling back a bit to focus on the plants:

Plants and irrigation

And back further to see more of the plants:


Another angle; Jenn chose the plants to be predominantly blue to evoke water, with some splashes of color representing fish. Plus taller plants at the back, shorter in front — and in the bowl, some that will trail off the edge nicely:


A last shot of the finished garden:


Converting the fountain into a garden, part 1

One of the features of our homestead is a fountain with a flower-girl statue, that was added by a previous owner.

Here’s a GIF of the fountain from 2014:

Fountain GIF

However, we rarely ran the fountain, as it tended to spray water outside the pool, and leaked, so we had to keep topping it up. Plus, after a few years the electrical supply became unreliable, popping the GFCI increasingly frequently. And without running the fountain, the pool became a breeding ground of mosquitos and such.

So, we decided to replace the pool with a garden.

Here’s the pump in the base of the fountain, which I’ve disconnected:


I had the idea of using the fountain tube to water plants in the middle basin of the fountain, so I temporarily connected a hose to check that that would be feasible:


Yep; here’s a GIF of the fountain working from that hose:

Fountain GIF

That basin has a drain hole, so it won’t fill up with water when we put soil and plants there (the drain is still plugged in that GIF).

So, after checking that, the next step was to add a new tap for irrigation tubing to the fountain. I could have connected to the existing tap next to the fountain, but I wanted to have the tubing enter the fountain from the back, where it wouldn’t be visible from the house or deck. The garden to the right of the fountain doesn’t already have a tap, so I wanted to add one.

I knew from a previous plumbing project that there is a pipe under that garden. Here’s a picture from 2015 of an overly complex piping system I added for the flowerbeds (the tap on the left is to attach a water timer and short hose to the nearby female port, enabling timed watering, with a bypass valve too). The pipe at the top goes under the garden next to the fountain:

Flowerbed plumbing

Here’s that location now; you can see the short white hose, though there isn’t a timer connected currently:

Flowerbed plumbing

When I dug down in the garden next to the fountain, I found the pipe in the expected location:


I turned off the garden water supply, then cut the pipe (a little water drained out):

Cut pipe

Then I added a tap:

Added tap

The next day (allowing time for the adhesive to cure) I turned the water back on, checked for leaks, then filled the hole:

Filled hole

The next step was to drill a hole through the base of the fountain wall, so I could have the irrigation tubing tidily go through the wall rather than over it. To do that, I previously purchased a rather large 1 inch by 16 inch masonry drill bit:

1 inch by 16 inch drill bit

Here’s the drill bit in my driver:

Drill bit in driver

Though after a while I switched to a dedicated drill. It took over an hour to get through the concrete-filled block of the wall:



The hole:


Then I added an irrigation pipe from the new tap through the hole:

Irrigation pipe

Inside the fountain pool, I added a T-junction to the irrigation pipe, with one fork going to the fountain tubing, the other for sprinkler emitters for the bottom level:

Irrigation pipe

That done, I brought several loads of scoria to add at the bottom as a drainage layer:

Dumping scoria



We inherited a large pile of scoria over near the beehives; still lots left:


Then I did a couple loads of soil:


Starting the soil layer:

Soil layer

Soil layer

That’s all I had time and energy for. I will probably finish adding the soil next weekend, weather permitting.

It was quite a workout; don’t need a gym when you have a homestead!


Potato planters prep and irrigation

Yesterday we started the potato planters. I added some scoria and dirt to the planter frames, Jenn planted the seed potatoes, and I added new irrigation for them.

Here is a base of scoria (for drainage) and a wheelbarrow load of very damp dirt (3-way mix):

Scoria and dirt

Previously we had a soaker hose for the potato planters, but that didn’t do a very good job of delivering water to the plants (and not all around them). So I added better irrigation, starting with a convoluted pipe off the tap of the nearby bed:

Irrigation piping

The underground pipe to that tap actually goes right by the potato planters, complete with an expansion point, so one day I might add a separate tap for the potato planters, instead of splitting off this bed. But I decided to take this approach for now.

Since I mentioned that, a minor digression: here’s an old picture from 2014 showing that portion of the veggie garden pipes; the potato planters are just beyond my toolbox:

Veggie garden pipes

Another old picture, showing the aforementioned pipe expansion points:

Pipe expansion point

One day I should do a post with plumbing projects like this one from before I started this blog.

Anyway, back to present day.

