Would You Like To Drip?

I have been trying to be able to write a comprehensive article about drip systems.  I began with a list of a half dozen mistakes that I have made.  I then thought I could add to my list of suggestions by viewing a few YouTube videos.  Well, this went on for hours.  I ended up with 2 full pages of notes.  It was then that I realized that there is too much information to put into a single article.  No one is going to read an article pages long.  So, instead, if you are truly interested in creating a drip system, you need to do your own research.  The best single YouTube program I found can be reached by googling “YouTube Drip System Watters Garden Center”.  Now there are 3 videos—view the 2015 version.  This is a program put on by the owner of a nursery in Prescott, AZ.  He will give you a lot of practical information.  If you are not yet saturated with him, simply Google “YouTube Drip Irrigation” and check out more videos.

 Now I will try to add ideas that you may have missed:

If you have distance separated plants, for instance potted plants, then using drip emitters is wise.  If you have plants densely planted or areas of ground cover, then using mini sprayers would be better.  You cannot use drippers and sprayers on the same system.  If you choose sprayers, you need to see me before buying items.  I will get you started right.

Whatever system you use, try to buy parts made by the same company so they are compatible.  Rain Bird seems to be the most common drip system brand.  I just checked out at Home Depot, and that seemed to be just about all they carried—which was a lot!  I particularly suggest buying the Rain Bird ½” couplers because they will handle all the various brands of “half inch” delivering tubing that will vary a lot in size.  But order your ¼ inch delivery tubing from Amazon: “MIXC ¼ inch Blank Distribution Tubing Drip Irrigation Hose”. This is superior product.   Attach the ¼ tubing to the barbed coupling first before insertion and grab the coupling with pliers to give you more leverage when forcing the coupling into the ½ inch delivery tube.

I’m going to assume that you are going to hook to a hose bib.  If that bib is attached to your house, make sure it’s not delivering softened water—not a good thing.  If you are buying connectors that are threaded, remember that pipe thread and hose thread are different.

If you have plantings that are lined up like in a vegetable garden, your best bet would be the tubing that contains inline pressure compensating emitters.  Limit ¼ inch line runs to 25 feet. ½ inch lines can go hundreds of feet.  I recommend these inline emitters over rubber soaker hose or T-tape.  Run your inline system first before planting so you can see where the moist soil will be.

You barely need to cover delivery tubing if you choose to.  Sun exposed tubing will last for 10 to 15 years.  Then too, covered tubing won’t be tripped over.  Leave the ends of lines exposed or at least located so they can be found and opened for flushing once a year.  Also, flush out a line before using it the first time.

You can make staples to hold down tubing out of wire coat hangers.  I can do this for you.

You will have to have different systems for trees and shrubs vs. flowering plants.  One system is for infrequent deep watering and the other is for more frequent short watering.

Set your timer to water very early in the morning, but occasionally run the system briefly while you are out there to detect problems.

Plan on expanding your system as you do more planting and as plants get bigger and need more emitters surrounding them.

Don’t forget to buy a backflow preventer, timer, filter, pressure regulator and a Y splitter with valves so you can still attach a hose at the hose bib.

Good luck!  Stan (You may simply call me Dr. Drip.)

Building Raised Planter Beds

With all the pandemic caused emphasis on home improvement, this would have been a good article to write a year ago.  Better late than never.  As usual, wanting to advise others comes as a result of mistakes I have made, some of which are described below.

Size:  Length can be whatever you want.  Width, however, should be no more than 4 feet.  I have 3 beds that are 5 feet by 8 feet and it is difficult to do any work near the center of the beds.  The one 4 footer is so much easier.  The walls of my beds are made with three 2 x 6’s, so they are about 18 inches high.  Now that I think of it, 24 inches would have been much better in terms of having to bend over less.  But then, I think proportions look better at 18”—you gotta look good even if it’s painful.  The higher you raise the box, the stronger the support needed to keep boards from bowing out if they are long.  People use raised beds to make tending them easier and to create an enclosure for the new improved soil that can be brought in that, hopefully, plants will love.  Most people find that a bed 10 or 12 inches high works well for them—not so much for growing tomatoes which are best planted 18 inches down.

