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We recently bought a larger, irrigated property out here in Mesa and we're struggling to understand some complexities that irrigation introduces.

Anyone have suggestions and/or know some contractor's who can help?

A few questions:

1)  We're thinking that we probably need to build little raised walls around our garden beds to prevent erosion and then just use drip lines to water it.   Is this right?  Does anyone use the actual SRP irrigation to water their garden beds?  If so, do you have a lot of issues with weeds?

2) We're hoping to put in a path around our yard, something ~400 feet.   Hopefully something that kids could ride little bikes and/or little kid vehicles around it (think plastic wheels).   This would also serve as a bit of a border for our raised garden. A few complications we're seeing:

 -)   One person told us we'd have to burm it up to keep concrete from cracking?  He mentioned soil expanding, then condensing due to the water is really bad fro cement  Is that true?  any way around it... that sounds really ugly to have to do that..

 -)  How would it look if it was ground level?  Would it get ruined and/or buried ?

 -) Would we be created a heat island?  Any materials good at NOT absorbing and storing the heat?

-  Anyone have experience with "soil cement" or other alternative building materials that could be used to make a path?

Thanks!

-Trevor

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we have an irrigated lot ... i would like to recommend the following ... it has worked out well for us:

1

put your production garden in 'at / in-grade'

2

install a drip system

3

build a berm around the beds

... best of both worlds: a berm for the times you want 'drip only' and to exclude the flood irrigation .... 'breach' the berm when you want a flood irrigated situation ... for example ... tomato plants can thrive on flood irrigation early in their development ... until they bear fruit ... that is when flood irrigation can be considered detrimental to further fruit development (splitting due to too much water) ... with that said, we also have tomato plants that grow through the season on flood irrigation only (one watering every 2 weeks) (mostly small varieties: yellow pear) (good soil development / abit of shade / a living ground plane cover / good micro-climate) ... and of course, most of the perennial species + fruit trees can eventually establish themselves to that 2 week summer schedule ...

you will have more weeds with flood irrigation ... not appreciable in my view ... we leave 'weeds' in place to act as a 'living mulch'

for that much walk ... i would consider a semi-paving ... 1/4 minus stabilized granite with an (organic binder) ...

Thanks for the quick reply.  We've been digging out the old burmuda growth with sod cutters and have already trenched most of the drip lines (it's beena  busy few days!).

Great tips on when to flood and when not to flood as well.  I'll have to keep that in mind when we're able to start planting.

In these garden beds I'm most concerned about getting Bermuda in them. have you noticed Bermuda as one of those "weeds" carried into the garden from irrigation?

. i'm doing everything I can to get rid of bermuda first and block it... cutting it back, will be putting a cardboard barrier in place, and even pouring concrete and curbing in place several inches deep to discourage Bermuda Growth.

Concrete walks and patios are poured a minimum of 4 inches thick and often 5 to 6 inches so some excavation is required.  Forms with vertical edges should be used - tapering the edge will cause cracking.  After the forms are removed, soil can be raked even with the edge.  There is no need to berm the edges unless you like that look.  Planting a ground cover on the berm can soften the look of the walkway.

Walkways should be poured in sections - 4 to 8 feet long - with expansion joints between.  Rebar or wire mats will reduce cracking and hold the concrete together even if it has cracked.  3/8 inch rebar is sufficient.  You can buy wire mats at Home Depot - 4'x8' with 6" mesh.

Expansion and contraction of soil is not damaging to concrete.  Concrete is MUCH stronger than soil so horizontal movement has no impact. Vertical movement might cause some cracking but the concrete itself will limit the water underneath it and the rebar will reduce breakage. Here in the Valley it is not likely a problem.  Water is actually a chemical component of concrete; it needs moisture to cure properly and after it cures keeping it moist increases its strength.

A concrete walk will be hotter than the surrounding soil but not excessively so. This can be mitigated by planting ground covers along the edges, pigmenting it or coating it with a "cool decking" like many pools have.  But I wouldn't worry about the heat.

For kids and bikes, the cleanest option is probably concrete.  Soil cement might work but I don't have any experience with it and it may not be a good long term solution.  Decomposed granite is a popular option but is tough on plastic wheels and impossible to skateboard on.

While 400' is a long walk, it's not a difficult DIY project and you can add your personal touches - kids handprints, drawings, embedded mirrors, marbles and mosaics.  Done in a few sections at a time, you get more experienced and creative as you go along. 

Thanks Brian, some really good insihts into concrete paths!   I really like the personal touches idea you have.

Before reading Bryan's post above we'd found the decomposed granite solution that is MUCH more affordable than pouring as much concrete as we need to pour.  I like the DIY, personalized touch approach though.  We may do a few different techniques... or make it some kind of tradition to add another track of special, personalized concerete... as our kids get older.  We plan on being in this house for the next 60 years :)

No reason why you have to pave it all at once.

My dad built a square paver form and would mix up a Sakcrete bag on special occasions - birthdays, school starts and graduations, deaths -  and draw or a have someone draw in the wet cement.  The pavers are scattered around his property.  It's a very cool remembrance.

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