The irrigation pipe goes behind the potato planters, with emitter leads for each planter, so they can be moved as more dirt is added:

Potato planters with irrigation

I used a new kind of emitter that has a wider coverage than the sprinkler kind I’ve previously used, so one emitter gives even coverage of the whole thing:

Potato planter with irrigation

Hey why not… here’s a GIF edition of that picture, showing it working:

GIF of irrigation emitter

Here’s a wider view of the planters and piping:

Potato planters with irrigation

As the potatoes grow upwards, we’ll add more dirt and retaining boards, resulting in several layers of spuds.

Planting veggie garden and adding irrigation

Yesterday we did our traditional Mother’s Day activity of preparing and planting the veggie garden. I also added some improved irrigation.

Over the winter, the chickens get to enjoy going in the veggie garden, providing a helpful service of clearing out the plants and keeping it weed-free. So the first thing was to close the gate and hole in the fence from the chicken runs, so they no longer have access, which always confuses and frustrates them for a little while.

That done, Jenn brought the veggie plants out of the greenhouse, while I used a mattock to break up the compacted soil:

Breaking up compacted soil

I also added some fresh soil. Here’s a prepared bed:

Prepared bed

While Jenn planted the veggies, I added improved irrigation on a couple of the beds:


We had previously used soaker hoses, which don’t really provide the water in the best spots, and tend to fail regularly. This irrigation tubing and emitters should work better:


Here’s a view of the whole garden from the west gate:

Whole garden

We rotate the crops each year. This time, the southwest (SW) bed contains roma and cherry tomatoes:


The NW bed is still using a soaker hose for now, though I’ve bought some irrigation emitters for it and other beds yet to be converted. It contains a single pumpkin plant (since one is enough to take over half the garden), plus lettuce, kale, and a couple of corn sprouted from seeds:

Pumpkin, lettuce, etc

The NE bed contains corn (a different variety) and onion:

Corn, onion

SE: tomatillos, jalapeños, and zucchini; the second bed with the new irrigation:


One of the reasons for the berry cage is to keep the chickens out, along with wild birds, so the plants don’t get eaten each winter. The SW bed contains everbearing strawberries:


The NW berry cage bed has Hood strawberries:


The SE bed has gooseberries, red currants, and huckleberries:

Gooseberries, red currants, huckleberries

The NE bed has blueberries:


And the north bed has hops:


This morning I briefly flew my drone for an aerial view of the veggie garden and berry cage:

Aerial view of veggie garden

A closer view of veggie garden side:

Aerial view of veggie garden

And part of the berry cage side:

Aerial view of veggie garden

An angled view of both (and part of the chicken runs):

Aerial view of veggie garden

Finishing installing greenhouse irrigation

Yesterday I finished installing the greenhouse irrigation tubing and mister emitters (continuing from the previous post).

I started with the right-hand shelves. Here’s some assembled tubing for the middle one; a tap connector, elbows, and tubing:

Assembled tubing

The four-way splitter (the bottom one is spare) and connected irrigation tubing, enabling the irrigation for each shelf to be controlled separately:

Splitter and tubing

The mister emitters on the lower shelves; the emitters can be positioned as needed, but are just all over the place for now:

Mister emitters



Another shot of the completed irrigation of the right-hand shelves:

Right shelves

On to the shelves at the back. The assembled tubing:

Assembled tubing

Timer, splitter, tubing:

Timer, splitter, tubing



We have four soil moisture sensors, that connect to our weather station (which supports up to eight):

Moisture sensor

The completed irrigation, like a bunch of tentacles:

Irrigation done

A wide-angle view of inside the greenhouse:

Wide angle

A view of the outside, showing the shelving:

Outside back view

The front view:

Outside front view

This concludes the greenhouse plumbing and irrigation project! 

Starting installing greenhouse irrigation

On Saturday I started adding the irrigation emitters to the greenhouse. I only did one shelf, but subsequent ones should be a bit faster. I’ll wait for a cool and/or rainy day before doing more, since it’s unpleasant to spend much time in the greenhouse when it’s sunny.

Here are a couple of boxes of irrigation parts on the potting bench, and end pieces on the sink:

Irrigation parts

An assembled irrigation pipe, with a tap connector, a couple of right-angle elbows, pipe, and flexible misters:

Irrigation pipe with misters

The mister tubes can be twisted and angled as needed, holding their position, and the mister heads can be adjusted to change the width of the spray.

Here’s the pipe installed. The irrigation tap, water timer, and 4-way splitter that you’ve seen before, with the above irrigation pipe and misters attached to the underside of the top shelf:

Tap, timer, splitter, Irrigation pipe, misters

Here’s the other end of the irrigation pipe:

Irrigation pipe with misters

The whole shelf; the plan is that the top shelf won’t have irrigation, but the lower three shelves on the back and side will:

Whole shelf

The misters in action as a test run (the positions and spray width needs to be tweaked):

Irrigation misters

As mentioned, I’ll add irrigation for more shelves later.