Materials:  Most people use wood.  Redwood is probably the best.  When you are picking out your 2-by boards, try to find those that have the most heartwood.  The reddish heartwood is far more resistant to rot than the pale sapwood.  Cedar is another good choice.  Pressure treated wood is more controversial.  No arsenic has been used in this wood since 2003-4.  Currently 2 different copper compounds are used and although no traces of these chemicals have been found in either soil or vegetables, pressure treated wood is not recommended for planter boxes in which food is grown.  You can alleviate you fears by lining the box with heavy plastic—say 6 mil.  You can also seal the box with paint or another kind of sealer.  One caution—avoid breathing the dust when cutting pressurized wood.  Wear a mask.  I know you know how to do that.  More expensive, but far more durable is construction with masonry.  There are all kinds of attractive alternatives here.  The drawback is that you have to lean over farther to work with your plants and the material is not gentle on elbows and knees

Misc.  Plan ahead and bring irrigation lines up into the box.  Cover the bottom with hardware cloth—you know, the substantial ¼” wire mesh, to keep varmints out.  A layer of weed cloth will also discourage the invasion of roots from a nearby tree.  Trust me—tree roots will love the great soil and water you have provided.  If you are using wood, consider installing flat boards on the top edges for ease of sitting.  Don’t just use screws to hold lumber together.  Use lag screws, or better yet, use bolts with washers.  If using lag screws, predrill to prevent splitting.  You can attach a band of copper mesh around the outside to keep snails and slugs out—but not earwigs.  Finally, as you can see below, if you use treated posts, you have to add preservative, sealer, or a cap to cuts that have exposed untreated interior areas.

In-box irrigation
In-box irrigation

Rotting post
Rotting post

Copper mesh prevents slugs
Copper mesh

Post cap
                        Post cap

Why does most of my learning have to come at the expense of mistakes I have made?

Stan, The Blog Man

Hosers Only

I was recently notified about writing a blog concerning a very serious matter.  You see, this person (who will remain nameless) accidentally left a hose running all night resulting in the flooding of her back yard.   She  was rather upset about this and felt that she, as well as others, need some suggestions to prevent this happening again.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Electronic and mechanical timers that attach to hose bibs. The mechanical ones may not work if the volume is low.
  2. Electronic timers. These small battery operated timers are otherwise used as kitchen timers.
  3. Alexa is always willing to set an alarm for you.
  4. Exercise tracking watches sometimes have an alarm feature.
  5. Battery operated flood detectors will issue an alarm if water reaches the sensor.
  6. Rubber wrist bands that you store on the hose bib can be worn as a reminder.
  7. The most easily used device is your phone which I know is tethered to your body.

Hopefully you will find one or more of these suggestions useful so you won’t make the same mistake that Beverly (oops) made.  Coincidentally I am using a wrist band right now.

Stan, The Blog Man

Garden Shields

I recently had a newly cultivated area that I wanted to let dry out until planting.  I used 2 political signs to ward off the spray from 2 sprinklers and they really worked well.  By cutting off all but 6 inches from the supporting wire of the sign, you can poke it into the ground and move the shield wherever you want.  The sign is made of corrugated plastic so it is impervious to water.  On the other hand, you might want to shield certain plants from harsh sun rays.  When not in use, these flat shields store efficiently.

As you know these signs are readily available when political issue are made public.  You can either wait until issues are settled, or simply pick up the signs when they don’t agree with your viewpoint. ( My editor says I can’t say that.)

Stan, The Blog Man

Repurposed political signs
Repurposed political signs as garden shields

Calling All Hosers

OK hosers!  This may be the hose you’ve been dreaming about.  The Flexilla is a 5/8 inch, heavy duty, lightweight hose that is kink proof under pressure.  I’m sure if you gabbed it firmly and gave it a good twist and pull, you could probably prove me wrong.  You wouldn’t do that would you?  Two of my closest gardening friends have this hose and swear by it.  I ordered a 25 foot length and can join their chorus.  Light weight and doesn’t kink—it’s a miracle.  Perhaps its most valuable feature is that being really flexible, it lays flat which means you are less likely to trip over it.  Its bright green color also helps too.  It’s lead free drinking water safe to boot.

