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GardenSMART Episode

Show #46/6607. Back Yard Makeover - What's Beneath Your Feet

Summary of Show

Benefits Of A Retaining Wall
Eric loves the architectural BENEFITS OF A RETAINING WALL and wants to learn more about them. He thinks walls in general add definition to the property and are aesthetically beautiful. It’s gotten to the point where concrete block wall is actually more cost effective than using the old landscapescape timbers everybody used years ago and of course the longevity is a lot longer. Tom with LDC has been building retaining walls for over 30 years and is an expert in the field. Tom is going to talk us through the importance of the retaining wall specifically to this site.
For More Information Click here

Types Of Retaining Wall
Tom continues, when looking at this project there's a certain TYPE OF WALL that can be used that's best for this site and why they chose this kind of block. There's a certain height they wanted yet still have the correct drainage, all while having a yard that's functional. There are so many new materials that we're seeing in the world of retaining walls. When we think about retaining walls and probably most people don't think about retaining walls, but historically retaining walls would have been old, used railroad ties, 6x6 timbers or concrete blocks. All of those can work. But now there are so many wonderful options that aesthetically just look so much better in the garden and of course some of those materials were incorporated here.
For More Information Click here

Building A Retaining Wall
But there are things to keep in mind. Make sure that they look right and make sure that they're safe, especially if you're going more than three or four blocks high. What do we need to be keeping in mind to make sure that we do it correctly? When BUILDING A WALL with this type of block, you can build the wall as high as you want, or as high as you need, some commercial applications will often build them 10 feet, 20 feet, 30 feet, 40 feet tall, but it requires engineering and a grid, all sorts of things that only a professional can do. Building it in a residential type situation like this, you can go up to four feet tall without doing a grid and without support.
For More Information Click here

Drainage System For A Retaining Wall
There's a DRAINAGE SYSTEM as well, because since you're building a solid structure you will have water that seeps down through when it rains or from your irrigation system, so you've got to have a drainage system similar to what you would have with a house basement.
For More Information Click here

Grading And Soil Preparation
One of the oftentimes unseen yet super important aspects of good design is the GRADING AND SOIL PREPARATION. Eric oftentimes tells people if you're on a limited budget, putting the money into getting the soil right is one of the most important things that you could do. Of course, there was a lot of that kind of work that went into this site. A lot of it because of the tree removal, then once the trees were removed they had to do all the stump grinding.
For More Information Click here

Cleaning And Staining Block Walls
Eric points out another finishing touch to this garden that he thinks really, really came out nicely, was UPDATING THE STONE WALLS. Mark agrees, this wall is over 20 years old, it was like a faded rose color, so it was very dated looking. They went to the local hardware store, got some concrete stain and applied it with a hand pump sprayer like you use in your garden. It's amazing what a big difference it makes. You just pressure wash it, clean the stone off, then apply the stain, you could do it easily in a couple of hours and it really ties everything together. It more or less matches the trim color of the home.
For More Information Click here

Why Irrigation
Eric next meets Chris, who's the regional sales manager for Orbit Irrigation. Eric would like to talk about irrigation which he thinks is one of the most important aspects of any successful gardening project. Eric asks Chris, WHY SHOULD WE INSTALL IRRIGATION? There are a couple of reasons, first, an irrigation system maintains a healthy landscape that can increase your property value, improve the quality of life of the system, as well as protect your investment. The homeowner spent a lot of money back here, they want to protect that, they want to make sure it's healthy. Second, is convenience.
For More Information Click here

What’s Available In Irrigation
Eric would like to talk about WHAT’S AVAILABLE in the world of modern irrigation systems, so much has changed especially in the last 5 or 10 years. The modern irrigation systems have become very intelligent, it's shocking what they can do now. We’ve moved well beyond basic timers, so they're actually reading what's going on in the environment around them and making real time decisions. It's super cool. With this system once you've set it up on smart watering and connected to wifi, which means we're connected to a local weather station and downloading that data, things like temperature, wind, humidity, that all goes into the algorithm to create a watering schedule specific to those zones.
For More Information Click here

DIY Enthusiasts - Install Yourself
For our gardening friends who are DIY ENTHUSIASTS and love to get into their own projects, let's say, they're considering installing an irrigation system in their garden or in their backyard, let's walk through the basics of what is needed from the water main, to sending it out to all these zones and then tying it back into a timer. The first thing you want to do is design the system. Step two would be to flag it out, you're going to flag out where all your spray heads, all your rotors, your drip line's are going to go and then concentrate on the water source. But regarding the water source, if it's a city water main, you're going to tap into that, then going to run your main line to your bank of valves. If you're going to do a manifold, install your valve box and then from there bring out the lateral lines.
For More Information Click here

LINKS:

L.D.C. Landscape Design
Home | LDC Management Groups

Concrete Stain
Concrete Stains - What's the Best Stain for Cement? - Concrete Network

Orbit Irrigation
Smart Watering, Sprinkler & Drip Systems | Orbit Irrigation – OrbitOnline

How To Build A Retaining Wall
How to Build a Retaining Wall Yourself | MutualMaterials.com

Show #46/6607. Back Yard Makeover - What's Beneath Your Feet

Transcript of Show

This GardenSMART Episode follows up on the back yard makeover series. Everything is coming together great, we're getting the foundation set for success.

