Laying Pipe

Thursday, June 7, 2012

PVC Project (Laying Pipe): Bird Back 40
Somewhere, in a galaxy far, far away, a young and excited young boy is royally cheesed off. He is visiting the blog that is Sacramento Vegetable Gardening for the very first time thanks to the rather suggestive label of "laying pipe" (plus a few others that I will think up later).

Relax kid. This isn't the kind of show you were hoping to find. We're not laying that kind of pipe -- nor would I ever write about such a thing. Who would read it? A tryst involving a middle-aged married couple? Blech! Hit the search button again quick and get me out of here before I see anything that might fry my eyeballs.

Installing New PVC Line
However, if you're never-ending curiosity has forced you to stay -- let me tell you exactly what kind of pipe we're laying in today's blog. Because you just might be laying some of the exact same stuff someday. In this case? It's PVC irrigation pipe, and yet another irrigation project in the Backyard that is Bird.

This adventure of landscaping a large backyard has taken many twists and turns. Sometimes I get it right. Many times I don't. When the wife that is Venus and I first gazed upon the backyard spaces that greeted us in our North Natomas backyard, we saw nothing but clay dirt. There were certainly lots of possibilities that went with the dirt, but the best you got five years ago was imagination and bare dirt. Lots and lots of bare dirt.

I'll admit -- I did have some prior landscaping experience. I had totally destroyed a yard in Madera County with landscaping efforts before I discovered there were two types and two sizes of drip irrigation fittings. The discovery would come after different fittings to different hoses began to literally explode into different pieces thanks to PVC manifolds that were installed sans "pressure regulators."

Bird Back 40: 2007-Bare Dirt
Pressure regulators? What are those and why do I need them? I would soon discover why. But to this day I still can't figure out why some brainiac decided there had to be two different drip irrigation sizes -- with both so close in size (.50 opposed to .57) that it's impossible to tell them apart with the naked eye unless you know exactly what you're doing.

I had a little better time of it when it came to landscaping our first North Natomas home. Ah -- but then I had acquired the valued assistance of a retired rocket scientist and engineer who not only knew his nuclear missile systems -- but also how to install drip irrigation. Talk about your dual majors.

But that first yard -- like most in the wilds of North Natomas -- was no bigger than your average postage stamp. If you were using more than one valve for irrigation drip purposes -- you had committed the sin of planting far too much seed. If you needed more than one valve for lawn sprinklers, you had committed the error of planting a lawn on your roof.

PVC Project: 2007
But with the Bird Back 40? There was room. There was room for everything that captured a gardener's fancy. One could plant, plant and plant again and still not come close to scratching the surface of a "fully landscaped Back 40." It was here where you could let your imagination "run wild" and Venus and I have been doing just that.

I knew -- very early on in this process -- that the one drip system and the one sprinkler system that serviced our old yard wasn't going to come close to satisfying the concerns of the new stretch of land. So I planned ahead. Rather than one drip system -- I would install two. Rather than one valve dedicated to sprinklers -- I would reserve at least two and perhaps three.

Boy was I ever off. Thus the need to "lay pipe" from time to time to address glaring and distressing drops in water pressure during key irrigation periods.

New PVC Project: 2012
It was the rocket scientist turned father-in-law who came up with the rather ingenious idea of using clamps to bolt drip line to the bottom of a fence. This meant you could line an entire backyard fence line with enough drip lines to irrigate any landscaping project.


It would be a few years before I realized that drip lines can only handle so much pressure. And the further you extend a drip line? The less pressure you get. Instead of getting a flow of water at the end of a 200 foot drip-line extension -- you get a trickle. Trickles don't equal successful fruit trees or heirloom tomato production. Trickles equal trouble.

I learned that lesson all too well a few years ago when I split off this line into another (fun detailed here) -- plus tapped into the drip line feeding a very small section of the front yard. While this did serve to increase water pressure somewhat, it was clear that I had failed to install enough PVC pipe for the overtaxed line, and had placed far too much of a demand on the drip line bolted against the fence.

PVC T: New line joins existing line
Which leads to the latest project of -- you guessed it -- laying pipe. After hacking into the all important PVC irrigation line near the manifold -- I cut a new trench carefully between citrus and fruit tree plantings. This wasn't like the irrigation project all those years ago when Venus and I first gazed upon our all-dirt Back 40. There was nothing to run into then. We could and did cut straight lines because there were no trees or boxes to get in our path.

Not this time. There are tree roots here. Watch out for that box over there! Who in Hades put that rock in my path?

PVC Overkill!
After many fits and starts -- twists and turns -- plus the addition of a new trenching shovel -- the digging part was over. Hacking into and installing a PVC T connector on the existing line I'd buried all those years ago (never expecting to dig back up again) went far smoother than I ever could have imagined. From that point forward? The job was as easy as pie: Glue, hold for compression, tear glued hand away from pipe. Who needs skin anyway?

It may have been overkill (OK, so it WAS overkill), but I made sure to create dual exit points at the end of the PVC line. I'd just about had it with low water pressure in the garden and wanted to ensure that I wouldn't have to deal with this problem again. I won't. The new lines, and the new drip sprinklers attached to the new lines, provide me with all the coverage I'll ever need and more.

Test Bed: Bird Back 40
A well soaked in-ground test bed equals equal parts great corn, squash, pumpkin and tomato crops. The new line will also open up new areas and new possibilities for additional plantings. Because I've always had that super-secret desire for a lawn on my roof.