You can buy this hose in different lengths on Amazon, or find it in various local stores.  If you look on Amazon you will see that it has had over 30,000 reviews!  It’s a good time to be a hoser!

Happy hosing,

Stan, The Tool Man     

A New Hose

I’ve taken a chance here.  While walking the isle at Costco, I spotted a pallet of boxes of garden hoses—RAPIDFLO 100 ft length, 5/8 inch diameter, lightweight, tough, kink-resistant.  You see, LaVille has been wrestling with a rubber hose that has become stiffer with age.  (What’s new?)  She has had to drag it through the main iris garden and then wind it back up on the hose reel when done.  So I uncoiled the old, stiff hose off the reel.  Actually it now remains permanently coiled along the side yard. I then attached this new hose to the spool and turned on the pressure.  I could see that LaVille at the far side of the yard was now watering with less than expected flow.  Not only did the 100 foot length impede the flow, but the 5/8 inch hose itself was perhaps still somewhat flattened.  Maybe continued use will expand it—probably not.  Perhaps the company should change it’s name to SLOFLO.  But LaVille says that the gentle spray was actually desirable.  Anyway, when LaVille was finished watering, I had her close the spray wand valve to keep the hose turgid, and wound the hose up on the reel.  You don’t want a flattened hose on the reel.  That would really limit flow.  The winding task was truly easy to do because the hose is really lightweight.

So, do I recommend this hose?  The jury is still out at our house.  I would say that if you are tired woman handling (Is that sexist?) an old, heavy hose around, this may be the hose for you.  You can easily coil the hose in a large pot if you don’t have a reel.  I am going to assume that this hose design is less likely to leak as the expandable hoses tend to do.  Keep in mind that this is 100 feet of hose.  It seemed a little long for my yard that is only 80 feet wide.  As of 3/20/21, this hose if available at Costco for $39.99.  If you miss it there, Amazon has it for $55 (Yikes!).

Happly hosing,

Stan, The Tool Man     

RapidFlo Hose
RapidFlo Hose

Do You Drip?

I think each of us battles with hoses and faucets that drip. When a faucet drips, it’s generally a leak that occurs at the base of the handle stem. You will probably notice that the handle is really easy to turn. What is supposed to seal the handle stem within the faucet is what is called a pressure washer. Over time these tend to shrink so that they no longer seal well against the stem. What you need to do is get an adjustable wrench and tighten the large nut at the base of the handle stem. This nut is probably “frozen” so you may have to use considerable force to tighten it. Hold the faucet firmly with your other hand to prevent damage elsewhere. Tighten the nut until the faucet handle is still easy to turn.

Many hose leaks occur where the hose attaches to the faucet. If you replace the rubber or plastic washer in the female fitting, your leak will generally be solved. Grab the old washer with pliers—a needle nose works best–and pull it out. Insert a new washer. If the hose end still leaks, try tightening it further. A channel lock wrench works well for this. If the leak continues, you may have to replace the female hose end. Washers and replacement hose ends are common in nurseries and hardware stores. Make sure though that you buy the proper size end replacement for your hose size—3/4”, 5/8”, or ½”. You may also choose to buy a new hose particularly if the old one is constantly kinking. Here I would advise you that you get what you pay for. Make sure that you are getting the right length to fit your needs—too much hose can be a pain also.

Now that I think of it, hose leaks frequently occur at the other end where you attach a sprayer of some kind. Here, again, the problem is generally the washer. If replacing the washer doesn’t help, check the end of the male hose fitting. If the surface that meets the washer is not smooth, you will need to flatten the end surface with a file. If the male hose end cannot be repaired, replace it noting the advice a gave you above. Of course, if the leak is within the sprayer attachment, it is time for it to go.

Stan, The Blog Man

P.S. LaVille, my editor, mentioned that the biggest problem with leaks is that your shoes get wet and can sometimes be ruined. So this is a very serious matter!

Dippity Do Da

Every now and then I get a good idea.  I think the last time was June 14, 2005.  This new idea cannot be claimed as my own, but then at least the plan to pass it on to you is my own.