Greenhouse plumbing

Over the weekend I did some garden plumbing, installing piping and taps for the greenhouse.

The first step was to dig to find the existing pipe that I knew went in front of the greenhouse. Here it is, a foot or so underground:

Hole to expose pipe

I then hand-dug a trench from that pipe into the greenhouse, below the sink:


Another angle of the trench, the greenhouse, and the tools; mattock to get through the layer of gravel and break up the dirt, shovel for large areas, and cleanout shovel for narrow bits:

Trench and tools

Then I cut the pipe:

Cut pipe

I installed new piping, with a couple of dead-end caped bits as points for possible future expansion (something I like to do to make things easier for future me, though I don’t have any use-case in mind for these):

Installed pipe

A closer view of the new pipe connected to the old one, plus a non-glued cap on the old pipe. That pipe extends about 50 feet beyond this point, but there are no more taps, so there’s no need to connect it (it’s a legacy from before we bought the place). If I want to use it in the future, I can re-dig it and connect to that expansion point:

Pipe connection and cap

Another view of the greenhouse end of the pipe:


The pipe enters the greenhouse under the wall, with a valve near the ground (which will only be closed for repairs):

Valve inside greenhouse

The sink has a hose for the drain, so I added a second pipe to receive that drain hose:

Drain pipe

Here’s the drain pipe (the pink pool is to provide water for bees to drink). I curved the pipe so it’d end in the gravel area, not in the grass:

Drain pipe

Buried pipes, with the end of the drain protruding:

Buried pipes

In order to mount brackets for the pipes inside the greenhouse, I needed to add some blocks. So I stained them:

Staining blocks

One of the blocks attached below the sink:

Attached block

Assembling pipe bits for below the sink:

Pipe bits

Pipe bits

Here’s that installed:

Pipe bits installed

One of those forks leads to a tap for a hose:


Here’s the hose on the reel; this can be used for ad hoc watering anywhere in the greenhouse:


The drain pipe attached to the water pipe:


The other fork of the pipe goes first to a sink tap:

Sink tap

Then continues along under the sink:

Pipe under sink

And up to a third tap for irrigation:

Irrigation tap

Attached to that tap is an Orbit B-hyve smart irrigation timer and a four-way splitter:

Irrigation timer and splitter

One of those splitter taps goes to a second splitter on the other side:

Second splitter

Here you can see both sides, and the hose connecting them:


The irrigation emitters will be attached to those splitters, three for each, for the three lower shelves on the back and side.

Here you can see all three of the taps: hose below the sink, sink tap, and irrigation tap:

All three taps

Next weekend (work permitting): the last step of this project, the irrigation tubing and emitters.

Mister and tap repairs

Now that Spring has sprung, it’s time to repair some of the broken garden plumbing that inevitably occurs.

I may discover more once I turn on the garden water (after the overnight temperatures stop being below freezing), but for now I was aware of two breakages.

The first one was a burst pipe for the deck mister system, that we can turn on in the heat of summer to cool us down with a gentle mist.

I had accidentally left a valve closed, preventing water from draining from the pipe, so unsurprisingly it froze and burst:

Burst pipe

The reason the valve was closed was this system also had a problem where the tap wasn’t fully closing, perhaps due to some debris in the pipe, resulting it in dripping:


So I removed the broken pipe. Here you can see the old pipe in the foreground, a new length of pipe on the left, and a cart with my plumbing toolbox:

Removed pipe and cart with tools

The repaired pipe:

Repaired pipe

I replaced the dodgy tap with a ball valve, which while not quite as easy to turn as a tap, will be more reliable:

Repaired pipe and valve

The second breakage was a tap in a lavender bed, snapped off at the base (probably kicked by a deer or landscaper):

Broken tap

The repaired tap:

Repaired tap



While I was doing plumbing repairs, I took the opportunity to extend the pipe for a tap by the small pond, that was too short:

Too short tap

I cut the pipe and inserted a short length to raise up the tap:

Raised tap


Re-buried tap

(Though I was just thinking that maybe I should have also taken that opportunity to add a second tap there, so I don’t need the splitter. One fork of that goes to the small pond auto-filler valve, the other is a hose to refill the feral cat water. Oh well, the splitter is fine.)

It’ll be interesting to see if anything else is broken, when I turn on the water.

I’ll also be doing some plumbing to add taps in the greenhouse, but I don’t have enough pipe for that yet. Ordered for delivery from Home Depot, along with materials for a couple of other projects.