It’s been just over a week since we put the grass seed down, and its just beginning to sprout. The sprinkler system has been doing a great job keeping the ground moist, and with lots of sun, and warm weather, the grass came up super fast. It’s looking like I probably missed a few spots, so I’ll have to fill in those in the spring. I also see a more severe problem, the uneven settling. I didn’t have a lawn roller to compact the rototilled soil and compost, so I just tried to level it as best as I could, however it seems that since some spots were more compact than others, its turning out to be rather lumpy. I’m not sure what to do about this, but I’m going to leave it till the spring to deal with.
You can actually just bury the sprinkler control valves in the dirt, but that makes repair difficult, so its common practice to stick them in a box like this. I hooked up my four valves with some solid PVC pipe, and ran all the piping from the sprinkler heads into the box. I used an old piece of downspout to cover the incoming pipes, so that i don’t accidentally cut them while digging in the garden. The controller for the valves will be mounted in the garage, not to far away.
The pipes for the sprinkler system must be buried of course, and therefore trenches need to be dug to run them in. I could have rented a trench digger, but it wouldn’t fit in my BMW, and besides I only had a few hundred feet to do. So I bought a trenching shovel from Lowes, and went at it by hand. Doesn’t take to long to do, but it is mind numbing work.
Getting the sprinkler pipe under the driveway turned out to be the most difficult task of the whole project. I came up with the idea to use a water jet nozzle on the end of a long length of pvc pipe to blast a tunnel under the driveway. I’d used this before going under a sidewalk, and thought it would work well under the driveway. Things started off well, with the pipe slowly going in, and digging a nice tunnel. However after about 6′ the pipe got stuck. I couldn’t get it to go any farther in, and even worse I couldn’t pull it back out either.
I tried to use my pressure wash to dig it out, but that didn’t work, so the only thing I could think of was to try again. I hooked up another pipe to the hose, and started digging in. I got to about 6′ without problem, but was unable to free the other pipe. So of course I just kept going. I got to about 8′ when low and behold the pipe got stuck. I was now out of pipe, and out of ideas, so I left it be for a few hours.
In my pondering I thing I figured out what happened, and that is, the sand that our concrete driveway is poured on, makes for a poor tunnel, and although the pipe had no problem digging through it, the tunnel would then collapse on the pipe, getting it firmly stuck. So I bought another section of pipe, and this time tried to go right underneath the concrete instead of about 6″ below it. This finally worked without a problem, and I was able to get the pipe all the way through.
Of course the other two pipes are still stuck there, and will remain that way until the end of time.
Every year the town comes and hauls away all our fallen tree leaves. Well now after they’ve been sitting for a year, they’ve brought them all back! This is what 8 cu Yards of compost looks like, which is nicely delivered from McNaughton’s Garden Center for the low low price of $250. This should be enough compost to cover the whole lawn 1/2-3/4″ thick, and should provide a great bed for the happy little grass seedlings. Spreading it out will be the hard part.
To prep the soil for the new grass I rented a rototiller and went to town. The rototiller was a big rear-tine job that was about $50 for a half day to rent. I was figuring it would chew up the lawn down to about 8″ and break up all the old dead grass, burying it in the dirt. No such luck. First off it only goes down about 3 or 4″ and it misses the section right in the middle. If you’re good at it I’m sure you can jsut make overlapping passes and cover the whole area very well, but I’m not good at it. Therefore in the best places it went 3″ deep, but there were significant sections where I didn’t do anything. Even in the spots that it did well with it didn’t really break up the old grass, and so there were tufts of it everywhere, causing big lumps.
Running the tiller was also exhausting work, and even though it only took two hours, I was beat by the end of it. What I should have done was to then use a garden rake and hand tiller to get rid of the clumps and break up the spots I missed. I did get rid of a bunch of the clumps, but not all of them, and this turned out to be a big mistake.
Grass, being a plant, needs water to live. Particularly when its a bunch of little baby plants just sprouting. The research indicates that when a new lawn is seeded, it should be lightly watered a few times a day until it germinates, and then slowly reduced to 1″ per week. Since I was expecting it to rain a few times a day for three weeks to make sure the whole lawn got a good smattering of water, I decided to install a sprinkler system. The system itself isn’t particularly expensive, about $400 for everything, and it should insure that our lawn does well. Seen here is everything I’ll need for the system. The nice folks at Rainbird have a free service where you can send in your land survey and they will design a system for you. Using that as a guide, I placed a nice big order with the Sprinkler Warehouse, and this is what I got. It consists of a couple hundred feet of tubing, a bunch of sprinkler heads, some pipe connectors, the solenoid valves, tools, wire, and the controller. Hopefully I’m not missing anything.
Since we bought the house I’ve been pretty unhappy with the front lawn. It’s lumpy, uneven, and there is very little actual grass in it. I tried redoing a couple of the worst spots, but didn’t have much luck. So this fall I’ve decide to just redo the whole thing. The first step is of course to get rid of the old lawn, so two weeks ago I sprayed the whole thing with roundup. This will kill off all the old lawn, and all the weeds too, and as you can see it works very well. I was a bit concerned about the roundup sticking around and making it hard for the new grass, but the directions say you can plant again in just 3 days, so two weeks should be plenty.
I also had PSEG come out and mark the gas line so I could make sure not to hit it. That’s a free service, and easy to do, so I highly recommend that anyone thinking of digging should get it done. This weekend will be spent tilling, digging, spreading compost, and installing a new sprinkler system!
With the hedges gone we’re free to put in nice cute little gardens. These will msotly be flowers, although I may put a few veggies in the back. In addition to what you see here (msot of which I don’t know the names of) I also planted some four-o-clock seeds in the back. Most of the plants are pernnieals and the little plants on the corners are acutaly evergreens so it should look good next year too.
Despite being in the middle of painting, and a bathroom remodel, I choose to spend the weekend digging out our ball hedges instead. Mostly because if this doesn’t get done soon, then it will be too late to plant the flowers in the space the hedges leave behind. Pulling out the stumps was an all day task, involving a chainsaw, axe, shovel, pick, reciprocating saw, 30# digging bar, and many hours of back breaking labor. Happily my wife helped and so we were able to finish before it got dark. The stump removal process basicly involves digging around the stump and cutting most of the roots until there are few enough left that I can drag it out with my car. The problem with these big stumps was that once my car dragged them out, they were too heavy for me to drag Thus getting them onto the side of the house (where they will dry out sufficently that I can then cut them up and put them at the curb) was quite a task by itself.