Tools Of The Landscaping Art

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More Water – Irrigation Control Valves December 17, 2009

Filed under: Water Tools — stevesned @ 4:39 pm

Electronic Irrigation Control Valves have worked a remarkable revolution in both the spread of household irrigation and the conservation of water resources. It must seem somehow odd to see someone claim that, by spreading irrigation technology, someone is actually conserving water. I understand the juxtaposition of apparently contrasting  realities. One has to understand the alternatives to understand the approach.

The spread of landscaping itself determines much of this, which is a development made apparent by the wealth being shared by a wider public over the past 50 years. With all these gardens, people who once went out and spread hoses around and then forgot about them, watching the water roll down the curb and into sewers never really concerned themselves with conservation. It has taken a combination of population explosion and water depletion of an alarming quantity to shake us back into the reality that water itself is not always an infinite resource.

What has occurred as a result is quite a change. Terms like “Xeriscaping”, “drip irrigation” and alternate designing methodology are changing the landscape in reaction to these shortages. Literally, lol. More native planting allows plantings accustomed to an area to flourish with little additional waterings. Research into these natives is a now-huge field, replete with implications for designers. As well, alternative garden features, not subject to watering, are also makiing interesting and very unique strides as garden/landscaping features. Patios are becoming far more common, Gazebo’s and garden structures, garden art has taken off – in short, we are finding there is more to gardeing than simply laying a water-thirsty grass lawn and mowing the sucker.

And having said that, we come full-circle, back to how we can somehow manage the distribution of water resources more efficiently. This is where the originator of all irrigation applications comes into play – the Electronic Irrigation Control Valve.

These valves are deceptively simple.  The irrigation solenoid valve is a single chamber divided by a plastic or rubberized diaphragm. A thin spring pushes against the back of the diaphragm, blocking off the water inlet from the water outlet.  The valve is activated by means of a small electric current which is sent into the solenoid spring. The solenoid spring becomes, for all intents and purposes, a tiny magnet. It coils tighter as a result of its own magnetic properties and pulls the piston backward. This seals off the hole allowing air into the chamber. Because the source of air pressure has been removed, nothing is pushing against the outlet side of the diaphragm anymore.  Without this back pressure, the diaphragm is pushed out of the way by the force of incoming water, allowing water to pass freely through the irrigation solenoid valve. When the current causing the solenoid spring to coil ceases, air pressure is allowed back into the valve and seals the diaphragm shut.

The electric current needed to activate this solenoid is pretty tiny. This is a good thing, because it not only uses smaller wire sizes which are easy to deal with, but it  is also very cheap. Connecting to a wall-mounted controller clock allows someone to pre-plan the timing and the duration of the release of irrigating water. Modern innovations which now include weather and moisture sensors take things a high-tech step further. The ability to remotely interact via modem and the Internet allows even more informnation and control.

The development of electronic control valves was a Titanic step in assuring us of proper water usage. In combination with the other forces for change and adaptation, we may very well see beauty and pleasure in our home landscapes to be a constant accompaniment.


The Water Pump December 13, 2009

Filed under: Water Tools — stevesned @ 8:16 pm

It’s fairly stunning what one of these machines can do. The ones pictured above operate in different ways – the blue one  sits in a dry place, all snug and warm and  “pulls’ the water from somewhere, conducting it on through itself to another destination. The other onet sits in water and pumps the water straight out into a pipe for wherever it is destined. The one on the right is called a “submersible pump” and its role in landscaping has just exploded.

In landscaping, the “indoor” pump requires a dry setting- the same as any swimming pool pumps sits. It being electrical and not waterproofed per se, obviously it operates out of a room or constantly dry cavity,  constructed solely for the purpose. The submersibles sit on the bottom of a water pool and function in what results in the same product – running water outward and almost always upward.

Here is a splendid look at two pumps in one water feature, both submersible and both performing separate functions:

(left click any image to enlarge)

What we see in this lower level of a water feature is a blue pump, dedicated to feeding a large pipe, routing the water far to the top and giving the waterfall its overall rate of flow. The smaller pump, as is evidenced by the rock through which a smaller, clear tube is inserted, is what landscapers call a “bubble rock”. These smaller features are for any number of purposes, from enriching the overall look of a water feature such as this one, to providing bubble rocks at anywhere in a landscape to create the sound and motion of water as well as to provide a diverting highlight, featuring the colors and structure of a pretty stone.

In the finished look below, we see the results of the two pumps, doing what they are designed for:

Often, we see smaller submersibles used in other bubble rock features as well.

Nor do “bubble rocks” simply need tiny pumps. Some are downright humongous:

Large waterfalls can be run by those water pumps driven by larger machines – even diesel engines, such as this one at Microsoft Campus in Seattle:

Whatever the effect desired, one can bet there is a pump designed for just that use. Any more, designs are based around the gallons needed, then the proper pump is ascertained. There is literally no limit on what is possible. The effects of this marvelous bit of machine insight has massive effects on landscaping and is very much the cause of the burgeoning installation of waterfalls and small water features now enhancing yards at homes all over the world.