Adventures in Urban Homesteading: Installing Irrigation
As landscape architects we often find ourselves sitting in the office designing details and specifying products that we’ve never actually seen installed. That’s why we try to get out in the field to review projects during construction. But when you are actually doing the work yourself, it takes the learning experience to a whole other level.
A few weeks back I experienced the pure joy of installing my own irrigation system. With almost 10 years under my belt as a landscape architect and being responsible for the design of dozens of irrigation systems you’d think that I would only be slightly smarter at the finish of the project than at the beginning. But as I’ve figured out countless times over my life, the motto “Learn by Doing” (thanks Cal Poly) really holds water.
Before Irrigation along fence line
Operating a trencher, laying out pipe, assembling drip valve kits and remote control valves, laying out drip irrigation properly, connecting the wiring, programming the controller, and planning for future improvements so that I don’t have to dig more trenches was much more work than I thought when I was drawing out lines on a piece of paper. Thank goodness I have a strong back (although, after the installation, it’s a little less so). It really drove home the point of why you should combine irrigation lines in one trench and limit the amount of trenching…trenching is not easy, nor is clearing out dirt where you changed directions in your trench. And connecting remote control valves and drip valve kits is quite arduous. It made me really appreciate the fact that there are pre-assembled pipes for laying out multiple valves in a row (although I didn’t think of that until afterwards on a trip to Ewing to tie up a few loose ends).
The fact is that, after finishing the installation, I had a much better understanding of drip irrigation, irrigation design, and the cost and hard work that goes into the installation. I’ll be designing with all that in mind. And not only was the project a good learning experience, it also has produced serious results. My garden shot up a couple weeks after the installation, my grass is much greener, and my ornamentals are healthier than ever. Sure, my water bill is higher, but I could take comfort in the fact that I can adjust everything with a few simple pushes of buttons. And I am not standing in the yard with a hose in hand wasting time watering…I’m sitting in the yard admiring all my healthy plants and fresh produce.
Matt Gruber is a landscape architect and project manager at Callander Associates. He and his wife, Rachel, bought their first home in 2011 and have since put their interest in urban homesteading to practice. Look here for future posts by Matt on brewing beer, growing food, and other adventures!