Constructing the Infrastructure

Constructing the infrastructure of your garden isn't as simple as putting garden furniture and plants in your garden. It's important for you to know the basics and other essential information about the infrastructure needed for your garden. This page discusses everything that we came across about constructing the infrastructure for our garden. You will also find tips on the things to do, and how to do it the right way. Feel free to read the subjects on this page so that you'll learn new things about your garden.

This chapter discusses the "underlying" garden infrastructure with the exception of the drainage-system that we have combined in the chapter: Ground levelling, drainage and soil enrichment. The infrastructure is very much underlying because most of it sits under the ground-surface and is not directly visible. Placing the infrastructure is done together with levelling the ground surface and where applicable enriching the soil, hence the above reference.

Because most of the infrastructure cabling, hoses and pipes is put under the surface, this work is done in combination with ground surface levelling and soil enrichment of the Ginshanada, gravel surfaces, the Tsukiyama sections and areas to be paved.
Also paving, garden-wall construction and veranda, duckboards and path foundation preparation are directly related to the above construction work and need to be taken into account and carefully planed together.

The following ground-plan shows the network of cables, pipes and wires and will be referenced in the elaborating sections below.

Tsubo-en network

Infrastructure construction entails the three primary infrastructure facilities:

  • The drainage-system (yellow).
  • Watering supply and irrigation or sprinkler-system (blue).
  • Lighting and garden electricity-system (red).
The following construction activities are more or less listed in the order in which they are logically performed but are very interrelated and partly dependent.

The drainage-system (yellow lines)

Although we regard the drainage-system to be part of the garden infrastructure we have addressed it in the section where the related work seems best in place: Ground levelling, drainage and soil enrichment.

Watering supply and irrigation or sprinkler-system (blue lines)

A hose, and perhaps a sprinkler, are essential in a large garden with a lot of watering to be done, or a garden on dry soil. Availability of tap-points to connect a hose to speed up the frequent watering makes live more easy. Sprinklers can be attached to tap timers to control the amount of water delivered and even run unattended during your absence

A soak-hose, or leaky hose, has pores that allow water to seep out, gently watering the soil along its length. This can be left in position for long periods if necessary, for instance to establish a hedge in dry ground. This technique is not used in Tsubo-en.

Fixed irrigation systems with drippers and/or sprinklers are available for large and small gardens, and fixed lines with drippers are very convenient for watering containers and pots. A set irrigation system is very convenient if watering must be repeatedly carried out, for instance, in the dry shade of trees. A sprinkler-system can be a real time saver. And of course if you are in a position that you can use a pump and either surface water or ground water then this can also save the environment and money.

We used "standard" sets that are available on the market. To determine what type and how many sets we needed we used the following drawing.

This drawing was used in conjunction with the groundplan in Design the architecture or in the Table of Contents where the pipes, accessory and attachments are more precisely positioned.

The drawing shows that the sprinkler-system does not cover the left side compartment. The watering of the left side, part of the front garden but also some "blind-spots" in the water front (back side) and main garden is a manual activity. To ease that work we also have a tap-point in the left side that is connected to the "water-switch" so that here we can also use water pumped-up from the canal.

You will need to design your own Sprinkler System according to the area, sector and range you want to water.

A very wide range of irrigation equipment is available for garden use. Being made of modern plastic materials, it is relatively inexpensive. Much of this can be installed by a skillful layman (like us)

This photo shows some of the basic components.


We make very limited use of tap water. When necessary the tap can be connected to the water-switch.

The water switch also offers an extra tap to connect a garden hose in support of the manual sprinkling of the plants and area's that are not covered by the sprinkler-installation.

This is the "water-switch" (4-way Water Distributor) from where all water supply in the garden gets dispersed.
Normally it is connected to the garden-pump (see below) but it can also get connected to the regular water tap.

This shows placement of a below-ground connection-point and sprinklers and connection between the connecting pipe and the sprinkler system.
Such system is recommended for dispensing larger amounts of water with 19 mm (3/4") hoses, best in combination with a garden pump for rain or surface water utilization.

The inlet pipe to the water distributor is 25 mm x 3/4” (1") and can supply a number of sprinklers via the outgoing 19 mm (3/4") pipes.
water 2

A sprinkler placed between, or almost in, the path that leads to the "hidden terrace" and the wall of the "water side terrace".

The wide range pulse sprinkler, with its radius of 12 m (40 feet) covers the whole of the O-karikomi and more. It is place on a raised position to make optimal use of its capabilities.
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Moved by invisible hands, i.e. by water pressure, the sprinklers pop up from underground. When their work is done they disappear under the tsukiyama again. 0219
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In the center of the main Tsukiyama we have placed these two "water sockets" or "water connectors".

Pump 1

We have a number of "water sockets" or below-ground connection-points, where we can connect a garden hose. Just a "click" and water is readily available anywhere (the one to the right).

The other socket contains a water switch to independently turn on or shut off the front garden sprinklers.
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The garden-pump that gets its water from the waterway at the back of the house is placed in a corner of the "water side terrace". On top of the pump you see the hard-plastic pipe that is connected to the "water-switch", from where it gets dispersed to the sprinklers "water connectors" and taps.
The third connection is electricity from the mains that is near at hand. By means of a timer this turns into an automatically controlled watering system.
The pump is hidden by a wooden bench.

