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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Courtyard Garden: Setting Up Automatic Reticulation And Sprinkler System

The courtyard garden design has been a thorn in my side for months ..... ok that's a lie more like YEARS!

The reason is that once the limestone walls were built and the fence slats installed we had this big lovely outdoor space that we want to look amazing - on a budget - and to incorporate all our awesome ideas - but we didn't know where to start!

So after many inspirational posts, ideas, and sketches (and laughing at my not to scale although pretty and colourful drawings!) and the deliberation over many, many bottles of wine - Mr P and I have finalised our courtyard garden design and can now get to work on it.

The design plan is -
Two large rectangles of lawn
Paving all around the outside
Large paved area for seating 
Shade sails over the seating area
Succulent garden bed around the bedroom
Vegetable and herb garden beds to the side
Screen for the bins and reticulation controls

I will share a proper design plan for our courtyard garden in a separate blog post soon 

Now to physically map out the design we measured and marked off the lawn and garden bed areas using flagging tape attached to sticks in the ground. 

We know what size pavers we want 40x40 so used this as a guide to have the paved paths 3 pavers wide around the outside and the lawn and garden beds would work in with this. It was important for the lawn areas to line up so they look symmetrical even though they will be different sizes due to the shape of the courtyard.

Once we knew where the lawn and garden borders would be we could lay the reticulation. I am no good at remembering to hand water so reticulation is a must for this garden to survive!

I never know what to call it irrigation or reticulation and my understanding is that reticulation is automated irrigation and so that's what we're having reticulation (or retic for short because we're Aussie and we shorten everything!).

The type of reticulation we are installing includes:
1. Laying below ground pipe
2. Pop up sprinklers
3. Electronically operated solenoid valves
4. An automatic timer and controller

To start, Mr P got busy with a trenching shovel and dug trenches along the grass and garden bed border for the pvc pipe to go.

It is a good idea to use a string line when doing this so you dig the trench in a straight line.

We drew a mud map of where each garden zone is so we knew how to set up each station.

We fitted a main solenoid and 3 other solenoids which will control the different watering stations and zones in the garden - ie: lawn, succulent garden, vegetable garden.

These solenoids will all be connected to a control box to operate each zone. We also placed a cover over each solenoid to protect the wires once it is covered in dirt.

Once the first transformer was in, it was just a matter of building a jigsaw with pipes and elbows to run the reticulation through our maze of trenches and attach sprinklers at the ends.

The lengths of pipe needed to be cut to fit each trench. The pipe is pvc (plastic) so easy to cut through with a hand saw and glue together.

The glue we used is a solvent cement (you use green glue for water pressure and blue glue for normal water pipes).

How do I know this? Because I'm a glue girl from way back!

I use to help my Dad on the farm fix water pipes and sprinklers down the paddock and the smell of this glue still reminds me of my childhood!

You need to work quickly with the glue and apply it to both the outside of the pipe and inside of the fitting and apply pressure to ensure the pipe and fitting adheres - otherwise it will push itself apart and not be water tight. This is not just a glue it actually dissolves the plastic which causes the pipe and fitting to bond together.

At each corner of the grassed areas we installed a pop up sprinkler.

We fitted quarter nozzles to the sprinkler heads so they will only water the lawn that needs it and not the paving.

With water restrictions across Australia anything you can do to reduce water usage is necessary and something as simple as the type of nozzles and the outlay of water will make a huge difference to saving water.

Once the pipe and sprinklers were in and the glue had dried we wired up the solenoids to the control box and fitted the control box to the exterior brick wall of the house.

We picked the Orbit Control Star Controller as we got it at a great price.

We will need an electrician to install power outside so we can plug in the control box but we won't do that until we decide where we want the rest of the outside power and lights to go. So, in the meantime to test it we just used an extension cord and it all works fine.

We turned the control box on and the water supply to check that all the sprinklers worked ok and there were no water leaks.

Then we had to make sure all the sprinkler heads were at the same height - we did this by using a string line and mini level and a tape measure to check the height.

After some slight adjustments, all the sprinklers were level and so we filled in all the trenches with sand to cover over the pipes.

It cost us about $300 all up for the pipe, fittings, sprinklers, glue and control box.

Plus Mr P and I put in a couple of hours labour over a few weekends digging and installing it ourselves. 

It is money and time well spent to make sure our garden and grass is watered regularly so it grows and the black thumb of the house doesn't kill it (that would be me incase you're wondering!)

Now that the reticulation is in our next task is to organise shade sails and make a screen for the rubbish bins as both will need the support poles cemented into the ground before any paving can be done.

Once the poles are in we will get quotes for the paving to be laid and source pavers - we already know what size and colour we want (40x40 in limestone) it's just a matter of finding out where they are stocked at the best price!

Then lawn and garden beds will be planted after the paving is in and of course the fun part of decorating with outdoor furniture etc.

I am so excited that we've finally started work on the courtyard garden!

How does your garden get watered ..... By hand? Or an automatic system?

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  1. We have a sprinkler system and LOVE it!! Our control pad is in our basement though, which is such a pain! They put them in the garage now, but our house was built in the 80's!


    1. Well I guess if it's in the basement at least you don't need to go out into the wild weather to use it :) Australian homes aren't designed with basements, but I've seen some amazing ones on Foxtel's HGTV they are such a great use of space!

  2. now i see why hubby said no when i asked for underground sprinkler system! In a few months your garden and yard will be so beautiful, all this work will be so worth it!

    1. Tell hubby it is worth it to have lovely fresh green grass all year long! We don't mind a bit of DIY over a few weekends so long as it includes sleep ins and couch time too :)

  3. What a great system and an affordable price. I'm impressed with your site supervisor (your puppy) he seems to be in on the action! Can't wait to see how the garden turns out. Thanks for linking up with #HIT

    1. Thanks Nicole, yes all we need now is the garden to water!

  4. We have a water sprinkler system but we've never used it and I haven't checked it to get it working again. Well done on getting a start with your courtyard. And love that you understand the difference between glues. Only thing is, were the pipes primed with red primer before being glued together? The pipes won't stay glued for long if they haven't been primed. Not sure if it's a big deal for sprinkler systems, but it's definitely a big deal for sewer and waste pipes. Thank you for linking up to Home Improvement Thursday. Love having you part of the link up. X

    1. I struggle to remember to water by hand so will be relying on the sprinkler system to keep the garden alive!
      I don't think it's needed for reticulation pipes, but that is good to know :)
      Thanks for hosting the link up Rebecca can't wait to join in again x

  5. Keep up the incredible work !! I like the way you describe the whole process. A landscape flush with green grass, healthy trees, and colorful flowers increases a home's curb appeal. Automatic sprinklers are the best way to maintain such a luxuriant setting while minimizing water use.

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