Oct. 17 2011 03:18 PM

“A family with six children had just moved in and needed a kid-friendly backyard,” says Eric Fenmore, owner of DIG Landscape Construction in Newport Beach, California. “The landscape had been neglected—the backyard was overgrown, dark and damp, with a facing slope that was a case study in erosion and run-off.”

The homeowner was insistent about installing a water-efficient system. He wanted to prevent overspray on the house, the walkways and patios, because it had caused calcium discoloration, algae build-up and deterioration of siding and fences.

Fenmore suggested that they install a drip system and explained the benefits, based on his experiences. Five years ago, he completed his first major drip project, The Children’s Garden at the Newport Beach Public Library. The city specified drip irrigation to maximize water use, prevent vandalism and eliminate overspray.

That project changed the way Fenmore did business. “Once we realized that drip irrigation could be profitable—in addition to being water efficient—we started training the crew. After three or four jobs, they had it figured out and we had a new niche,” he said. “Drip is all that we install these days, so we knew exactly what would work for the damp backyard.”

Fenmore worked with the project manager and a crew of seven. He and his partner, landscape designer Chris Fenmore, devised a contemporary plan which featured a series of ‘mini-channels’ that crisscrossed the new hardscape.

“The channels soften the concrete by integrating low-growing plants into the design. We installed Netafim’s new 12mm Techline EZ right on the dirt surface in the channels and beds. It’s flexible, easy to handle and disappears beneath the plants and gravel.”

On the slopes, Fenmore’s crew ran Techline CV, a larger 17mm dripline with check valves that prevent low head drainage and run-off. “Techline CV has a 2psi check valve in each dripper, which means they all turn on and off at the same time. This balances the application so there’s no ‘low emitter drainage,’ even with an elevation change up to 4.5 feet. It eliminated the slope erosion problems.”

For aesthetics and stability, the slope was planted with Buxus japonicum (boxwood globes), Westringia fruticosa, Hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea) and Dianella revolute (baby bliss), along with a ficus hedge at the top.

In smaller 12' x 10' beds, Fenmore’s crew ran on-surface Techline EZ, and each zone was supplied with a control zone kit that included a valve, filter and pressure regulator. The kit connects to PVC piping and carries the water to a series of stub-ups in each planter.

The dripline was then connected to the stub-ups and looped back and forth throughout the planters. At the furthest point away from the stub-up, a manual flush valve was installed for routine system flushing.

The entire project took nine weeks to install, but the dripline system on the slope and in the bedding areas only took three days to set up. The irrigation portion of the job was approximately $14,000.

To stay in contact with his customers, Fenmore offers a quarterly “Nurture” service, a system-wide check-up that includes tree trimming, landscape lighting adjustments and routine dripline flushing.