An Automatic Irrigation System is a Must-Have

hunteralringtonAn automatic irrigation system is a must have when you are installing a new landscape. Even if you install the plants in the fall or early spring, the new plants will need help getting through their first few hot seasons. Let’s look at the system as a whole.

As you may assume most of irrigation system will be unseen and underground.  Which is a good thing aesthetically nobody wants to look at a bunch of pipes or tubing running across there yard. Just as important is the function and longevity of the system, proper burial of the system protects it from, cold weather, animals and people.

Parts of the System

City Meter – The valve that connects the water from the city’s water supply to your home.

Gate Valve – This is the point where your irrigation water is separated from the rest of your home for better volume and pressure control.

Mainline – The larger diameter pipe that supplies water from the Gate Valve to your Backflow Valve continuing to the irrigation Manifold.

Backflow Double Check Valve – This unit protects the water from your irrigation system returning to your home and city water system.

Manifold / Valves – Technically multiple remote control irrigation valves create the manifold. A remote control irrigation valve is a mechanical ball valve.  They are typically connected via wires to the system’s Automatic Controller, which makes them remote.  Each valve supplies water to one irrigation zone in your system.

Lateral Lines – These smaller diameter irrigation lines supplied by the valves they provide water to the corresponding zones in the yard.

Spray Heads – There are many kinds of spray heads. Pop-up body spray heads are what you typically see in residential applications. There are also Rotary pop-ups, which are a newer type of unit that apply water at a slower rate in rotation streams. Rotor body pop-ups, which are for larger applications typically sports fields that apply larger amounts of water quickly.

Drip – A drip system has a variety of different parts to approach each specific watering need you have in your yard.  The overall philosophy of drip is to reduce the amount of evapotranspiration during the irrigation process. It does this by applying water to the plant at a slower rate beneath the top of the soil.

Controllers and accessories – The brain of the irrigation system turning on the valves at set times so you don’t have to. There are many types of controllers and accessories.  Basically you want a controller that can have multiple programs (zone grouping) so that plants with similar needs get the same amount of water. All controllers have a variety of timing selections. To make your system more water efficient you can get rain and solar sensors, which increases the controller’s ability to automatically adjust to the day-to-day weather variations at your unique location.  Be advised if your interested in these types of add-ons you need to make sure you purchase a controller that can accommodate them.

Grading and Soil – A fresh start

grading soilObtaining your finish grade

Clear and grub: This also could be thought of as demolition, which it is. But

clearing and grubbing is a more refined process giving us the nice blank slate for

installing the infrastructure.

Cut and Fill: This refers to soil. To be cost effective as well as environmentally

friendly it is a good idea to balance the removal of soil onsite (cut) and the areas in

the yard that need soil (fill). Unless your soil is unsuitable for fill new soil and

amendments should be brought in.

Soil: Your soil is one of the most important pieces of a successful project and

healthy yard.

So let’s discuss soils

First off Soil is not dirt. Soil is a living organic structure built from different soil types

with their own mineral types and properties. Along with bacteria, insects and worms

feeding off of different soil types and each other. And not to mention all the stuff that

falls on the ground (organic material like leaf litter). Lets back up for a minute, soil

structure is made up of three core types of material:

Clay: Tight, flat, very small particles, high in minerals, high water retention.

Silt: Irregular shape, small size, general mineral composition, low to moderate water


Sand: Round, large to small size, rock fragments, low water retention.

Loam is in the center of the triangle and that is your ideal soil type. It has the

perfect combination of clay, silt and sand. This is ideal because you want your soil to

retain moisture but also drain.

These core soil types form what is known as the soil triangle. There is much more

involved in soil classification then what is discussed here but this will give you an

understanding of soil structure. There are many different types of classifications

within ( see

4167 )

The soils in most yards in our region are a silty clay with a low permeability rate

which causes all sorts of trouble. As you know from going outside and your feet leave

an exact boot print in the ground or the ground just sticks to your feet or maybe a

combination of the two. Then in the summer when the ground dries out the soil is

hard as a rock and it is no fun to dig in.

Because your soil at home is not going to be loam we need to amend the soil to get

closer to that ideal mix. Amendments are the next item we will discuss.