Much of what makes a landscape successful is the early work that goes on beneath our feet. Getting the grading right allows us to ensure that the drainage is correct for the site and that the space is contoured the way we want for our vintage planning to sing. For this design, we also need to install a retaining wall to level out the property and make it more usable for entertaining. Retaining walls are often overlooked and appear simple, but there's quite a bit that goes into getting them just right. While we're tackling grading. It’s the perfect time to address any soil amendment needs to make sure that our plants will succeed for years to come. It's also super important to get our irrigation installed before planting starts so that everything is ready to go when our plants do arrive.

We catch up with Mark and see how everything's coming together. One thing that was important to this homeowner was gaining more usable space. Sometimes that means leveling the yard out. Although not readily noticeable there is quite a steep grade on the property, it sloped down from the patio to the property line. So Mark and his team recovered a lot of this yard area by putting in a retaining wall. Once the retaining wall was built they back filled it which in essence raised the yard up. It’s amazing what a big difference the retaining wall makes to this back yard area.

Drainage was also a very important consideration so they have included basically a false drain that runs alongside the retaining wall. Then put gravel behind the wall.

Grading is also very important. All of the early site work lays a solid foundation for a great garden. One wants to get the demolition complete, want to get the walls in before you do any of the planting and, of course, you want to wait until the end to put your sod in.

Eric loves the architectural BENEFITS OF A RETAINING WALL and wants to learn more about them. He thinks walls in general add definition to the property and are aesthetically beautiful. It's gotten to the point where a concrete block wall is actually more cost effective than using the old landscape timbers everybody used years ago and of course the longevity is a lot longer. Tom with LDC has been building retaining walls for over 30 years and is an expert in the field. Tom is going to talk us through the importance of the retaining wall specifically to this site. The retaining wall really changed everything about this design, it was an imperative. The wall raised the level of one side of the backyard which created a more level space in the yard. That was beneficial for the dogs, the kids, entertaining, all of those things. And there are many gardening projects where terracing or walls do so much from a standpoint of making either the land workable and/or making it more functional. In this case there was a pretty severe grade and by leveling everything out it opened up an incredible amount of additional usable space.

Tom continues, when looking at this project there's a certain TYPE OF WALL that can be used that's best for this site and why they chose this kind of block. There's a certain height they wanted yet still have the correct drainage, all while having a yard that's functional. There are so many new materials that we're seeing in the world of retaining walls. When we think about retaining walls and probably most people don't think about retaining walls, but historically retaining walls would have been old, used railroad ties, 6x6 timbers or concrete blocks. All of those can work. But now there are so many wonderful options that aesthetically just look so much better in the garden and of course some of those materials were incorporated here. Eric would like for Tom to talk about what's available today for homeowners. In the past, like Eric mentioned most did use to timbers, they were the most economical for a homeowner to use. The issue is, they don't last. They deteriorate typically in 10-15 years because there is water against it, the dirt gets wet and causes rot or termites, that kind of thing. In the past, in the 90’s or so, block was available but blocks were just too expensive in homeowner applications. Primarily they were used in commercial applications. Now prices have gone in different directions - wood's gone up, block walls have come down a little. Now it’s much better when you can spend, basically, the same kind of money on something that's going to be sustainable, basically, forever and not have problems with it. Out of the gate, it looks better, as well. There are other walls, other types of walls, that are more involved. For example, using concrete cinder blocks with veneer rock on them, or flagstone is an option, or different kinds of stucco. In most cases they're just as durable, just as strong and better bang for your buck.

