LAWN AND LANDSCAPE AUTOMATIC IRRIGATION TIPS
Justin Quetone Moss
Winter is still here, but it is never too early to start thinking about ways to save time and money in the yard. When spring arrives, many homeowners are too busy and forget to check on the irrigation system to ensure everything is working properly and that irrigation water is being utilized efficiently. The National Irrigation Association (www.irrigation.org) offers these water-saving tips to maintain and update automatic irrigation systems:
- Adapt your watering schedule to the weather and the season. Familiarize yourself with the settings on your irrigation controller. Adjust the watering schedule regularly to conform with current weather conditions.
- Schedule each individual zone in your irrigation system. “Scheduling” accounts for the type of sprinkler, sun or shade exposure and the soil type for the specific area. The same watering schedule should almost never apply to all zones in the system.
- Inspect your system monthly. Check for leaks, broken or clogged heads, and other problems, or engage an irrigation professional to regularly check your system. Clean micro-irrigation filters as needed.
- Adjust sprinkler heads. Correct obstructions that prevent sprinklers from distributing water evenly. Keep water off pavement and structures.
- Get a professional system audit. Hire a professional to conduct an irrigation audit and uniformity test to make sure areas are being watered evenly. This can be especially helpful if you have areas being under-watered or brown spots. The Irrigation Association maintains an online list of Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditors.
- Consider “smart” technology. Climate- or soil moisture sensor-based controllers evaluate weather or soil moisture conditions and then calculate and automatically adjust the irrigation schedule to meet the specific needs of your landscape.
- Install a rain shutoff-switch – inexpensive and effective. Required by law in many states, these money-saving sensors turn off your system in rainy weather and help to compensate for natural rainfall. The device can be retrofitted to almost any system.
- Consider low volume drip irrigation for plant beds. Install micro irrigation for gardens, trees and shrubs. Micro irrigation includes drip (also known as trickle), micro spray jets, micro-sprinklers, or bubbler irrigation to irrigate slowly and minimize evaporation, runoff and overspray.
- Water at the optimum time. Water when the sun is low or down, winds are calm and temperatures are cool, between the evening and early morning, to reduce evaporation. You can lose as much as 50% of water to evaporation by watering mid-day.
- Water only when needed. Saturate root zones and let the soil dry. