Kristen's Project

Discussion in 'General Gardening Discussion' started by Kristen, Jul 8, 2008.

  1. Kristen

    Kristen Under gardener

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    Well ... you can get the serialised version here. ADMIN: About my fee? ... thought not :)

    Hehehe ... well as it happens I have a Spade and Barrow parked out front ... its on a "bring your own transport" basis though (or a slow commute!)

    We have had all the trades working here but ground workers and brickies can no longer get any cement so they have had to down (i.e. "park" !!) tools. Daft. Travelling in their own car, working here on their own and (in the case of the Brickie) 50M from anyone else :hapfeet:. We've got the local decorator chopping wood as he can't get any paint so has no work. So stupid for the tax payer to be paying furloughed workers where safe work is available ... but all my local building supplies have stopped delivering ... unlike the ... ermmm ... delivery companies.
     
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    • Kristen

      Kristen Under gardener

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      Well ... if you are sitting comfortably today we are looking through the square window ...

      I started a rabbitt yesterday about the Knot Garden that we planted last Spring

      [​IMG]

      It started with mowing some "planting lines" to see how it might look. But the 2018 drought meant that grow-back, for alternative tests, was prolonged.

      I did the first zig-zag, but then needed to decide whether I should have one or two, evenly spaces, "rows" inbetween. The other problem was that the plot isn't square ... which left me a big gap to the start of the knots on the right, compared to the left. This must have been hard work back in Capabilty's days working it out with ruler and compass only on squared-paper ... it was fairly time consuming working it out with CAD and Spreadsheet on a Mower!

      In June I cut down the long grass with the topper mower

      [​IMG]

      and I started "layout by mower" :) with "halves" towards the end of July

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      The "rows" were too far apart ... but it was two months later, towards the end of September before I could have another go.

      [​IMG]

      I tried Quarters on the Right and Thirds on the Left

      [​IMG]

      The Right Quarters looked too fussy, and by my guess the row-spacing was tight. I also started trying out a "border" and a "separating wall" on the outside (right). At this time I was thinking of Euonymous or Japanese Box for the Knot Garden, and Yew for the "outside wall"

      [​IMG]

      The spacing on the Left "Thirds" looked much better.

      I never managed to find anything on T'Net as to spacing, and was basing my thinking on a visit to local Helmingham Hall. That is a rather different Knot incorporating T (bottom right) and A (Top left) into the design for Lord Timothy and Lady Alexandra ... out of my league!

      [​IMG]

      but the one I liked most is at Washington Old Hall. I really wanted to visit it, to get an up-close view (I'm never shy about reeling out my long tape measure at public gardens!) ... but its a fair flog from here, and a visit to Edinburgh Fringe a couple of years ago, that was planned to take us that way, got changed as we were delayed en route. At the time even getting good Photos of it off T'Net was a challenge.

      [​IMG]
      Washington Old Hall Knot Garden (How did he get there? ... hmmm ... how am I going to be able to do that?)

      So mow-lines finalised :) I got the
      :dig:
      out :) and did the Prep using traditional double-dig

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]
      Cut a clean edge with the Half Moon

      [​IMG]
      And then the following Spring got a mini-tractor with PTO rotavator in:

      [​IMG]

      Heavy soil here, too wet to get the mower onto the grass, it always looks dreadful in the Spring until I can get onto it (solved in a later episode :) )

      So ... planting :) Starting with "What to plant?". I had a thousand Box plants, grown from cuttings some years earlier in readiness for this project, but I had got cold feet about Box Blight. I also had a thousand or so Euonymous grown from Shiney's hedge trimmings ... and I had through that alternating colours would look good.

      [​IMG]


      [​IMG]

      but I decided it would look fussy, Shiney only had two colours and I needed three (What WAS Shiney thinking of? :heehee:) and I needed 3,000 plants not the 1,000 I had ... my thought was to use Japanese Box which is actually a Holly Ilex crenata and thus without the Box Blight risk; I had bought a few plants as propagation parents, but they hadn't fared very well so I wasn't sure if they would like me or grow fast enough (somewhat borne out by the difference in Price: 20/30cm Box is £1.60, Ilex crenata is £2.54 :( ). So I had a chat with Boxtrees Nursery who sell both, in various variations too, and he said that he couldn't understand why i wouldn't plant Box ... thereby doing himself out of a more lucrative sale. So my mind was made up; I had 1,000 (by then) tall box plants, so I could buy some Medium and some Short to get an instant "height change" effect, and save some money on the plants. To hedge (Hehehe ... sorry about that!) my bets I also bought 100 Ilex crenata for another project, and from which I will take cuttings to grow a set of replacements in case the Box all succumb in future (or, given how dear such things are, a retirement fund! .. I figure that the Knot Garden, bought as Mature Plants, would be £150-grand :cool: ... bound to be some got-rich-quick Mug out there ...)

      [​IMG]
      March 2019 the plants arrived :)

      [​IMG]

      Laid out some Large/Small pots as a template for the plant sizes to avoid UpCocking. It worked out neatly that there were 4 small ones "inbetween", which was 2x Medium and 2x Short for the "unders", and then 3x Tall for the "overs"

      [​IMG]

      [​IMG]

      My "tall" ones looked extremely anaemic next to the lovely nursery raised and TLC-lavished ones
       
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      • Kristen

        Kristen Under gardener

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        [​IMG]

        [​IMG]

        [​IMG]

        [​IMG]

        Also planted the Yew "outer walls" which will separate this "room" for the surrounding area. Got through a few buckets of Chicken Pellets too.

        [​IMG]
        May 2019

        [​IMG]
        August 2019 - my anaemic ones have got demob happy!

        [​IMG]
        March 2020 thickening up (and note that the grass looks better than March 2019 :) )

        I put leaky hose down on the whole lot to convert irrigation from "a long walk with a hose-and-wand" :) to "turn the tap on". Delivery didn't happen; I called the supplier. "I'm looking at the delivery now, can you tell me where your house is in the road please?" I explained ... "I can see that the delivery driver went straight past you" ... blimey! ... I might have expected the delivery company to have been able to do that, but was well impressed (and somewhat bothered ...) that a Supplier could see that, of the delivery company they used.

        "The epicentre of my Postcode is a house down the road a bit, I'll go and ask him if he had the delivery instead"

        so I trotted off down the road. "Hi, would you have noticed if a kilometre of pipe had been delivered? :roflol: , or maybe a postcard dropped through the letterbox?"

        No such luck .. delivery driver had half-hitched it "busted", so they sent me a fresh shipment.
         
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        • shiney

          shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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          The joys of living in the country! :doh:

          I have solved the problem by putting a traffic cone outside on the day deliveries are expected. :blue thumb:

          I've got one out now awaiting delivery of my new mower. :) The old one is giving me too much trouble starting it :phew: and it's only 26 years old! :scratch:

          Anyone want a mower? :smile:
           
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          • Kristen

            Kristen Under gardener

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            I hope its a robot ... you know, given your "age and condition".
             
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            • shiney

              shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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              :old:
               
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              • Kristen

                Kristen Under gardener

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                Husqvarna Robot AutoMower

                My ride on mower looks a bit like a flying bedstead

                [​IMG]

                Its got a 60" cut, does about 4 MPH, I guess that's a couple of acres or more an hour. Took me a little under 1.5 hours to mow the lot. I have some "decent sized rectangles", but also quite a lot of fiddly paths.

                Its a cylinder cut (gang mower type), so reluctant on long grass at the beginning of the season and at that time I have to lift the side cylinders and restrict to only using the 1-of-3 rear cutting reel (as per photo above). It needs fettling to keep the cylinder blades sharp and well "set", and was totally knackered. In fact it was knackered when I bought it 2nd hand of eBay a decade ago :rolleyespink:. As was the second one I bought, which I then cannibalised for spares. Engine is good though. I hit one of the wings on a tree, looking the other way, and snapped it off. Replaced that with the "arm" for a wing off the Cannibal. Did that again on the other side a year later ... the belts were always hard to adjust to provide traction in the wet. And if they came off, went through the blades, and got cut into shreds ... they weren't a lot of use. Yeah, that happened too.

                Service the engine, new plugs, new oil. Put petrol in it ... all that jazz. Nope, I have absolutely no idea why anyone would have a Dinosaur Fuel engine anymore.

                So it was knackered, and beyond the point where I wanted to try to salvage it, other than as a "tug" for towing Sweeper and Trailer, given that the engine is still strong. But TBH I'd prefer a motorised electric barrow of some sort for that ... maybe even an electric quad bike with a straw-bale-platform on the back or somesuch. Free running cost off my own PV panels :)

                Did I like mowing? Never really thought about it, up until that point. I found it quite cathartic, and I wore noise-cancelling headphones for ear protection (its fairly noisy ... big engine) and they Bluetooth'd to my phone, and I have a Podcast APP to listen to ... basically it downloads stuff all Winter long, and it takes me all Summer Mowing to catch up with the backlog!! ... going to have to think of a new solution for that.

                But there were downsides too. I would mow on a Friday evening, after work, to have it all spic-and-span for any weekend entertaining. Unless it rained. Or I was busy. Then I would have to rush to do it Saturday morning, come rain or shine, along with any other BBQ-Prep chores on my list, and when people walked round the garden the clippings would still be there and get carried into the house. I make it sound worse than it was ... but ...

                So for some time my mind had been made up on Robot Mower. We are an Eco household, have given up on Oil in pretty much all its forms, some changes (such as central heating) were made more than a decade ago. So basically I filed it under "Can't afford not to have it" :whistle: and showed Mrs K my Man Maths justification (luckily the one and only thing she is Pants at is Maths :) )

                Then I shopped around. Sweden was 10% cheaper than the nearest lowest price (delivered even ...). Although I made a boo-boo. Their VAT there is higher than the UK, so if I had bought it through my company, and sold it to myself (at the full 20% VAT), that would have saved me a further 5% (IIRC) ...

                Found an excellent Guy-with-Gadget to lay the perimeter cable

                [​IMG]

                and waited for the Mower to arrive ...

                [​IMG]

                yeah, looks a bit extravagant doesn't it? But it was cheaper than a (new) replacement ride on that could cut all my grass in under 1.5 hours like the old one. Except that I would almost certainly have bought another knackered one off eBay, and cursed it for the next 10 years, just like the old one ...

                I have 4 distinct areas of grass, not easily inter-connected, and each of them close-ish to the limit for a single machine (actually that's not true, but that is what Husqvarna says, and my "not true" has caveats)

                One of those areas is the Orchard. Its never been mowed, other than some walking-paths, and I have only even given it a hay crop style cut, with tractor and topper mower

                [​IMG]

                So I cut the Orchard, with Topper Mower, then ran the neighbours John Deere ride-on over it to get it a bit more tidy, and then just let that AutoMower loose on it. As you would imagine, never having been "mown lawn", the "finish" was tufts of grass, and plenty of bumps and humps. Not outrageous, but you'd notice them just walking across it ... and the grass was extrememly coarse (compared to a frequently mown lawn).

                Other areas were much more smart :)

                [​IMG]

                In case you aren't familiar with it, AutoMower just wanders around at random. It may be slightly more sophisticated than that ... but not much. It works on the basis that if it mows "continuously" it will, at random, cover every last inch. Also, it will cut such a tiny amount off each blade of grass, and do that so often, that there will be no clippings to be seen and also the grass be the happiest it has even been, and look in tip top condition.

                In the main that is true. I have no Friday-night-stress of cutting the grass, and I don't care if it is raining. But I need larger shirts, trousers and belts ...

                A side effect is that the amount of actual cutting is tiny. It must be by design, but its seems counter intuitive to me. Underneath the mower is a disc (attached to the motor) to which are attached three blades looking a bit like razor-blades. They jut out (and cut) only about 1/2". The first time the mower travels over a strip of uncut grass it is hard to tell it has done anything. Unlike a one-pass rotary mower the AutoMower blades don't cut every blade of grass in their path. But after its been over it 1,000 times in the last hour (I know, you've told me a million times not to exaggerate ...) it looks perfect.

                Husqvarna had a challenge some years ago, and gave AutoMowers to people just asking them to post some YouTubes through the first season. Universally the people said that their grass looked far better at the end of the season then they have ever known, and I would agree with that.