These materials are widely available and for many homeowners, if you like doing your own projects, it is actually a practical job that they can do. But there are things to keep in mind. Make sure that they look right and make sure that they're safe, especially if you're going more than three or four blocks high. What do we need to be keeping in mind to make sure that we do it correctly? When BUILDING A WALL with this type of block, you can build the wall as high as you want, or as high as you need, some commercial applications will often build them 10 feet, 20 feet, 30 feet, 40 feet tall, but it requires engineering and a grid, all sorts of things that only a professional can do. Building it in a residential type situation like this, you can go up to four feet tall without doing a grid and without support. But a lot of people think, okay, I'll just buy some block, try to level it out and move some dirt around and throw the blocks on. That's not the way to do it. It's going to fail if you do that. You've got to dig a correct footer, put some rock in it, then set your first course. You want to start in the low area because you're working your way to the high spots. Start in the low areas then work your way up and then level the top as you finish it off. But you have to get that base in correctly and that first course has to be level. That's what takes the time and that's the most important part of anything, even building a house. The foundation is the most important part of anything when you're building. Once you get that first course leveled and everything, it becomes more simple.

There's a DRAINAGE SYSTEM as well, because since you're building a solid structure you will have water that seeps down through when it rains or from your irrigation system, so you've got to have a drainage system similar to what you would have with a house basement. You always have a drain pipe at the bottom with washed stone, what Tom calls 57 stone, so that the water, when it's hydrostatically moving towards it will fall down in that rock, go into the drainage pipe, exit out and not put pressure on the wall to make it fall over. And that will happen if you don't do that. It's really a type of french drain.

In this back yard even with as much as this was leveled out, there's still a pretty steep grade from the top of the property to the back, so anytime it rains, you're going to have thousands of gallons of water that basically build up pressure behind this wall. So of course, if you don't have a way of relieving it, in time this wall is going to fail. And that’s why addressing drainage is a very important component of getting the installation correct. The bigger the slope and the longer the area that the water can move you will have more water that will build up behind the wall, so the drainage system is critical.

When the base is set, which is absolutely the most important part of the project, then start stacking on the next layers of blocks. Most of the blocks have like a little ridge on the back of them to hold them into position. Eric wonders - are these loose fit or is some kind of adhesive needed between the stones? They’re loose fit, the block itself has holes in it similar to a cinder block. With these what you do is when you start setting the courses not only are you putting rock behind the wall, you're filling in those holes as you're coming up in lift. Every row, every course of block, you're filling those in with rocks, so that supports it and kind of ties them together along with the lip on the back of the block. Every time you come back to that second block it can't shift forward. It also makes it where it steps the block back about an inch every time you come up, each is stepping back, so it causes it to lean back a little bit so that it's not going to tip either. It just makes the wall stronger, it’s leaning in the direction of the hydraulic pressure or the shifting of soil that's going to be above it, so it just makes it more stable.

Many homeowners who do wall installations skip the capstone step. Particularly from an aesthetic and a decorative standpoint the capstone really ties it all in. Eric thinks Tom used a good looking block, they're wedge shaped, but because of the cap that gets put on you don't see that wedge shape. Other walls tend to move a little bit, the earth always moves a little bit but these are really supported very well. When installing the cap, let's say there is an area with a fairly sharp bend, does that involve using a masonry saw to cut the angles? This wall is pretty straight but does have some curves. These caps are rectangle so you've got to have a good concrete demo saw and cut angles and that requires a lot of measuring. It obviously can be done, it's not the easiest thing, but Tom’s team is used to it. Eric comments one can see the difference. Someone with decades of experience, an expert in the field made this look great. Like the work of a professional mason, this came out great, it really changes the whole way that this yard is utilized and also it's aesthetically beautiful.

One of the oftentimes unseen yet super important aspects of good design is the GRADING AND SOIL PREPARATION. Eric oftentimes tells people if you're on a limited budget, putting the money into getting the soil right is one of the most important things that you could do. Of course, there was a lot of that kind of work that went into this site. A lot of it because of the tree removal, then once the trees were removed they had to do all the stump grinding. To create the usable space they had to bring in several dump truck loads of dirt to raise the yard up and also to backfill behind the wall. With many sites, especially newer homes, a lot of the top soil, during construction, is removed so Tom’s crew will be working with a compacted red clay that is really, really hard to garden and the drainage is just poor, nutrition is almost never right. So moving in fresh top soil and getting things correct, like drainage, ph and really good compost material encourages the plants to grow in, it's super important. Of course, Mark's guys did a great job with that here.

Eric points out another finishing touch to this garden that he thinks really, really came out nicely, was UPDATING THE STONE WALLS. Mark agrees, this wall is over 20 years old, it was like a faded rose color, so it was very dated looking. They went to the local hardware store, got some concrete stain and applied it with a hand pump sprayer like you use in your garden. It's amazing what a big difference it makes. You just pressure wash it, clean the stone off, then apply the stain, you could do it easily in a couple of hours and it really ties everything together. It more or less matches the trim color of the home. The brown mulch was selected to coordinate with the newly stained walls. It's a nice way to take a feature that the homeowner was not going to change because these walls are great structurally, and now they still look really, really nice, they look brand new and refreshed.

