Garden Watering Systems You Can Make Yourself


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Garden Watering Systems You Can Make Yourself

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Published: March 13, 2013

Easy DIY watering systems for gardens are lifesavers when hot weather moves in and thirsty plants moan, “Feed me!” once or twice a day.

  • Drip hoses that save water by delivering moisture directly to roots.
  • Self-watering planter that hydrates plants by wicking moisture from a water well.
  • Ollas, buried clay pots that deliver water to roots on demand.

DIY Drip Hose

A drip hose soaks soil — drop by drop — without wasting water to evaporation or promoting disease by soaking foliate. A 50-ft. drip hose costs $14 at big box stores. Or you can make one yourself from any old hose you might otherwise toss into the trash. Here’s how.

  • Rescue an old hose. Clean it and lay it on a flat surface, such as a wood plank.
  • On one side of the hose, punch tiny holes 1 to 2 inches apart, leaving 6 inches with no holes on both ends of the hose. To make holes, use an upholstery needle or a tiny, 1/64-inch drill bit.
  • Attach a hose cap ($1.80 for ¾-in. brass) to one end of the hose. Attach the other end to another hose that’s long enough to reach from a spigot to your garden.
  • Turn on water so that drops fall from each hole along the hose. You want a drip — not a spray — so lower the pressure if too much water comes out.
  • Wind the hose along the base of plants, then cover with 2 inches of mulch.

Self-Watering Earth Box Planter

An earth box is a self-watering planter that relies on the wicking ability of soil to continuously draw water from a built-in well. You fill the well through a tube — far less often than if you watered by hand.

An earth box can be any size or material, so long as it has a water reservoir and soil. Here’s a good one:

1. Select a Rubbermaid Roughneck Tote (24-by-16-by-12 inches; $6). Using a super-sharp knife, cut out the flat part of the lid, separating it from the lip.

2. Make “weeping cups” by punching 1/2-in. holes in two 16 oz. plastic cups until they look like Swiss cheese.

3. Take a 5-ft. long piece of ½-inch-diameter ABS pipe ($6), mark it off every 2.5 inches, and cut into 16 pieces. Use the remainder (about 20 inches) for your watering tube.

4. In the lid corners, cut out holes to fit two weeping cups and the watering tube.

5. Using a ½-in. drill bit, punch holes in the lid spaced about 1 inch apart (that’s lots of holes!)

6. Arrange the small PVC pieces in the bottom of the bin — they should be on-end and evenly spaced. Place the lid on top of the pieces. Place weeping cups and watering tube into their holes.

7. Pack the weeping cups snugly with potting soil, then fill the box with soil.

8. Drill a ½-in. drainage hole in the side of the box 2 ½ in. from the bottom.

9. Fill the bin with water through the watering tube. When it’s full, water will come out the drainage hole.

10. Plant.

Check out this video, which shows you how to make an earth box from two Rubbermaid tubs.

Make Your Own Ollas

Ollas (OY-yas) are earthen jars with thin necks and wide bellies that you fill with water and bury in your garden. Water seeps through the ollas’ unglazed walls to feed plant roots without wasting any water to evaporation or runoff. Eventually, plant roots grow around the ollas, drawing water when needed, creating a super-efficient self-watering system.

Make yours from extra clay garden pots and silicone caulk.

  • Select two 8- or 10-in. clay pots with smooth rims that closely match each other.
  • Caulk a bottle cap or piece of tile over the bottom hole of one pot to prevent water from pouring out.
  • Cover the rim of one pot with a thick ribbon of silicone caulk. Place the other pot over the caulk and press lightly.
  • Let caulk dry for 24 hours, then fill the pot with water to check for leaks.
  • When you’re satisfied that your olla is leak-proof, bury it in your garden next to plants. Water in an 8-in. diameter; olla spreads 18 inches.
  • Fill olla with water, and cover the hole with a rock or glazed saucer. Check water levels with a stick and refill as necessary.

Need a little garden inspiration? Check out these eye-pleasing cottage gardens and learn how to plant flowers and veggies together.

5 Awesomely Easy Landscaping Projects


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5 awesome landscaping5 Awesomely Easy Landscaping Projects

By: Dave Toht

Published: February 26, 2013

Ramp up your curb appeal with cool landscaping projects you can easily pull off in a weekend.