                The biggest benefit, which I hadn't anticipated, is that every morning when I go out, or leave for work, the lawn looks like it was just cut (and, indeed, it was ... mine only mow at night)

                No stripes though, but on the bits of lawn where I want that, and for the relatively few occasions that I do, I tow the Sweeper or Roller over that patch of lawn.

                The AutoMower does NOT cut right to the edge. It will run onto e.g. flush-paving, and cut that edge, but a flower-bed edge it needs to leave enough room for its leading wheel, so you do have to mow-those-edges. I used to do that anyway, as after using edging-sheers (strimmer in my case) I then ran the small Battery mower around the edge to smarten them up. But, yeah, AutoMower is NOT entirely No Mow - unless all your edges are onto paving. Maybe I'll convert all my bed-edges to single rows of bricks ...

                Some Before/After

                [​IMG]

                No, that's isn't "exactly" the Before ! That's my naturalised Daffodils. I cut that down with the topper mower, but it leaves a couple of inches rough finish. Similar to being roughly strimmed.

                This is how it looked after AutoMower had had a go at it for a bit

                [​IMG]


                [​IMG]
                Before ^ This too I ran the topper mower over
                After a week or two v
                [​IMG]

                [​IMG]
                This, on the other hand, is exactly how it was when AutoMower arrived. This is the Orachard which was never a mown lawn; I had cut it a couple of weeks earlier with the neighbour's ride on Rotary tractor to get it under control (so a better Starting point than my Topper Mower, but still quite long and shaggy, and as said above "bumpy" as never formerly mowed in the past)

                [​IMG]

                Couldn't believe the transformation after a month or so.

                I got some Pipe in to put round young trees so that the mower could just bump into them (to avoid having to lay a really complicated perimeter wire pattern). My trees are planted in a dip, so that rain runs towards them, and that was too steep/sudden for the mower's front wheel

                [​IMG]

                By the by, that bank has a fair slope (close to its operational limit), which hasn't been a problem. There is a "4WD version" for properly steep banks.

                It does get stuck ... some of the things it attempts to mow are pretty ambitious!

                [​IMG]

                [​IMG]

                Mexican Standoff!

                It doesn't care about tables / wheelbarrows and other abandoned detritus, it bumps into them and about-turns and head off somewhere else. Small objects - children's toys maybe - could get trapped, or "mowed". We have a Dog Poo wormery, but mower is out every night, and clear-up isn't that often. I haven't had a "stuff being slung everywhere" problem
                 
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                • Kristen

                  Kristen Under gardener

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                  When it gets stuck the APP reports that there is a problem

                  [​IMG]

                  and the MAP option shows you where the mower is

                  [​IMG]

                  But in general the APP is dreadful - typical of "Written by IT bods and no focus panel / human feedback involved". Does everything I want, much of it illogical, tedious, and discombobulated

                  The APP would be a lot more usable for anyone who has no more than one mower. That may well be "most people" of course ...

                  There is a list of My Mowers:

                  [​IMG]

                  When you click on "Use as current mower" it moves that mower to the top of the list (only a couple of mowers visible, so the top one is typically "off screen" relative to the one that actually had the problem, so you then have to scroll to the top to find it again)

                  [​IMG]

                  and then you can press "Dashboard" (from the separate drop-down menu). (It does spring up a pop-up momentarily when you do "Use as current mower" but my phone frequently doesn't accept the finger-press on that). You cannot choose a Mower from the dashboard ...

                  I have absolutely no idea why UNPAIR MOWER is one of the most required options on MY list of mowers. That's an example of lousy implementation. (I'm sure its handy for someone installing loads of mowers, and wanting to DELETE them once the jobs are done, but an "Installer mode" could be provided for that).

                  You can't see what the error is from that screen (why on earth not??), nor get to the Dashboard, nor view the Map to locate it (except by calling up the separate dropdown menu which is multiple click-steps). But you can one-click UNPAIR it ...


                  So on the separate "Dashboard" screen

                  [​IMG]

                  you get to see what the problem is. No, the mower was not outside the working area, it has never, ever, done that. But sometimes it, wrongly, thinks that has happened.

                  So click on MORE DETAILS and get this:

                  [​IMG]

                  I have never, ever, seen any useful additional detail so I've stopped even looking at that screen.