Infrastructure – the next phase in the landscaping process

all oregon infrastructureWell, now that your yard is completely ripped apart we have to start putting it back together.  At this stage we will be installing the components that make your yard work – the Infrastructure.  Over the next few weeks we will be going over what infrastructure is and the type of work infrastructure requires to complete.

This is a brief outline on infrastructure:

Clear and grub:  This also could be thought of as demolition, which it is.  But clearing and grubbing is a more refined process giving us the nice blank slate for installing the infrastructure.  

Cut and Fill:  This refers to soil. To be cost-effective as well as environmentally friendly it is always a good idea to balance the removal of soil on site (cut) and the areas in the yard that need soil (fill).

Soil and Amendments:  Your soil is one of the most important pieces of a successful project and healthy yard. We will discuss this subject in more detail in future posts.

Irrigation: One of the other pieces of infrastructure that is crucial to a successful project and a healthy landscape. Once again Irrigation is a large topic and we will be covering it in future posts.

Lighting:  Lighting is important to think about at the beginning a project you can easily plan for pre-wiring if your budget does not allow for all the light fixtures at the beginning of your project. Pre-wiring will save you money in the end once you can afford those fixtures.  

Power: We always need to be mindful where your power is and how that relates to your irrigation trenching and tree locations. Your power points from the house are also important because we need to have a place for your irrigation controller and your lighting transformer.  

Proper Base Material:  Depending on your hardscape choice, your base material could change as well as the depth of the soil we need to remove for that ideal base material.

Retaining Structures: Whether this means large concrete walls, segmented block walls or stacked boulders we need to accommodate for the proper access, backfill, drainage and staging for those structures.

Boulders: Boulders are both structural and aesthetic pieces of your yard. That is why they must be planned for according.  You don’t want tractor tracks going through your new lawn.

This will get you thinking about the beginning the stages of your new landscape and all the little tasks in-between.

The Demolition Process – What to Expect

It’s time to make a mess. Or, what you think might be a mess. Unfortunately, there isn’t a construction process that doesn’t make a huge mess.  Landscape demolition can be a bit stressful because the process is out in all oregon demolitionthe open for the whole neighborhood to see.  Your contractor is aware of this fact too and a good contractor will understand you and your neighbors will be watching.

How long will demolition take?

This depends on the complexity of the features in your landscape.  The demolition process can be short and sweet or last a week or more.  

all oregon demolitionWhat is below the surface is a mystery

Having to dig is the biggest fear of contractors during the demolition process.  We aren’t talking about the standard utilities that get marked by the utility companies like your gas, water, electricity and cable.  Those are easy to stay away from when digging, but they could cause issues with where you may want that nice tree.  What contractors fear are the hidden old footings or the mystery pipes and possible wires.  These are not usually big problems but it do slow down a project and costs money.

Unforeseen problems always exist

One issue that is always on a contractor’s mind is going to be the other unforeseen problems.  Experienced contractors know that even with the best planning problems can arise.  They may be something as simple as substituting a perennial or tree to that purveyor that is not able to deliver or produce a product on time.  Client revisions like changing a design or a last minute change of a material can be a simple fix or an issue that will bring on extra costs and delays.  Of course, contractors can have issues of their own like problems on other jobs or scheduling conflicts and miscommunications between employees.

Remember to be understanding

Remember the demolition process is only a phase in the construction of your new landscape and will end soon.  Everyone is looking forward to seeing that great new landscape, including the contractor.

Clean Up

During demolition and during the course of the entire project, a good contractor will clean up the site as best as it makes sense.  Meaning, we want to leave your house each day with progress being seen, but the site will be easy for you to walk and investigate while not tracking debris around with you.


What is the design process?

The design process starts with an idea, vision or list of what you want in your yard. The job of a client is to outline your desires and budget for your designer.  The job of the designer is to listen, look and study the landscape then incorporate your goals into your site. This may require a range of meetings and site visits depending on the complexity or hands on nature you may wish to have on the design.

