Monday, August 31, 2009


This is hard work!

Many of you not in SoCal have probably heard of the big heat wave (and fires) we're having out here. Luckily, the fires are far from my home and the wind has blown the smoke and ash away from direction.

Still, I'm rethinking my decision to work in the 100 degree heat. I think all home improvement work is a bit strenuous to the weekday desk jockey. However, landscaping work is truly hard work. Shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows -- they're all instruments of torture. Anyhow, I'm just about ready to plant.
I'm getting ready to plant horsetail...the area is pretty shady and moist so I think it will do well. Horsetail is fairly invasive, but I'm taking several steps recommended by the nursery: 1. regular pruning of unwanted culms, landscape cloth surrounding the plant, and rocks on top of the landscape cloth.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Let there be light!

I finally got around to laying some low voltage wiring and playing around with the lighting. In this era of energy conservation I don't know how anyone could condone "mock disneyland" lighting schemes. I'm thinking of focusing on function: house numbers and walkway. To get the angle right I'm actually going to have to bury the light in the grass. One thing I did was select a fixture with a 12V MR16 halogen fixture. This allows me to choose from a number of wattages and beam spreads. For example, I think I will go with the "super narrow" beam pattern to really focus the light below.

I'm just about ready to get it all smoothed out and add some landscape cloth and gravel. I'm looking around at the various places for different rock options but I like the simplicity of the ubiquitous 3/4" grey gravel. It's also very reasonably-priced. At 3" depth it's only $0.56/sq ft + delivery.

Monday, August 17, 2009



I finally got had a free weekend day today and was able to get some things done. For the longest time I've had a string line setup out front marking a new bed for the horsetail. I've grown rather tired of looking at it so I decided to actually get to work. In a lot of ways, that area in front of the fence is like a test area. It incorporates a lot of things I will need to do in other areas of the yard, but it's a smaller space where the execution of such things is less critical as they will be hidden by plants.

The photos may not look like much but a lot got done. The biggest items was installing and extension to the existing flower bed irrigation system. I refuse to plant anything without a workable plan to keep it watered. I trenched down to install the PVC the length of the fence and added a few risers. I plan on installing drip irrigation but I wanted the traditional risers to allow future flexibility. Here's a fun hint...soaking the ground makes a big mess of your shoes, but also makes trenching much easier.

Next, I worked on leveling out the dirt and breaking it up. When your soil has a high clay content, this can be pretty exhausting. Finally, I was able to install the edging I've been working on. This has been a bit intimidating. I don't really like any of the available edging systems on the market and pouring concrete seemed like it would be too thick. I do like the bent sheetmetal but that seemed too thin. I settled on getting some 5/8" by 5 and 3/8" redwood. This gives just a hint of organic separation, lasts a long time, and is priced reasonably (a hair over $2 per linear foot).

Lastly, I've been working on some lighting schemes to light up the house numbers. I'm no fan of Disneyland-esque landscape lighting, but I think key lighting of functional items (steps and house numbers) adds a nice touch. I've decided to go low-voltage and picked up a Malibu well light on ebay for $15, shipped. Unfortunately, it was only available in a hideous hammered faux stone finish. One of the cool things about the fixture I got is that it takes MR16 halogen bulbs. These bulbs actually come in several different wattages and, more importantly, beam widths. I'll probably have to experiment to get just the right look for the house numbers. I really like the fact that it's a well light so it's essentially hidden in the ground. $4.09 for a Rustoleum rattle can and I made it a much more pleasing aluminum color.

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