Landscaping, Costs, Electrical, Geothermal, Water Heat, Insulation, Landscaping, Roof, Windows, Deck

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Here's what's on this page:
  • One more tree removed
  • Added more drip irrigation to the east front bed
  • Removed some trees in the back to reduce shading on solar panels
  • Added a bench to the front yard
  • Landscaping the front yard after the geothermal drilling
  • Most of the landscaping is in this section


Not much in the way of landscaping in 2011. The main thing was the removal of the swedish aspen on the east side that was shading the solar panels in the morning.

Some people feel that trees need to be left growing to offset carbon. That would normally be true but in our case the solar panels make up for the loss of the trees. As of 2011 the solar panels had offset nearly 20 trees worth of carbon dioxide. Taking three trees out to save the equivalent of 20 trees worth of carbon dioxide is a win in my books.

We had the east side swedish aspen taken out in the spring and then had them come in and grind out the stumps. Here is the view of the south side of the house on June 21st at about 11 am.

One problem here. Can you see the line of shadow on the bottom dormer solar panels? I miscalculated the overlap of the panels on the dormers and ended up with some shading on the bottom panels at summer solstice. That will be fixed when the bottom dormers get their tilt mechnanisms.

Here is the view on December 31st 2011 at about 1 pm. The two cedars on the right were trimmed so that they would not shadow the roof panels. You can see my roof rake in place on the roof to help clear snow from the roof panels. There wasn't much snow this winter but the roof rake is there just in case.


This year we added some addtional irrigation lines to the east side of the front yard. The drip irrigation to the west side had been done in 2005. I had put empty pipes under the sidewalks so that I could run irrigation lines later and so that sped things up. Here is this year's project.

The other thing we did was to take some trees out of the back yard to clear the way for the solar panels. In the back yard we had a birch that was dying out from the center, a mountain ash that was over 50 years old and was rotting away limb by limb. Also there was a tall swedish aspen that was right next to the roof where the solar panels would be.

The intent is to put one of these little drip spikes right next to each plant. Each of these spikes will deliver 1 US gallon per hour of water. For large plants and trees I used two or even three spikes. Most shrubs just get one.

Here is the network of lines. You start with a main header and then attach small side tubes that run to each drip spike. I used landscape staples to hold the tubing down and each drip spike holds the tube in position as well.

Here is the east side of the front yard complete. We did the west side of the yard in 2005 but had just not got around to this side yet. We had been watering with a sprinkler but that is pretty inefficient. Adding drip spikes means that we just water where the plants are and it will really keep the weeds at bay. A fresh topping of mulch covers these hoses.

Using the same irrigation system you can get tiny sprinklers. We used these in two areas. One is a cool damp bed next to the house where we grow hostas. That bed works best with sprinkled water from above. The other area is this bed which is an annual bed in the front. Although most of the front yard is done in perennials this strip is planted with colourful annuals each year. These little sprinklers deliver water just to this bed.

Here is the back yard before we started. On the right is the birch which was dying from the center, behind it was the 50 year old mountain ash that was dying off. Then you can see the 60 ft high swedish aspen behind that towering over the house.

We took the trees out in the fall after they shed their leaves. Here you can see that the birch and the mountain ash are gone. I had given instructions to the crew to trim the swedish poplar but they misunderstood and just hacked off the top (was supposed to be trimmed attractively). It was so ugly that we took it out completely the following year. You can see in this picture that the poplar is still shading the roof panels significantly. This picture was taken on December 24th just after all the solar panels were completed. The sun is at its lowest elevation. From the shadow angle the picture was taken at about 11 am.


Just a couple of things in 2007. Here are a couple of pictures.

This year we added a metal bench to the front garden. This bench provides a little more interest and lets us put up some hanging baskets.

So here is the front garden in the summer of 2007. Just to the right of the path is an annual garden where Karen plants some interesting annuals each year. The rest of the garden is made up of drought tolerant perennials. It's growing in nicely from the 2005 picture (bottom of page) don't you think?

Compare this to the "before" picture from 2005
(next picture below).


Part of the geothermal installation was that it was going to make a big mess of the front yard. Fortunately, Karen had planned for a complete rennovation of the front yard. She had studied up on xeriscaping and had a plan to put in low maintenance shrubs and perennials.

In 2005 we did the majority of the landscaping in the front yard as part of the geothermal drilling cleanup. Here are the pictures of that year's activity.

Our quaint little house ready to go. We removed the large spruce tree that was in the front in preparation for the coming events.

Next we killed off all the grass. This got rid of the weeds. That's a bag of sand for backfilling the electrical trench out back. See the electrical page for more on that.

Then the geothemal drilling. We had four boreholes drilled 200 ft deep. They were all in the section of the front yard between the fence and the centre sidewalk. Drilling is very, very messy!

We call this the "aftermath." What a mess. We weren't sure how we were going to get rid of this gooey, sticky mud. The pipes sticking out of the ground are the geothermal boreholes.

Then the geothermal contractor came back to tie the boreholes together. He dug about 5 foot deep trenches, joined the pipes and then backfilled. See the geothermal page.

Wow! Were we relieved to see this back to normal. Problem was that a lot of clay got dug up and ended up on top of the ground. We'd have to bring in more topsoil to prepare for planting.

So we bought some topsoil to see what we could do. But after a week of thinking about it we decided to bring in a contractor. Note that in that week the roofing contractor came in and redid the roof. More on the roofing page.

The contractor was to strip off the top layer or clay, put in a stone pathway, and then add topsoil to make the yard ready for planting. Here they are starting on the stone pathways.

The pathways start with a gravel base. We added geotextile fabric under the gravel to help hold them together for the long term.

The gravel is then graded carefully for drainage and then compacted with a plate tamper. Here is one path ready to pave.

Then a layer of sand is added on top of the gravel and trowelled smooth. The paving stones are arranged on top of the sand and then more sand is swept into the cracks.

Although the paving stones look very nice we had an issue with the landscaper at the end of the job. Their extras came to just about double their original quote - mostly because of an addition error on the original quote. If the quote had been added up correctly then this contractor may not have received the job. Not too happy about the extra charges.

The paving stones done and the contractor gone it was time for us to plant. Karen worked out what to plant and where and we planted the entire front yard in a weekend.

The west section of the yard is primarily trees and shrubs. The main tree is a May Day tree. For edging we used cedar shingles cut in half (18" shingles cut to 9" long). These were very easy to install by digging a trench and then hammering them in a little bit. They are overlapped along their length.

The main bed in front is perennials and grasses. The grasses will go in the middle next year. We couldn't get the grasses we wanted this late in the season.

Along the path will be a bed of annuals. This section had some lillys for the shady parts but under the May Day tree will be a seed mixture. We will plant the seeds in October and hope to see them come up in spring.

On to the mulching. We used cedar mulch on top of landscape fabric (Typar 3301). A hole was cut in the fabric for each plant and then between 2 and 4" of mulch added on top.

My capable assistants Sam (my niece) and Lucy (our dog).

We had 7 cubic yards of mulch delivered (pretty much a full truckload).

West side is done, just about done the east side.

Just about...

And all done. Here is the west bed viewed from the house.

The main pathway now curves to the front corner of the lot. The landscape fabric is on the area where we will plant annuals next spring. It is there to keep the weeds out for the time being.

Up the curved path to our house.

And we had about 3 cubic yards of mulch left over. We carried it around back and did all our flower beds in the back.

Well, that's it. The front is complete. Now all we have to do is watch it grow.

Done!, Costs, Electrical, Geothermal, Water Heat, Insulation, Landscaping, Roof, Windows, Deck