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Agriscaping Week 21 - How to Tell You Need to Re-Grade Your Backyard Project

Updated: Sep 8, 2021

Well, truth be told, I'm a little behind in catching up on the blog! It may be summer here in Phoenix right now, but I still need to fill in the weeks between December and today (oops). So that is my goal over the next few weeks - get the rest published as quickly as possible to catch up to the current state of the garden. Part of the difficulty is (up until summer hit) we'd been spending every last second of our spare time outside trying to get everything finished to keep the trees planted and alive, before it was too hot to move outside.

So we'll start with the big rainstorm we had in December. It was beautiful - the first time it had really rained since we started this backyard transformation project! So that meant it was also the first time we got to see how the grading actually turned out. Thankfully the water mostly ran away from the house, and only pooled in a few odd areas, especially around a couple of our citrus trees. So it was fairly easy at that point to figure out what needed to be fixed in the re-grading process. After that, my husband ended up deciding he wanted wood chips as a covering for the ENTIRE backyard anyway, so he found himself taking another couple of inches of dirt off the whole thing by hand (a huge project in itself). But at least this rainstorm showed us that the house wouldn't flood as a result of our tinkering with the backyard (there is always the slight chance, you know?).

We had spent the entire previous day cleaning the porch and organizing the staging area - an exhausting task, and I can't tell you how many full days of work have been spent on doing and redoing that very thing...if we could just forget the cleaning and spend all that time working, this project would go much faster! But the reality is that it gets so messy as to be unlivable, and since we're having to live in it throughout the project, it's better for everyone if we take a day to clean every couple of weeks. But this first organization was a huge step in the right direction for our general mental health regarding the messiness of this project.

We also had taken care of a couple of other laborious issues in that same week. The first was that the tango mandarin orange tree had been planted too high - the root ball was showing, so it needed to be re-dug and lowered. In the process, Matt wanted to move it over by about a foot, so that was a heavy digging afternoon project. But we managed to do it without killing the tree (and believe it or not, it was NOT the last tree he decided to shuffle, despite my requests that he stop planting and then moving trees!).

Then we also thought the irrigation would be done relatively quickly after the community day (since it was technically supposed to be done in time FOR community day!). But it was not, and it continued on and on as a super difficult, painful task. It was very hard to get Matt to work on it because it was a high-difficulty, low forward-movement kind of project. Lots of super stinky gluing made it a physically odious task, and the wrestling we did with the wiring to get it run through the conduit that had already been laid was an extremely frustrating, time-consuming two-person job. It probably took almost two months to get finished running six wires in that pipe, simply because they would get caught up on each other (run your wires through the conduit right away, before you cover the pipes if you can!!), and mud filled the conduit pipe with the rain and chickens, which made it even MORE difficult as time went on to run the remaining wires, as room in the pipe quickly dwindled! Of course the wire-running snake also broke early on, so it wouldn't actually wind up again (it's probably worth the extra money to get an electronic one, honestly), and we just had to pull it by hand, which didn't help matters at all. You can see below how tough that was, and it was even more difficult to tell if we just needed to pull harder, or if it was really caught on another wire and wouldn't move no matter how hard we pulled!

All told, the irrigation was one piece of this project it may have been worthwhile to pay for someone else to do. However, we did that in the front yard last year, before starting Agriscaping, and got burned by the guys who did it doing a really shabby job. Matt had to dig it all out and redo it anyway, after we had paid them to do it the first time (moral: don't hire someone off Craigslist to do irrigation). So there's honestly no "cheap" way around irrigation. Either you pay someone WAY too much to do it right, or you have to dig in (haha, pun not intended) and do it right yourself. Don't get me wrong, I'm very thankful Matt was able to do the second option. To be honest, with the year-long scope and cost of this project on a single-income family, there's NO way we could have afforded a professional job. It's also good that he designed and ran it, because he's planned ahead and run lines for rainwater and graywater usage in the future (that's why there are so many valves in the picture), but looking back, I think irrigation was probably the most laborious and not-fun part of this backyard remodel!

Keywords: What's the hardest part of remodeling your backyard, graywater irrigation system, rainwater irrigation system, moving a citrus tree, replanting a citrus tree, Agriscaping Fab 5 Program

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