I was watching an episode of Gardeners’ World on Amazon Prime when they had a segment about a lady who had a garden with 1,259 pots—and I don’t mean dinky ones.  These were all different and some were quite large.  Sounds crazy, huh?  Apparently she inherited this pot fetish from her mother who had 700 pots.  Now, this is not the significant part.  What is—is that she watered all of these by hand using a watering can that she dipped into 21 different dipping containers that were spread throughout the garden.  These 21 reservoirs are kept filled by a drip system.  Now maybe you don’t mind dragging a hose around the garden, particularly if you have own of those expandable hoses that is light weight.  But consider this:  What if you had a large garbage can that was in a convenient place in the garden that you could fill once in a while and add a light dose of fertilizer.  Now besides not having a hose to mess which each time you water, you are regularly giving your plants extra nutrients.  Good idea?

We have been using this system for a month now.  I use a pump and long hose to fill two 55 gallon barrels—one on each side of the yard.  The water comes from our koi pond so it already has fertilizer added.  The plants absolutely love it.  LaVille uses a watering can that has a handle that runs fore and aft, so she can water with one hand with the other one free to test the soil moisture of each pot.  She only has one good arm left anyway.

She frequently loses track of the watering can, so I tried buying another.  I finally found the right style on Amazon Prime.  (Dramm  7 Liter Watering Can 12433, $38.22)  There are many models that are far less expensive, but they all have bales that are mounted crosswise.

Dramm 7 Liter Watering Can
Watering Can

So even if you don’t have a pot fetish, you may want to try out this new idea.  LaVille would never admit to a fetish, but with the added SPPC plants, she does have over 250 outside containers and 50 inside.

Stan, The Tool Man


            What can you say about hoses?  That’s what I asked myself when it was suggested I do an article about hoses.  I’ve been pondering this question for several months now.  I have some thoughts that are possibly worth sharing . . . or not.

            The most basic rule as with practically all things you buy:  “You get what you pay for.”  If you buy a cheap hose, you will likely have problems with kinking, the fittings will eventually leak, and the hose material will not bear up against the ravaging of the sun’s rays.  Other than this obvious cost consideration, there are other decisions to make.

            Most garden hoses have a 5/8 inch inside diameter.  ½ inch hoses are lighter, have reduced volume flow, and are generally of low quality.  How much length do you need?  Most hoses are 50 feet long.  I’ve noticed a long monster for sale at Costco.


Pocket hose
Pocket hose

    You must have noticed the “Pocket Hose” or the other numerous expandable hose brands that seems to be the latest hot item on the hose market.  You can find it for sale in a container about the size of a lunch box.  You have to use one of these to appreciate them.  It weighs almost nothing, so if aging muscles have difficulty dragging a heavy hose around, this may be the hose for you.  You don’t have to worry about knocking things down as you drag the hose because it doesn’t ever lie in stiff loops on the ground.  When you release the pressure, the hose shrivels up to almost nothing and can be stored in a large flower pot.  However, these hoses are notorious for developing leaks in a very short time.  They have come out with supposedly improved models.  I have to admit that I bought one of these Pocket Hoses at Target because it was on clearance for $14—I can’t resist a sale.  The regular price is over $30.  You see, I had found a Pocket Hose at a garage sale months ago, and LaVille really loves it.  It developed a leak next to a fitting, but I was able to fix it.  I think it will be only a matter of time before her hose is a goner, but now I have a back-up.  I figured that $14 for a hose that my wife loves for one year is worth it.  If you choose to also gamble, don’t leave the pressure on after use.  Also, stepping on it can result is premature death . . of the hose, that is.

            Then there is the stainless steel hose that has recently appeared.  If you believe all the hype, this is the hose of the future .  . or not.  Since I knew nothing about these hoses, I looked at the comments for the different models you can buy on Amazon.  I hope you have used consumer comments to help you select products when you buy online.  These comments are often very revealing and often amusing.  Among the comments about these hoses were many complaints about the low volume flow and frequent leaks—but these varied a great deal from brand to brand.  It once again revealed the fact that you get what you pay for.

