19 June 2012

The Sedum Garden

The sedum garden should be our last priority since its borders won't be established until the patio is in, and the patio can't be installed until the rainwater collection system's underground lines are in. But over the last several months, we've found various succulents that we like (often on sale, or even free), and we've amassed about a dozen sedum and other succulents in that little strip between the screened porch and the patio, including these fun specimens:

Autumn Joy sedum:

That's one of the smaller Autumn Joys, and the only one that has been confused into blooming (which usually takes place in the fall). The one below has grown a lot more -- so much that I had already cut off a big shoot to give to a friend.)

Blue Spruce sedum:


Tricolor sedum:

Hens and Chicks (grown from a cutting a neighbor gave me):

Bunny Ears Cactus (grown from a small piece that fell off of the cactus I planted in the agave corner in front of the house -- the two "ears" have grown since I stuck it in the ground):

There were also two little cabbage-shaped succulents (sedum pachyclados), but they didn't make it. I'm not sure why (although too much sun and too little water are pretty safe bets around here).

When we had our irrigation system installed last spring, they put in a main drip line along the length of the sedum garden, with 1/4" drip lines to each of the three bulbines we had at the time, but I was worried that an individual dripper would be too much water for each succulent, so they left us some of this 1/4" line that's perforated every foot for even watering.

Over the winter, it rained consistently enough that I didn't need to water even once from November until about April, so the sedum garden was okay even though the irrigation system was only set up to water three of the plants. But now that we're watering weekly again, it was high time to swap out the drip lines.

And here's where things get a little bit technical. Hopefully this picture will help me explain:

The white pipe (PVC) coming up from the ground ties into the irrigation system's underground lines and attaches to the main line of the drip system (the thicker black tubing), then the individual drip lines (the thin black tubes) tie into that, one per plant, with the other end at the base of the plant. The round discs between the thick black tubing and the drip line are the "emitters," which regulate the amount of water that serves each plant (emitters come in .5 gallons per hour (GPH), 1 gph, and 2 gph). But in the case of the succulent garden, it seemed like a better idea to run a perforated line that would water close to the plants' roots instead of right at the roots (since succulents don't need as much water and can rot if they get too much water).

I started by removing the stakes that held the main drip line (the thicker black tubing) in place, then I pulled the main line out of the way of the sedum strip. I have plans to reuse it later, but for now I just plugged the three holes where the thinner lines had been tied in.

Then I punched a new hole in the main line where it first reaches the sedum garden. The main drip line is thick (although not rigid) plastic, which makes it difficult to puncture, but this hole punch tool makes it pretty easy:

I used one of these barbed connectors to attach the 1/4" perforated line to the main line (instead of an emitter, which would restrict the amount of water coming through; the perforated line regulates its own water flow):

Then I plugged the other end of the connector into the new hole in the main line and ran the perforated line to the far end of the sedum strip, placing it between/next to the plants as I went.

I toyed with the idea of making a loop that would connect back to the main line, so the succulents would get twice as much water, but ultimately I decided to run just one line. If more water is needed, I have enough of the perforated tubing to replace the current line with a loop. But for now I would need to plug the end of the line, which I did with one of the same plugs that I used on the three holes in the 1/2" line.

I really should add mulch to help keep the moisture in (which would also hide the drip line), but my ultimate goal is to cover this area with decomposed granite or gravel. And since "ground level" might change when we put the patio is in (probably not until next year), for now I'm just keeping an eye on things to be sure the succulents are getting enough water. So here's the finished (for now) sedum garden:

The succulents have already grown a ton since I planted them, and I have a vision of them filling the whole area, with bits of moss rock peeking out among them in interesting, natural ways. But maybe even more exciting is the prospect of cutting off snippets of the sedum and separating the bulbines to share with fellow gardeners.

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