Use a charged garden hose to lay out a smooth curve.

Tip: A “charged” garden hose full of water makes for a smoother, kink-free curve; charge up by turning on the spigot but leaving the sprayer off.

With the hose as your guide, use a lawn edger or spade to cut away excess sod and make an incision for the edging. Tap in the edging with a rubber mallet and add the stakes. Trim the edging with a hacksaw, using a speed square to mark for cuts.

Specs and cost: Steel — $1.25 per lineal foot; aluminum — $2.25 plf; rigid plastic or fiberglass — $1.65 plf.

Tools: Garden hose, flour or powdered chalk, lawn edger or spade, shovel, speed square, hacksaw, rubber mallet, hammer.

Time: 1 day to edge a typical yard.

Read on for more easy landscaping projects:

Add an Earth Berm
Build a Wall for a Raised Bed
Install a Flagstone Path
Add a Brick Tree Surround

Project #2: Add an Earth Berm

The setup: Create an eye-catching front yard feature by shaping a few cubic yards of topsoil into an undulating berm. Topped off with mulch, groundcover, and bushes, a berm adds interest and buffers street noise.

Use a charged hose to outline the berm. Remove sod a couple of feet in from the perimeter. Add a few mounds, but max out at 3 feet high.

Specs and cost: Three cubic yards of soil is enough for a good-sized berm. Expect to pay $15-$20 per cubic yard and $15–$60 for delivery — a total of $60-$120.

Tip: Don’t be tempted by those bags of topsoil at the home center: At $2.50 per cubic foot, a cubic yard (27 cubic feet) will end up costing you $67.50.

Have a cubic yard of mulch dropped off as well ($15–$20). A dozen periwinkle starts, plus a few boxwood bushes and evergreens, will set you back another $140.

Total for an 18-foot-long berm: $215–$280.

Tools: Wheelbarrow, spade, shovel, garden rake, trowel.

Time: A day to form the berm, another half-day for planting and mulching.

Project #3: Build a Wall for a Raised Bed

The setup: A stacked flagstone wall for your raised beds has an old-world look that mellows any landscape. Best of all, you don’t have to be stonemason to build one.

Begin by laying out the wall with stakes and mason’s line. Tamp a level bed of sand for the first course. As you add courses, stagger joints at least 3 inches. Set each course back ¼-inch so the wall leans backward slightly. Once finished, back the wall with landscaping fabric before filling with topsoil.

Specs and cost: Choose a stone of consistent thickness. Flagstone might be limestone, sandstone, shale — any rock that splits into slabs. A ton of 2-inch-thick stone is enough for a wall 10 feet long and 12 inches high.

Cost: About $300 for stones and sand.

Tip: Permanent retaining walls should be backed by pea gravel for drainage. In some locations, walls taller than 3 feet high require a building permit.

Tools: Stakes and mason’s line, spade, shovel, a 2-by-4 that’s 8 feet long, a 4-foot level, garden rake, tamper.

Time: 1 day for a 10-foot-long wall that’s 12 inches high.

Want to see some cool retaining walls? Check out our slideshow, 8 Retaining Wall Ideas.

Project #4: Install a Flagstone Path

The setup: For a welcoming addition to your yard, add a flagstone pathway. Use a charged garden hose to mark a meandering path about 3 feet wide. Arrange flagstones within the path so they are 2–4 inches apart and mark their location with sprinkled flour.

Tip: Sprinkling flour over the stones creates a “shadow” outline on the ground. When you remove the stones, you’ll have perfect outlines for cutting away the sod.

Cut away 3–4 inches of sod beneath each stone, add a layer of sand, and level the flagstones as you place them.

Specs and cost: For a 40-foot path about 3 feet wide, plan on 2 tons of flagstones and about a cubic yard of coarse sand. Cost: About $550.

Tools: Garden hose, flour, spade, trowel, level.

Time: 1 day for a 40-foot path.

Want more detail? Get the inside scoop on our start-to-finish DIY paver project.

Project #5: Add a Brick Tree Surround

The setup: Installing a masonry surround for a tree eases mowing and looks great. All it takes is digging a circular trench, adding some sand, and installing brick or stone.