                  I did say the APP was rubbish didn't I? Here's another example:

                  [​IMG]

                  START is greyed out in this situation ... so you have to walk to the mower, put in the PIN code (for which there is a delay of several seconds before you can do that, whilst it "wakes up", just to properly frustrate you), and then you can just select OVERRIDE to carry on mowing.

                  [​IMG] [​IMG]
                  [​IMG]

                  Can't do any of that "Override timer" from the APP, although the APP does then helpfully say:

                  [​IMG]

                  :wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging::wallbanging:

                  Quite a number of things you should be able to do from APP are only possible from the Mower. And lots that you can do from the APP and not at all from the Mower (beware if buying the non-connected model).

                  You cannot set an "area" to be mowed, it will only do the whole thing. I think that's a bit disappointing as some areas of my lawn grow much faster than others, and I would like them prioritised. But you can get the mower to leave its garage and follow one of the wires. In addition to Perimeter wire there are one/several (depending on model) additional Guide Wires (direct route to a remote part) connectors, and the mower can be set to follow Wire-X for Y-distance and then start mowing from there. That is useful if the mower has to go along a narrow path to get to "Another area". Out of the box you can just leave it to do its own thing

                  Be careful when you do this !!
                  [​IMG]

                  Yeah, I'm a dozy twit and snagged the perimeter wire while scarifying.

                  [​IMG]

                  I let the mower run, flat out, for a couple of days after scarify and it cut off all the sticky-up bits very nicely and then I ran the sweeper over it.

                  [​IMG]

                  [​IMG]
                   
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                    Last edited: Apr 3, 2020
                  • Kristen

                    Kristen Under gardener

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                    Summary

                    Yup, I love it. APP is dreadful, but adequate.

                    Maintenance is close to Zero. I change the blades twice a year - that's unscrew 3 screws, replace tiny blade, screw back in again. No oil change, spark plugs nor blade sharpening and adjustment. A bit of cleaning now and then, to remove stuck-on-clippings, helps.

                    I'm on very heavy land and was never was able to get on my lawn early in the season. No longer a problem. And no longer a fight at start of season to get the long, fast growing, stuff under control. This year I let them mow through the winter (instead of storing them). There isn't a low temperature mode, to stop mowing when frosty though ... and although you can say PARK (until further notice) and adjust the timer schedule from the APP, you can't say "Mow NOW for X hours" - for that you have to physically do from the Mower :wallbanging:

                    Lawn is always neatly mowed. Originally I had it mow during the day at weekend, to show off my new toy to visitors, now I just have it mow at night ... don't need to see them at work. The mowers have headlights ... the ONLY reason they are needed is so that all your neighbours, people walking past, and visitors know that you have a Robot Mower :cool: (There is an option to turn the headlights off, the mower only works by bumping into things, it doesn't actually need to see where it is going! ... they can flash when it has an error to make it easier to find)

                    Silent. You aren't going to annoy the neighbours cutting the lawn at 2AM :) ... well unless you leave the headlights on and they happen to notice.

                    I have one large and complex area, with lots of perimeter wire around each bed etc. Benefit of hindsight: There are companies that sell "better than Husqvarna wire". It is thicker, and perhaps has a more robust sheath. The extra diameter is important; I compromised, because I was in a hurry to get wire and none of the vendors had any stock <sight> so i bought wire from RS Components. But whilst perfectly adequate it was a bit thinner, and after we laid it we couldn't get to work until we disabled a stretch. I reckon if we had used thicker wire there would have been no problem (total wire length was within Husqvarna's Spec). Don't buy Husqvarna's perimeter wire, it costs both-arms and both-legs, the compatible stuff is way cheaper. Its just wire :). You need to allow for all the perimeter, including all the ins-and-outs for getting to/from Island beds and anywhere else that needs protecting - Pond? but you also need guide wires tot he furthest point in as many directions as the mower supports (bigger models allow more guide wires). They all add up to make the total.

                    If I have a temporary obstacle - a pile of sand maybe - I just put some logs around it as a bumper.

                    Husqvarna has a lawn-area-calculator - it springs up a Google Satellite Map. Slide your garden into the "bounding square", and then draw a perimeter line around your lawn, including all path edges etc. and it will tell you how big your lawn is, and what model you need

                    A complex lawn is going to take a long time to mow. A rectangular football pitch much less. Every time it turns it takes it 15 seconds (my large model mows roughly 1M/second, so each turn wastes 15M of mowing).