Step by Step Through the Design Process

Conceptual Design

The design process begins with the conceptual plan. What is a conceptual plan? It’s the cohesive vision of the designers understanding of the site and your ideas and needs for the landscape.  The designer will present their complete vision of the landscape to you.

during the design process you can expect a visualized plan
A visual of what the conceptual plan or visual may look like during the design process.

Revision Process

Design revisions take place after the designer has presented the conceptual drawing.  During that meeting you and the designer will discuss your thoughts and the other possibilities of the site. This is also a good time to discuss costs again.

Final Plan

The revision process end with the final plan. This will be the construction document that will be used by the builders to construction your yard. This plan should only be deviated from if there is an unforeseen circumstance. If by chance during construction process has begun, you feel something must be added or removed at which time your final construction cost will change.

Visualization and Construction Details

Depending on the complexity of the features in your landscape you may wish to have the designer develop detail drawings of specific features or a digital 3D model to assist in the visualization of the feature. This will happen prior to construction during the design process.


After the design process has been completed there may be some final changes with guard to materials and cost or a phasing plan. After all the kinks have been ironed out and the budget has been accepted, it’s demolition time.

Thinking of New Landscape?

Well the most important requirement is to contact a proven professional. You can contact a Designer or a Contractor. A Design/Build Firm is the best and that is exactly what All Oregon is. Once you have a professional you should outline an overall master plan. This way no matter what your budget is you can add on and stay on track instead of having a piecemeal yard. So contact us and we can get you on the right path.


Custom Landscape Design


A Few Christmas Tree Reminders


Looks like Oregon is in for another successful Christmas tree season, still reigning as the #1 supplier of Christmas trees, despite a national shortage as reported by CNBC. While we are all for bringing a bit of the outdoors in, there are a few things everyone needs to remember to celebrate the season safely. Otherwise, you may end up in the next YouTube Christmas Tree FAIL compilation. No one wants to be the lady in the high heels. Follow our Christmas tree safety tips to avoid an unexpected holiday fire.

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

Keeping a Christmas tree fresh and moist is the secret to safety.

  1. Using a traditional reservoir type stand is the most effective way of maintaining freshness and minimizing needle loss. Fresh, green trees are also the least susceptible to catching fire.
  2. The base of the Christmas tree should ALWAYS be submerged in water. This too works to prevent fire.
  3. Get the right tree stand. It should be able to hold 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. It also needs to be large enough to hold the trunk without shaving off the sides. The outer layers of the wood are the best at soaking in water and should not be removed no matter what.
  4. Although you may be tempted, don’t put the tree next to the fireplace. It can dry out quickly and become a fire hazard. Same goes for next to a vent or heater. Christmas tree placement is key. Also avoid placing lit candles near the tree.
  5. Using smaller lights helps prevent the death of the tree. Miniature or LED lights are best. Look for cheap LEDs on Black Friday, or seek out an estate sale, I’ve found Christmas decor galore via estate sales, usually in spectacular condition.
  6. Lights out is for everyone – including the tree. Don’t forget to unplug the Christmas tree each night.

Tree Experts – Landscaping, Tree Planting, and more

As Oregonians, we are proud of the Christmas tree industry and support local growers and suppliers. Want a Christmas tree you can plant when the holidays are over? Give us a ring and we can help you figure it out. We are experts in plant care, maintenance, landscape design, and more; working in Portland, Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Hillsboro, Oregon City, Gresham, and more. Give us a call to talk about your landscaping needs.

How To Winterize Portland Landscaping

Many Portlanders believe winter is the time to hide indoors, hibernate, and wait out the long, long rainy season. We say, not so! There is plenty you can do to winterize Portland landscaping, making everything in your yard healthier and prettier come spring.

Teo next to the All Oregon landscaping van. Matching shirt and all.
Teo next to the All Oregon landscaping van. Matching shirt and all.