For those interested:
The pump is 800 Watt, has a maximum delivery capacity of 5000 liter/hour, a maximum delivery head/pressure: 40 m/4 bar and a maximum self-priming suction height of 9 meter (30 feet).
The pump produces a minimum of noise.
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The 33 mm (1.3" ) inlet hose is very flexible and runs through the wall and under the terrace to the water bank. From here it gets into the water, protected by a rain-pipe and closed with a filtering water-stop.

All our built-in sprinklers have adjustable spray directions with a precision sector settings from 20° to 360°. 0990
The coverage of this type of sprinkler is Max. 225 m² with a range of Max. 8.5 m. 1001
This"Full or Part Circle Pulse Sprinkler" allows for fine adjustment to either part circle or full circle water distribution.
It has adjustment rings and a sturdy switching mechanism with a metal hammer and high-precision brass nozzle.
Area coverage is 30 up to Max. 490 m² (300 - 5300 sq.ft.) and a range that is adjustable from 3 to Max. 12,5 m (9 - 40 ft.).

This range covers the whole of the O-karikomi and more.

This is called a Circular Sprinkler Vario. For adjustable spray directions it has a precision sector settings from 20° to 360°.
It uses a special sprinkler-turning turbine for even water distribution.

Lighting and garden electricity-system (red lines)

Lighting can bring a whole new dimension to the garden. It extends the use of the garden, most notably in summer, and makes it possible to view the garden from inside the house at any season or time of day. Dramatic effects can be created by highlighting key plants and ornaments. Light can be shone on the front of an object or plant and this is known as ‘spot-lighting’. Shone behind an object, it emphasizes the silhouette of the object and is known as ‘back-lighting’.

Mood lighting effects are most successful, using small lights in key positions. This is sometimes known as key lighting. Pale flowers especially catch the half-light from lower powered lamps and create a mysterious mood. Lovely effects can be created when a garden pool or waterfall is lit with underwater lighting, the source of which is most effective when hidden.
Although not the first thought when designing a Japanese garden you may want to consider security lighting.

There are two main types for lighting. Stand alone and wired lighting. In Tsubo-en we make use of "wired lighting".
The stand alone is normally solar powered and is ideal for a quick solution to create ambience lighting. However the solar power supply can have some drawbacks when trying to position the light in densely planted borders and the ability to "collect" Sun-light.
Wired lights are supplied as 220-240 Volt or 6 to 12 Volts with mini transformers. Normally we would recommend option for the lower voltage for safety and cost reasons in every type of lighting except security lighting that is best with 240 volt because of the requirement for lighting strength.

In addition to lighting, on some strategic spots in the garden you need to be able to connect to the main power supply. Think of the reasons and purposes for which you need electricity. This can be as divers as electric hedge-shears, a fountain for instance for you chozubachi or pond, but also for Christmas-lighting or an electric barbecue.

Our electricity-system is drawn with red lines on the above infrastructure ground plan.
The following shows a detail design of the main electricity and water distribution points (when time permits this should be drawn neatly).

Distribution schema

After delivery in October 1998.

The so called "hard functional" paving was one of the first things to do after the house was delivered. An other job that got the highest priority was mounting the name and number plate.

This photo is here not just to show off our beautiful "dream house", but also to remind you of something you should not forget.
The hole in the ground just under the name plate is there to make room for one of our electricity connections for the garden. This was extra work that you should not forget to do, preferably right from the beginning.

Important 1: Be sure to have a separate mains group on your power distribution panel for your garden electricity so it can be switched on and off independently. This group needs to have a earth leakage circuit breaker.
There are a number of arguments why you want to have this.
Important 2: Although not the first thought when designing a Japanese garden, you may want to consider security lighting. This requires not only a different approach of light placement but can also involve the use of timers and sensors, in addition to your home security.
More Important: Be sure that your outdoor installation is correctly grounded and the armour cabling is laid sufficiently deep. In the Netherlands this means a minimum depth of 50 cm (1.6 feet). The latter applies to main power cabling (220 V in Netherlands) and not to the low-voltage lighting cabling that is often used for lighting, small pups and the like.

Be aware that the above is bound to local rules and legislation, but even more important it is about your and yours safety !

Floodlighting is not particularly appropriate for a garden because the glare is too harsh. In Tsjubo-en however, where we have little lighting, a type of floodlight is used to effectively light the Main O-karikomi and part of the Ginshanada in front of it and the Buddhist triad. In addition to this lighting there are a number of built-in spots in the canopy of the roof of our house. 2443
A number of low-power low-voltage halogen spotlights is connected to this transformer with built-in light-sensor and timer. It can be set to switch on the lights after sunset (or actually during twilight) and to then automatically switch off after a pre-set number of hours. 0226
A waterproof double main power connector, hidden behind a stone. 2441
Be sure to use certified power ground cable and accessories for your garden electricity-system.

This implies that all accessories need to be fit to the purpose of outside use and must be waterproof or water-resistant

The armour cabling that is used is 3 or 4-wire VMVK and VMVKas (shielded PVC cable) . Not yet sure what this means in international terms.
The chozubachi tap of the main garden Tsukubai uses a very small pump that requires a main power supply.

The closed water-proof box in which the power connectors and timer are protected from rain and hidden under the duckboards. It connects to a power-socket that is mounted under the duckboards close to the 4-way water switch.

What did not work well

Here we document what went wrong with regard to the infrastructure.

  1. The author has a background in electricity and electronics so this was all DIY work.
    If you are not skilled in the area, with all types of lighting and electricity-systems it is a good idea to lay the cables yourself and to employ the services of a qualified electrician to do the design and carry out the joints and connections.

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