Sunday, September 5, 2010

Water Garden Take Two

After the vandalism I was able to get the water garden going again fairly easily. I did run into problems, however, not related to the vandalism. The barrels did a good job of holding water for a while but I started having continuous trouble with the top portion drying out causing the planks of wood to separate and begin leaking. I have decided that any future water gardens will most definitely use a liner.

I'm not sure how yet but I'm am confident I can figure out a way to prevent the liner from affecting the appearance of the barrels. It won't be necessary for now, however, as I have decided to try a different approach for my next "patio pond" since I am now living in California.

The picture below is a rough drawing of my plans for the new back porch. I will probably only be building the fountain and not the arbor.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Water Garden: Plants and Vandalism

The next step in the process of creating any water garden is putting in plants. I originally wanted to put Iris, Water Lettuce, and Water Hyacinth in the water garden but had a hard time finding the last two. I already had the Iris, however, so I went ahead and planted them in the garden. I plan on purchasing the other types when I can find a local supplier. They are both floating plants and help oxygenate the water and also act as a natural filter.

I purchased two planting baskets as well as some topsoil and aquarium rocks. It is important to use a good topsoil rather than potting soil. This is because potting soil is too light and will float more easily and make a bigger mess. The aquarium rocks go on top of the dirt and prevent it from going everywhere and clouding up the water. The planting process is pretty simple.
  1. Fill the planting baskets partway with soil
  2. Put plant in basket
  3. Fill with more soil
  4. Cover with aquarium rocks

After putting the aquarium rocks over the soil I watered the plants thoroughly to saturate the soil and let the small bits drain out of the bottom to reduce clouding of the water. The only thing left to do after this is to place them in the water garden. I used a few bricks to adjust the height to the appropriate level. I placed these so that they had between 1 1/2" - 2" of water above the tops of the baskets.

Starting to look like a water garden...

Unfortunately some punk decided to be a complete jerk and vandalized the water garden a few days later (along with the outside A/C unit). Below are some pictures of the damage. Fortunately all I had to do was replant the Iris and clean the dirt and rocks out of the water but it was still a pain and very aggravating.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Water Garden: Progress Update

The water garden project is moving along nicely. I have purchased the barrels, pump, tubing, and the bricks to elevate the upper barrel.

The most difficult aspect of the project thus far has been getting the wooden barrels to hold water. The barrels were very dry when I purchased them. So dry in fact that they were nearly falling apart. In order to get them to hold water again I had to get the wood to absorb water so that it would expand and seal up. I accelerated this process by hanging wet towels over the sides of the barrels and pouring water over them several times a day for over a week.

The process is slow but it negates the need for a liner and, in my opinion, makes the water garden look better. It is also necessary for this project because I plan on putting three holes in the upper barrel to spill into the lower barrel which would be much more difficult (if not impossible) to achieve with a liner in place.

Soaking and filling the barrels as well as watering plants on my patio is interesting in itself as I have no faucet outside and must fill empty milk jugs with water and haul them through the apartment. (Please excuse the mess in the sink.)

I have had the most trouble sealing the top three to four inches of the barrels agains leaks so I choose to seal the cracks with silicone caulk. The silicone should maintain a seal and allow for the spaces to expand and contract with varying moisture levels and different temperatures.

After allowing the silicone to thoroughly dry I moved the barrels back outside and drilled the holes, filled them with water, and installed the pump. I inserted plastic tubing in to the holes to help project the water farther away from the side of the barrel.

Up next: Putting plants in the water garden...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Water Garden: iPhone Web App Progress

The water garden project is at a standstill at the moment because I'm having a hard time finding whiskey barrels at a reasonable price. I have, however, made some progress on the iPhone control interface for the water garden! As of now I have a semi-functioning web app that can check the status of and send control signals to the ioBridge.

The illustration at the top of the app will be dynamic and show different things depending on the status of the various sensors, pumps, etc. I haven't finished it therefore it just shows everything at the moment. The yellow dots indicate that the ioBridge is offline. They will be green if the water level is ok and red if it is low. The on/off toggles simply switch a relay on and off.

I'm continuing to look for decently priced whiskey barrels but if I can't find them I'm considering building a multi-tiered water garden out of wood and using a plastic liner. Stay tuned.

Note: "Under Water Lights" should be "Underwater Lights." I already fixed it but not before I took these screenshots. :-)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Water Garden

My latest undertaking is to build a small water garden on the porch at my apartment. Since I obviously can't dig a hole and install a traditional liner or shell type water garden I've decided to build an above-the-ground water garden in half whiskey barrels.

To make the water garden more interesting I have decided to use two separate barrels with one being lifted slightly higher than the other so that water can cascade from the upper barrel to the lower one.

In addition I am going to install water level sensors and relay controls so that I will be able to remotely monitor the water level and switch the circulation pump on and off on my iPhone. The system will also be able to send me text messages if the water level drops for any reason and automatically shut the pump off to prevent further draining and/or damage to the pump.

Things Needed for this Project
  • Whiskey Barrels (searching for a lower price)
  • Water Pump/Filter
  • Plastic Tubing
  • Water Level Sensors (x2)
  • 110v Relay
  • ioBridge
  • Plants (and pots, dirt, etc.)
  • Goldfish (eventually)
Next Steps
  • Get whiskey barrels
  • Get whiskey barrels to hold water

My Life... One Project at a Time...

My life is full of random projects. I'm going to begin documenting them here. I'm also going to try to post information and pictures of some of my old projects periodically.