Steel Hose
Steel Hose

            How about coiled hoses?  I hate coiled hoses.  If they don’t result in premature death from tripping on them, they will cause a heart attack for all the stress they create when they get tangled or hung up on something.  Volume flow is low.  These stupid hoses do not last very long either.  That being said, we have one of these . . I don’t know why . . except they do recoil into a relatively small space.  Actually, my proof reader says she likes this hose and uses it more than any other hose.  And here I was ready to pull out that Pocket Hose that I was saving for a leaky day.

Hope you’re a happy hoser,

Stan, The Tool Man

Garden Timer

Garden Timer
Garden Timer

I know you have run a sprinkler or hose in the garden and expected to remember to turn it off in a certain time.  If you remembered 90% of the time, that would be remarkable.  It’s the 10% when you forget and waste all that precious water when you have fought so hard to save every drop.  The tool that will remove this frustration is the garden timer.  So, you’ve never heard of a garden timer?  A garden timer is a device otherwise known as a kitchen timer, but when you are in the garden, it’s a garden timer.  I used to carry one of those timers that you twist to set a certain number of minutes.  It took a large sweatshirt pocket to house this device.  Then I saw the very small digital timer sold in the kitchen gadget section of Target.  For about $7, you too can own your own tiny timing device.  Perhaps you would be more comfortable calling his tool a “personal timer” because there are some many instances in your daily routines that require reminders.

            Now I know most of you have a smart phone, and it is easy to tell it to set an alarm, but I think it is easier to use this tool to make you a more responsible person in your garden and in your personal life.

            Trying to reduce your regretful moments,

            Stan, The Tool Man




            Body count tonight:  57.  I remembered just before going to bed that the snails would be out in force since it rained a little today. I grabbed a flashlight and my snail masher from behind the front door.  It consists of an old cut off flagstaff with a 2 x 2 block attached at the end.  The grandkids use it when they visit and earn 5 cents per snail killed.

            I don’t understand why snails come out from their leafy protection and crawl around exposed on pavement and pavers.  I actual feel guilty murdering helpless snail after snail.  You really can’t call the exercise “snail hunting” because that would indicate that some sort of sport would be involved.  Perhaps, if you were a snail hunter, you shouldn’t be able to kill a snail unless it is in flight.  LaVille said that she’s seen snails take flight.  She and her siblings would visit an aunt in Salinas and collect snails and then return home to Calexico where they would place them on hot pavement to see how high they could fly.  Perhaps snail hunting should be restricted from ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise.  Snail hunting season would be limited to the winter months.  You wouldn’t want to kill snails during their breeding season.  Of course no artificial light source could be used.  To make the sport more fair to the snail, size of the snail masher could limited to a ¼ inch diameter rod.  Naturally no snail with a shell diameter less than 1 inch could be harmed.  Chemical products of any sort would be outlawed.

            I’m considering starting a club called “Snails Unlimited”.  Would you like to join me in protecting the lives of these helpless mollusks.  Let’s ensure that the sport of snail hunting is available to be enjoyed by future generations.

Stan, The Snail Killer

P.S. LaVille suggested an addendum was needed here:

When we had rounded up a significant collection of these hermaphroditic herbivores, LaVille would take them into her classroom and distribute them in small paper bags as pets to her students for responsibility training (for the kids).  Then periodically she would hold races on the overhead projector by placing these snails in the center to see which sprinter could reach the periphery first.

I have to caution you however:  Do not store your collection of snails in a paper bag.  They will eat their way out and you will find estivating snails all over the house for weeks.  Trust me

Rain Barrels

Now here’s a system that you may wish to consider.  I’ve used rain barrels for almost 40 years—not because I was trying to conserve water—but because Davis city water was so terrible.  It was so bad that the City was forced to obtain Sacramento River water.  You might have heard that Davis, UCD, and Woodland allocated millions of dollars on a river water project.  Our well water was so bad that even if not affected by users, the “clean” water could not be returned to the River.  It didn’t meet new environmental standards.

            Gardeners depended on the winter rains to push those toxic minerals down through the soil.  But if you had a planting area beneath eaves, or you had indoor plants, you had a problem.  So we used rain rain water from barrels for a long time to flush this soil.

