No More Trenching!! -- Tool for Nearly Painless Irrigation Pipe Installation

Posted by @evermorelawnless on
After having installed several PVC-based irrigation systems in my Utah yards, there had to be a better way. There is, and I found it. This article describes a nearly painless way - using a tool that I invented - to install black poly irrigation pipe with little impact to the lawn or gardens. It's been an incredible sweat/labor-saver for me.

Dirtdorphins and I purchased a wreck of a place (but oh, the architecture of it!) that, among other things, had no lawn and minimal (zeroscape??) gardens. In my haste to green the place up, I prepared and re-seeded and dragged sprinklers around for weeks before I realized I should have put in sprinklers first. Typical...but...soon it was time. So I began plotting a PVC irrigation system on paper and then got the first station installed. As I was installing it, my neighbor asked why I was using PVC instead of black poly. Turns out I'd never heard of the stuff. He said, and I've later confirmed, that even in cold climates, you don't have to bury it as deep. PVC should be buried at least 18" or below the frost line - whichever is deeper. The 1" black poly, according to the smart people at my local sprinkler supply place, only needs to be buried 6" because it can handle the freezing. That's a HUGE difference in labor. And I was grateful. Here's a Creative Commons picture of what a trencher might look like and the gear you might need to be wearing to use one - to cut trenches deep enough to accommodate PVC in this climate:
Thumb of 2015-02-25/evermorelawnless/628e23
Look at what he's done to his lawn, too. A wreck!

So I cut 6" trenches using a narrow shovel and installed a fairly elegant, 9-station irrigation system for the new lawn. Enter Dirtdorphins...and her visions and her boulders and her nursery visits ("um, honey...I'm at XYZ nursery and I have a, can you bring the van up? I can't fit everything in my #@^%%!&# spacious and roomy and otherwise more-than-adequate hatchback..."), mail-order addiction, plant swapping, and who knows what else I've actually blocked out for the sake of sanity. Long story short (and I mean that), we have at least a dozen new gardens, enough new boulders to sink even the most modern container ships, trees, shrubs, stuff I don't know what is ---- and here's the real deal for me...much less lawn (hence "Evermorelawnless"...and even less this year) and a wonderful 29-station irrigation system (with the promise of at least six more valves this summer).

Fortunately, I decided that I wanted to learn to weld about three years ago and while I was busy burning my hands (and other body parts), I came up with the idea for a trenching tool to install the new black poly pipe for the new systems. It wasn't a stroke of genius on my part - but rather mothered of necessity. Cutting trenches, even shallow ones, in this soil is miserable. And it's so hard on the lawn. It takes a season or more for the scar to heal. So I created this:
Thumb of 2015-02-25/evermorelawnless/f4ef60 Thumb of 2015-02-25/evermorelawnless/4a9add

And it's exactly what it looks like: a metal plate welded to a metal pole.

But the brilliance of it is that you can cut a trench in the lawn that's barely an inch wide, install the pipe (I've put as many as three 1" poly pipes in a single cut), seal the cut with your feet, and water the lawn. After no more than a week, the cut is absolutely invisible. It's a little exhausting jumping onto the thing to get the cut made and it's fairly heavy to lug around, but it's tons quicker and easier and cleaner than cutting a trench - either with a machine or a shovel.

This is what a cut ready for pipe might look like on a winter-dead lawn:
Thumb of 2015-02-25/evermorelawnless/545cb5

This is what the cut looks like after it's been stomped down:
Thumb of 2015-02-25/evermorelawnless/20fa09

Note: The sample cut shown is only 18" long with a 24" length of 1" poly pipe stuffed inside as an illustration to show how easy the cut is to make, how nicely the pipe fits, and how little impact there is to the grass after the cut is sealed - you can hardly see it.

Here's a badly illustrated view of what the results might look like in profile - it's conceptual, but to scale (though the arc shown is arguably about three times larger than it needs to be):
Thumb of 2015-02-25/evermorelawnless/ca7c61

Here are a couple of illustrations for the do-it-yourselfer:
Thumb of 2015-02-25/evermorelawnless/87c331 Thumb of 2015-02-25/evermorelawnless/40ae5d

If you want one of these for yourself, I'm sure if you printed off this article and took it to a local welder, s/he could put together something much cleaner than I've built.

Here's a picture of a rake I fixed in much the same way:
Thumb of 2015-02-25/evermorelawnless/621a51

I cannot find the shovel that got the same treatment. Dunno why I keep breaking shovels, but the one I put a metal handle on is still intact.

Parenthetically, when I build irrigation systems, I attach the sprinkler to the main using 1/2" poly funny pipe. There are two advantages to doing it this way. First, the sprinkler itself can move with the frost or the lawnmower (or, thanks to Dirtdorphins on several occasions, the 10-wheeler or backhoe). That is to say that if a kid kicks it or runs over it with a bike, it won't snap off like many you've seen. Second, it's much easier to place/replace and/or adjust sprinklers that are on the flexible funny pipe. You're not working with a fixed XYZ axis as you are with a thread-to-thread system.

And this tool is also perfect for cutting narrow slits for both the funny pipe and the sprinkler itself. This tool may not be for everyone. But if you've got a lot of yard and a number of gardens to irrigate, it's a timesaver and really cuts down on the aesthetic nightmare that trenching can be.

Comments and discussion:
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Invention by bandhdavis2 Mar 8, 2015 3:04 PM 0
love this idea by devmar Mar 7, 2015 11:51 AM 1
Invented by jmorth Mar 3, 2015 1:24 PM 1
Brilliant Idea! by beckygardener Mar 2, 2015 8:20 PM 1
Irrigation by Seedfork Mar 2, 2015 8:14 PM 1
wait -- what? by dirtdorphins Mar 2, 2015 7:31 PM 2

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