Tip: To create a nice, even circle around the base of your tree, tie a big loop of rope around your tree. Adjust the length of the loop so when you pull it taut, the free end is right where you’d like the outer edge of the surround to be. Set your spade inside the loop with the handle plumb — straight up and down. Now, as you move around the tree, the loop of rope keeps the spade exactly the same distance from the base of the tree, creating a nice circle.

Use the spade to cut into the sod all the way around the tree. Remove the rope, and dig out a circular trench about 8 inches deep and 6 inches wide. Add a layer of sand. Set bricks at an angle for a pleasing saw-tooth effect or lay them end-to-end. Fill the surround with 2–4 inches of mulch.

Curious what trees to plant? Our popular slideshow tells you which trees you should never plant in your yard.

Specs and cost: This is an instance where buying small quantities of materials at the home center makes sense. Brick pavers cost $.50-$1 each — figure about 20 per tree. A bag of mulch, enough for one tree, costs $2.50.

Tools: Rope, spade, trowel.

Time: 3 hours per tree.

The Ripple Effect



Over the last few years since the economy tanked, there has been a lot of talk about job creation.  Now consider the ‘Ripple Effect’ of how business brings more business.  When you shop, that creates jobs, those business owners and employees  can now go shopping, and the cycle continues.  This occurrence happens on every level, and in addition, if you keep those dollars local it is good for your local community. You should especially consider shopping with mom & pop stores, because they are the backbone of our economy.  To help illustrate this, I have included a chart to show how much the big ticket purchase of a home helps our economy.


Recouping Your Remodel Costs


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Sometimes when people are ready to sell there home, they have an inflated idea of what their project has added to the value of their home.  The truth is, a home is only worth what the market dictates, it does not  always equate with the hard earned money, or sweat equity that you have put in.  So if you area going to live there a while, remodel in a way which you will get enjoyment out of the property while you are there.  If you are remodeling for the purpose of sale, take a close look at what your return will be – It will surely bring a quicker sale, but will it bring the added value you are looking for?  Either way, the chart below based on research from the National Association of Realtors will help to give you a realistic picture of of what you can expect in the way of a return, featuring the top ten remodeling projects to give you the best bang for your buck.

Top Ten Remodeling Projects

How to Remove a Popcorn Textured or Acoustic Ceiling • Ron Hazelton Online


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Popcorn ceilings, love em or hate em.  My experience with clients is that most don’t really like them.  I always love to see tips from Ron Hazelton, and here is his take on removing a popcorn ceiling.

How to Remove a Popcorn Textured or Acoustic Ceiling • Ron Hazelton Online.


Financing a Vacation Home


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Financing a Vacation Home

With the tightening of financing over the past few years, buying a vacation home is becoming a little more difficult. For those who have the cash though, it is a good time to make the purchase with home prices as low as they are. Above is an article from the New York Times on Financing a Vacation Home. If your ready to take the plunge, I would love to lend you my services in Tuolumne County, or refer you to Realtor in a vacation home market anywhere else.

Shorter Term Home Financing


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  When it comes to purchasing big ticket items, society in general tends to asks 2 questions.  How much does it cost? and What are my monthly payments?  The big problem is that we tend to leave out the question, How much will the total cost be when it is paid off?

     Not considering the 3rd question, has put most of America into trouble at some point or another, including myself.  Your best bet is to pay off credit cards every month, in other words, live within your means.  Don’t use credit for things that do not have lasting value (like dinner, concerts).

     There are of course things that are just too big to not use credit for, such as a car or a house.  In both cases, a shorter loan term may cost slightly more, but the savings in interest can be huge. The chart below is a good example of interest savings.  When taking out a home loan, many of us need 30 years to pay it in order to afford the payment.  If you do not need it however, I urge you to go for the shorter term.  If you already have a long term loan, consider a refinance to a shorter term.  Another option is to make additional principal payments on your current loan, you would be surprised how little extra you need to pay to double your principal payment, especially in the early years.Image


California’s Improving Housing Markets

After several years of a very depressed housing market, things are finally improving.  Here is a chart to show California’s improving housing markets.  Note that these numbers reflect permits for new construction, which is great news, but areas such as Modesto which have not increased much in new construction, have made great progress in resale homes.