                    This is what the "recently mowed map" of my Orchard - a relatively rectangular, open, area - looks like

                    [​IMG]

                    Nice long straight runs, except where it hit a tree/obstacle

                    You might be able to configure the "X% of the time follow THIS guide wire" to get to harder-to-reach bits, but otherwise it has to find them at random. If there is a narrow-ish gap to get there the mower has to hit it at the right angle to enter ...

                    I have a path that runs roughly North-South. The mower has been up and down it loads of times, all the time Phoning-Home with its GPS location every time it "turns".

                    But it has not learnt not to be dumb. It could turn and then mow "roughly North or South" but it is pure chance whether it tackles that path like that ... or not. Sometimes it goes side-to-side. It hits the edge at an oblique angle, backs up a bit, and then turns. It is 50:50 which way it turns, and if it turns the wrong way (towards the narrow angle side) it then has to revert, change its mind, and turn the other way. I find it a bit staggering that it isn't optimised to use "local knowledge" to optimise that better. The longer it runs the more "battery life" it uses up ... the battery will only recharge so many times ...

                    My front lawn has the small model dedicated to it. The Manual Specification has a calculator so that square area of lawn can be converted into "the number of hours that the product must operate each day". That mower has "operational capacity", in sq.m per hour, of about 70. It has a mowing time, per charge, of 70 minutes and a recharge time of 60 minutes and a "working capacity" of 1,500 sq.m. That's about the size of my front lawn, and theoretically 1,500 sq.m. / 70 sq.m/hour is 21 hours a day .i.e. "flat out". I have the timer set to mow for 2 hours every night. That's all, although I increase that in Summer when it is growing faster. A long way short of "flat out"! But my biggest mower, on the biggest area albeit it well within the limit for that mower, and having the most complicated layout, spends a lot of time on the big flat area that doesn't need repeated cutting, coz the grass there grows quite slowly, and just to make sure it also covers the remote paths enough I've got it set to run 16 hours a day.

                    My advice would be to throttle back the hours-per-day until it is noticeable that the lawn isn't being mowed enough. Fewer hours = less electricity "fuel", but more importantly longer-battery-life as fewer recharges.

                    Get one, you won't regret it :)
                     
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                    • shiney

                      shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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                      Sounds complicated to me :scratch:. I suppose it's better if you have a mobile. :heehee:

                      I thought it was recommended that you bury the guide wires so that you can't snag them when doing other work. :)
                       
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                      • Kristen

                        Kristen Under gardener

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                        Yup. Mine are buried at just the depth that the scarifier can find them again for you :)

                        Nah, loads of very important and straightforward stuff

                        [​IMG]

                        Surely you need to know that for your new Hater? :pcthwack:

                        The blinking Husqvarna website is just as Duff as the APP, and they have managed to make that unbelievably complicated. Have a laugh at this:

                        [​IMG]

                        So for that Model there are 25 INDEX PAGES of different manuals, 10 per page. You will notice that the Title for each, on this page, is identical. So not much of a clue, eh?

                        As it happens I got lucky, and only the second one is in English. I suppose if you want the manual for something earlier than 2019 you'd be happy to just go through each page, one by one ... and then open each in turn to find the language of your preference <thud>. IT bods have some answering to do ... he says!
                         
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                        • shiney

                          shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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                          • Kristen

                            Kristen Under gardener

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                            Pity I'm not on commission ...
                             
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                            • Perki

                              Perki Total Gardener

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                              I think I'll stick to my pedestrian mower :rolleyespink: , at least my mower and me knows where we are going most of the time :scratch: :)

                              I see some working at the local lawnmower dealer they do a good job, I didn't know they couldn't get right to the edge but now I think of it I should of known.
                               
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                                Last edited: Apr 3, 2020
                              • CanadianLori

                                CanadianLori Total Gardener

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                                I looked at those a few years back but the price was beyond my budget and I have such a small lawn, I couldn't justify it. It sounds like it operates pretty much the same as the robotic vacuums and window cleaners. Love playing with gadgets like this :)
                                 
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