            Lately though, I’ve been using rain barrels to divert water run-off from the roof from areas I don’t want water to areas that I do want extra water—specifically to the drip line of a huge hackberry tree, pine tree, and several citrus trees.  If a water diversion plan appeals to you, here is what you might consider doing:

  1. Remove a down spout. Cut off 18” from the top of the removed section.  Slip that short section back into place. 
  2. Purchase a thin 8 foot plastic down spout extender. I bought mine at Ace Hardware.  They are available at Amazon Prime for about $7.  
  3. Attach the end of the flexible tube not containing holes to the 18” section.
  4. Cut another 18” off of the original removed downspout. Attach this piece to the end of the flexible tube that is hanging down.  The piece of downspout that you just attached will simply serve as a weight to keep the plastic tube in whatever barrel or container you place it.  You may wish to cut off a section of the plastic tube.  My downspout extender does not reach the ground.  Don’t worry about the little holes punched in the side of the plastic tube—water loss will be minimal.
  5. Now you have a down spout extender that can be moved from barrel to barrel or to a wheelbarrow—whatever

Now if you want to get fancy:

  1. Drill a hole in the bottom of the side of your barrel or garbage can and buy a PVC fitting that create an attachment for a hose. Now you can lead the rain water where ever you want.  By adding a section of tubing like old soaker hose with holes drilled in it, you can disperse the water along a planting bed protected by an eave, or where trees need to be deep watered.
  2. Not fancy, but plug the other down spouts that are on that same gutter (a rolled up sock works well). Make sure that your gutter can bear the weight of being full.
  3. Have some kind of cover for your containers. We use an extra large size leaf bag.

Realize that your water containers are going to remain in place for a long time.  Elevation is also a consideration.  Gravity feed will not lead water to higher levels of your landscape, but a sump pump would.

Well, that’s the system I’ve used.  You might consider creating your own system not soley just to conserve water, but to transfer rain water from where you don’t want it to where you do want it.

 If you are still interested, google “rain barrels” and you will find a tremendous variety of productrs that are available.

Stan, The Tool (or Device) Man

Moisture Meter

Kill any plants lately?  If so, it was probably because of too little or too much water. The tool you need is the moisture meter.  Now, one of the guest speakers (the “Giggling Gardener”, I believe) on the Farmer Fred radio show said that each of us has a moisture meter on each hand.  But, honestly, I don’t like jamming my finger down into the soil.  I hate dirt under my fingernails.  Then too, sometimes even a long finger can’t get through the plant to reach the soil.

Many moisture meters come with 2 probes.  I personally find the additional metering of pH and light useless.  A second probe also makes it twice as hard to penetrate the soil.  Moisture meters are available at garden centers and nurseries for about $10.  If you can only find 2 probe models, I suggest you snip off the second probe.  Are you really ever going to adjust the pH of your soil?  Dip each probe separately into water to see which one detects moisture.  Don’t leave the meter in soil between uses.  Corrosion will reduce effectiveness.  If corrosion appears, use steel wool or fine sandpaper to clean the probe.

 I believe most of you have potted plants, and it is those plants that are susceptible to over or under watering.  Whether it is potted irises, violets, cyclamen, ferns, or Chinese evergreens, soil moisture needs to be monitored.  By the way, you do realize the proper way to water a potted plant is to apply water until it runs out the bottom.  That will reduce the buildup of minerals in the soil.  Another tip is to beware of drip basins.  Water left in a drip basin will cause soil to remain saturated resulting in root rot because of a lack of oxygen.

 Keeping potting soil moist can also result in the culture of soil or fungus gnats.  These are tiny (like 1/8 in) flies that arise from the soil of indoor potted plants when watered or otherwise disturbed.  The flying adults are harmless, but it is the larval stage that can do damage by eating the roots hairs of your plants.  Here you can use your moisture meter to monitor soil moisture.  Allow the top layer of the potting mix to dry out between watering.  This will simply break the life cycle of this pest without the application of various chemical products that are available.  Watering from the bottom up is another technique to keep the soil surface dry.

Moisture meters are common in nurseries and can be purchased on Amazon for less than $10.  I encourage you to leave the moisture meter somewhere in the house where you will come across it frequently to remind you to check your potted plants.  Believe me, you will kill fewer plants by using this simple device.

Keeping my fingers clean,

Stan, The Tool Man