How To Winterize Portland Landscaping in 7 Steps

  1. Prep and winterize the irrigation system. We’ve seen many types of irrigation systems in Portland, but one thing never changes, if water is left inside then freezes and expands, you are in for a costly repair bill. Consult your specific irrigation system or let us send Chewbacca (AKA: Teo) out to help you winterize it. As our go to irrigation system expert, he can “blow out” the system and ensure no lingering water is left behind.
  2. Give the lawn a little TLC. First, rake up any leaves and yard debris. It can be used for mulching (see step 7). Then trim the grass to a slightly shorter length of 1.5 inches. Short grass will let all the rainy moisture escape a bit sooner, thus avoiding lawn problems associated with too much moisture.
  3. Put the soil to the test. We can’t recommend this enough. Collect a soil sample and take it to a nearby nursery to have them test it. Portland soil often contains a lot of clay which can put a damper on drainage and cause some plants to drown. Soil test result will allow you to research the best way to add compost and other needed nutrients to your soil.
  4. Keep up on care for year-round plants. Popular Portland plants like hollies, azaleas and other native species often stay green year round. For these plants continue the usual maintenance, like pruning branches that are growing across each other. Treat any insect problems, and keep an eye out on the amount of water it’s receiving – you know just in case there is a long dry spell in Portland. Can we say, unlikely?
  5. Do a little deadheading. A lot of Portland landscapes take advantage of how well hydrangeas and other flowering plants grow in the area. Deadheading refers to getting rid of the flower remnants, or the “head” of the flower. Make sure to take care of this on any flowering plants.  
  6. Plan on pruning – a little! Many plants become victims to over pruning in the winter. Homeowners or maintenance companies hack away the yard with electric clippers, giving little or no
    Mulch is a must.
    Mulch is a must.

    thought to how this harsh pruning will affect the flow of nutrients to the plant(s). Our best advice, prune gently! Remove any crossed branches and open up space near the heart of the plant. If you are uncertain, always call an expert (like us), we know all the ins and outs of popular Portland plants, flowers, and shrubs.  

  7. Make it last with mulch. In the fall, the Portland area has so much to offer in the way of creating your own mulch, that we don’t even recommend buying it. Collect leaves, grass clippings, and other fall yard debris to make your own mulch – here’s how. Don’t mulch until you’ve completed the first 6 steps, it helps protect the soil better that way. Think of mulch like the insulation in your house, it offers a protective barrier, evans temperatures, and helps keep invasive weeds and such out. All good things.

Whew, now that that is all done, head indoors for a nice warm cup of apple cider and prepare for the holiday season. With the yard looking so nice, maybe even consider a turkey roasted over the fire pit?

Winter is the Best Time to Plan a Landscape Overhaul

We feel like a broken record saying this year after year, but it is really true, winter gives both you and our landscape design team more than enough time to develop a one of a kind landscape for your Portland property. See some of our past designs for inspiration, then give us a call to speak to a designer today!

Fire Pit Thanksgiving – Banish the Oven this Year

Outdoor LivingCooking outdoors is a favorite pastime of many Americans, especially Oregonians, and so is Thanksgiving! Why not combine them with a fire pit Thanksgiving? If you’re looking for a unique way to spice up the Thanksgiving feastival, and have a few extra layers of warm clothing, fire roasting your turkey will surely give your family and friends something to talk about. Below is one of our favorite ways of cooking a turkey in a fire pit and requires minimal maintenance once it’s roasting. Ready the waterproof layers and try something new this Thanksgiving.

Five Steps to Cooking Turkey Outside for a Fire Pit Thanksgiving

  1. Prep your turkey however you like, stuff it, wrap it in bacon, shove herbed butter under the skin. Whatever it is you like to do to your bird have at it. Wrap it in a few layers of cheesecloth and wrap it again in 3-4 layers of aluminum foil. If you have a dutch oven big enough you can always throw the turkey in there with some potatoes, onions, garlic and anything else that you like, provided it fits with the lid completely closed.
  2. Start up the fire pit and be sure you have plenty of coals, you will need enough to thoroughly surround the bird. Start them early and get them in that perfect cooking state.  Use a metal tool (that won’t melt) and dig a hole in the center of the fire pit if it’s big enough or in the ground next to it if necessary. It will need to hold the turkey with a thick layer of surrounding coals. Try and use all wood in order to impart the flavor into the turkey but you can always supplement with briquettes if needed.
  3. Once you have a good amount of coals glowing, use a shovel to create at least a 2 inch thick bed in the hole. Be sure not to put a lot of ash in or you will be sorely disappointed in a few hours and your Thanksgiving blunder will no doubt be talked about for generations. Place the wrapped turkey on the bed of coals in the center of the hole. Fill in the sides and completely cover the turkey with more coals and insulate the top with a layer of dirt or a lid if you have one.
  4. Go enjoy your family and cup of apple cider, then be sure to check the fire pit occasionally to be sure it’s still hot and moving along. A 12 lb turkey will take about 3 hours, then add another 15 minutes for every 2 lbs extra.
  5. When the time has come, excavate the turkey and enjoy.