Eric next meets Chris, who's the regional sales manager for Orbit Irrigation. Eric would like to talk about irrigation which he thinks is one of the most important aspects of any successful gardening project. Eric asks Chris, WHY SHOULD WE INSTALL IRRIGATION? There are a couple of reasons, first, an irrigation system maintains a healthy landscape that can increase your property value, improve the quality of life of the system, as well as protect your investment. The homeowner spent a lot of money back here, they want to protect that, they want to make sure it's healthy. Second, is convenience. Not everybody has the time to drag out a hose and water their lawn. In fact, it's not that efficient. An irrigation system is going to put down a precise amount of water when and where it's needed. Hand watering, the way watering has been handled for decades, has always been a challenge. What one doesn't know when hand watering - did that plant get a gallon or a liter or three gallons? This landscape has different sections, plants that require more and less water, that's a lot for a homeowner to keep in mind and to get right and it is expensive.

Eric would like to talk about WHAT’S AVAILABLE in the world of modern irrigation systems, so much has changed especially in the last 5 or 10 years. The modern irrigation systems have become very intelligent, it's shocking what they can do now. We’ve moved well beyond basic timers, so they're actually reading what's going on in the environment around them and making real time decisions. It's super cool. With this system once you've set it up on smart watering and connected to wifi, which means we're connected to a local weather station and downloading that data, things like temperature, wind, humidity, that all goes into the algorithm to create a watering schedule specific to those zones. Because you're telling the system what kind of soil you have, what kind of irrigation devices you're using, what kind of plant material, so it knows exactly what it needs and these new systems are going to make adjustments on an hour by hour basis. It looks at weather forecasts, so has a rain delay, a wind delay and a freeze delay, when those factors are met, this thing is never going to run when it rains.

For our gardening friends who are DIY ENTHUSIASTS and love to get into their own projects, let's say, they're considering installing an irrigation system in their garden or in their backyard, let's walk through the basics of what is needed from the water main, to sending it out to all these zones and then tying it back into a timer. The first thing you want to do is design the system. Step two would be to flag it out, you're going to flag out where all your spray heads, all your rotors, your drip line's are going to go and then concentrate on the water source. But regarding the water source, if it's a city water main, you're going to tap into that, then going to run your main line to your bank of valves. If you're going to do a manifold, install your valve box and then from there bring out the lateral lines. The lateral line just means a line downstream of the valve that's going to go to your sprinkling device, whether it's a rotor, spray, impact, drip, whatever it is. Then you're going to connect all those and once connected then wire the controller, common and zone wires into the 1, 2, 3, 4, or how many zones you have and then get into programming the zones. Those are the basics, the cliff notes, if you would, of how you start setting up an irrigation system. This home has a bank of 24 volt solenoids, these are low voltage, electronic valves that the brain is going to tell them when to open and when to close. When it opens it sends water through that zone, activating all those spray heads and then it tells it when to turn off, on the basis of all the different weather inputs.

It's really just a matter of if you're good with pvc pipe. With soft pipe it requires getting your trenches cut in, knowing which emitters and which heads to install on the base of your design and doing some basic wiring. It's not an impractical installation for the above average diy folks and it's very rewarding. Orbit makes it easy with the series of push-fit fittings, pvc-lock and blu-lock fittings that require no glue or primer. Simply press them together for a secure connection. They will last a long time and one can take it from main line all the way to your last sprinkler head without a drop of glue. And it keeps all those blue stains off of Eric's hands. It sure does. It's almost foolproof, it's super easy, you just push it until you feel it seat and that's it. Inside the valve manifold box is the pvc manifold fittings, those just slide together and then the push-fit valves slide right in. On the other side, the pvc slides right into the valve and then you're just going to run it along that trench you dug to your sprinklers and then come out with your swing pipe to your heads, so pretty simple. Eric thanks Chris for the quick overview.

There are so many moving parts that go into making a great landscape happen, in this Episode we've taken a look at the importance of building a strong foundation for our future garden to grow for years to come. Join us next Episode as we continue to follow the progress in our back yard makeover.

LINKS:

L.D.C. Landscape Design
Home | LDC Management Groups

Concrete Stain
Concrete Stains - What's the Best Stain for Cement? - Concrete Network

Orbit Irrigation
Smart Watering, Sprinkler & Drip Systems | Orbit Irrigation – OrbitOnline

How To Build A Retaining Wall
How to Build a Retaining Wall Yourself | MutualMaterials.com

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By Susan Martin for Proven Winners
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners

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