Irrigation overload

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I am sorry if this is TMI but there are some pretty cool things happening in Wild Suburbia with regard to irrigation. As always, I am making these changes to keep native and nonnative plants (especially trees) healthy, while using water efficiently. And I want to do this when we are home and away. We will be away again for much of the summer and so I need to be able to deeply water trees every 3 to 4 weeks. The vegetable garden needs watering every other day – plus or minus depending on weather. The lawn needs weekly watering, while mature ornamental shrubs should be deeply watered every couple of weeks. Complicated, indeed, especially since I want to be able to control this remotely. Though I will be basking in a cool, green locale, I want to be able to set off the water in So Cal in advance of a predicted heatwave, or cut back on watering frequency when the marine layer blesses us with higher humidity and lower temperatures.

Introducing the Skydrop controller

As described in the previous blog post, we are now proud owners of two Skydrop smart controllers. I strongly suggest that any of you out there who have an older controller check to see whether you are eligible for a free upgrade through the Metropolitan Water District Water Conservation Project.

In the previous post, I provided a pretty skimpy description of the installation of the controller because an installer did it for me… lickety-split. Not to worry, though, you can see it done on Youtube. This amazing video shows installation, setup and programming:

Front yard

Back in 2002 we installed a typical, in-ground sprinkler system for the front yard with a Rain Bird controller. It had six valves that sent water to below-ground PVC pipes connected to rotor and spray popups. However, we were only using three of the six valves. With the new Skydrop controller in place I am now using four valves and plan to connect a fifth. These are the valves and emitters that can and will be used in the front yard:

  1. Parkway (disconnected, parkway is no longer irrigated)
  2. East lawn and deodar (Hunter 2000 mp rotator nozzles for lawn)
  3. Vegetable garden (retrofitted to low-volume system with Rain Bird Retrofit Kit, video with installation instructions)
  4. Mature shrubs and deodar on east side (popup spray heads, Rain Bird 1800)
  5. Chinese fringe tree and Ray Hartman ceanothus shrubs on SE side of house (Netafim inline drip – 12 inch spacing/.9 gph connected with Rain Bird Retrofit Kit  to a previously unused zone)
  6. Coffeeberry foundation plants (I plan to install low-volume spray to apply water to shrubs without spraying nearby house and walk)

Chinese fringe tree and Ray Hartman ceanothus

When we installed the irrigation system we connected the fifth valve to a pipe that went to a small garden at the SE corner of the front yard. We capped off the pipe but never connected it to a spray head. I decided to finally use this valve by placing a tee in the pipe so it would still go to the corner, but it would also be connected to an inline drip hose. The drip hose circles one Chinese fringe tree and two Ray Hartman ceanothus shrubs in a narrow bed along the sidewalk.

PVC Irrigation Pipe
PVC irrigation pipes. I removed a PVC elbow and replaced it with a tee to direct water to an inline drip hose. The Rain Bird Retrofit Kit reduces pressure and filters water for the low-volume system before the tee. I can add low-volume or inline drip to the SE corner garden (to the left) in the future. The PVC pipe that runs beneath the tee (in the upper part of the picture) connects to pop-up spray heads for valve four.

More irrigation to come

To summarize, we now have two smart controllers, one for the front yard and one for the back yard. In the front yard, we can water the large deodar tree, lawn, a Chinese fringe tree, and mature shrubs. The vegetable garden is on a low-volume system that will run frequently for a relatively short period of time.

The back yard controller will set off four valves that will send water through hoses to soaker hoses and inline drip for deep watering of citrus trees (zone 1), avocado 1 (zone 2), avocado 2 (zone 3), and three Chinese fringe trees along the NE sidewalk (zone 4).

Back yard valves for netafim and soaker hoses
Back yard valves send water to Netafim and soaker hoses. I have connected zone 1 and zone 4. More to come.

4 thoughts on “Irrigation overload

  1. Thanks for writing this. I am astonished to hear you actually have a sprinkler for a ceanothus! I have a couple of the Ray Hartmann and some celestial blue conchas. They HATE water if it’s not rain and not cool out! If I walk by with my hose, the leaves turn yellow! I have to resist every urge I have to water any of my ceanothuses. I’ve killed a couple of them by watering them. I’ve even seen the leaves turn yellow when it rains too much. It’s crazy. And these aren’t even older plants. I’m talking one or two years old! I love them, though.

    • weedingwildsuburbia

      @glennonrp. Thanks for your comment. I have found that in South Pasadena (San Gabriel Valley), the Ray Hartman ceanothus enjoys occasional summer water, about once a month. White sage – not so; Cleveland sage – definitely not so; coast live oak – heaven forbid; but Ray seems to do better with it. They are youngish plants (~3 years old). I have lost lots of ceanothus over the years. I once had two Conchas. One turned a bit yellow in summer, I gave it some water on a cool day, it died. The other turned a bit yellow a year later, I did not give it any way, it died. Lesson? Who knows! Anyway, Ray seems kind of happy so I’ll go with it. My longest lived ceanothus was a Frosty Blue. It got too large for the parkway (due to poor planning on my part!) and I took it out. So there you go!

  2. Nate

    I have the same experience. If I even splash a little water near Ray Hartman, leaves turn yellow and drop!

    • weedingwildsuburbia

      Nate, where is your garden? I have a large Ray Hartman on the edge of my vegetable garden in full sun. Last year – it was just over 1.5 years old, it got way too much water throughout the summer. It grew very quickly and looks absolutely great. Maybe it will die young, but I found that very surprising. I have other R.H.s that get much less water, and not as much sun, and they have grown more slowly. All bloom well and all are less than 10 years old. If I don’t water my R.H. then they really shut down in summer and they don’t recover all that well in winter. A bit of water seems to help.

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