More Recipes for a Fire Pit Thanksgiving

If you’d like to try another way of cooking with wood fire, take a look at this video, though we would not recommend soaking your spit in a chlorinated pool. That is just strange.

Or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, take a look at A Campfire Thanksgiving Dinner! for a full menu of thanksgiving dishes that can be cooked over a fire.

If you plan on cooking some of your Thanksgiving meal outside over a fire pit or in your outdoor kitchen, we’d love to hear about it. Feel free to share with us in the comments or on Facebook.


Attract New Birds to Your Backyard

attract new birdsWith millions of birds living in the Pacific Northwest it’s easy to think that all of the vast tree friendly neighborhoods in Portland, Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Sherwood, West Linn, Aloha and more would be home to a bird population far more diverse than our human population. Oddly, it’s not true. Expect to see a robin, crow, starling or sparrow, and probably not much else unless you put in some real effort. Many reasons impact where certain birds can be found; not all birds call trees home and many of those that do are territorial and migratory. While birds that typically nest on the ground find the city and suburbs dangerous, lurking with pets and people. All of the urban development in Portland isn’t helping either, it destroys bird living and nesting areas and forces many species to move elsewhere. Luckily, there are a few tactics you can try to increase the diversity of birds in your backyard.

How to Attract New Birds 

The most important thing to remember when trying to attract new birds to your yard is that new tactics will attract new birds. Here are a few that have proven successful time and time again.

  1. Bring in the birdhouses – While a bird house seems like the 3rd grader idea to bring new birds to the backyard, the reason why birdhouses work is commonly misunderstood.  Common birds have already discovered places to nest in the area, which is why there are so many of them. Research the preferences of different birds and build a birdhouse accordingly. A birdhouse that is appealing to an uncommon bird will offer a new nesting site protected from predators and weather, thus a way to sustain life in unfamiliar territory. 
  2. Make a bird buffet – One of the easiest ways to attract new birds is to add new foods. Look up what sorts of seeds, nuts, fruits or plants are most attractive to new birds and then stash them around the yard in bird feeders. It shouldn’t take too long for new birds to arrive and investigate.
  3. Even birds like waterside dining – Not all birds won’t eat from bird feeders, but all birds need water. A good, large water source, or many smaller ones, will give birds or all types a reliable place to find water. Birds have keen hearing, and moving water will be heard  from greater distances. Consider a bubbling bird bath or full fledged water feature if birds are your thing.Water Features & Pools
  4. Behold bird friendly landscaping – Yes, this is a thing. Bird friendly landscaping features native plants with thick coverage to offer familiar shelter for regional birds. To make plants even more effective, choose trees and shrubs with seeds and fruits the birds will enjoy as a natural food source. On a budget – an old Christmas tree makes great shelter for birds if you have a place to keep in the yard. A side note – native plants also help to create a drought resistant landscape

After you’ve tried one or all of the above, be patient and watch your yard closely. Despite loving the new food and water, they may still be in and out of the backyard at first. The longer food, water, and shelter are available, the more birds, and likely uncommon birds you’ll see for longer periods of time. Trust us. 

Bird Friendly Landscaping in Portland

All Oregon Landscaping provides native plant expertise, water feature design and build, and any other landscaping to help you enjoy the birds in your backyard. We work in Portland, Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Sherwood, West Linn, Aloha and more. Give us a call to talk about your backyard plans, or tell us how you’ve been able to attract new birds in the comments!

By Rennett Stowe from USA (Backyard Bird FeederUploaded by russavia) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons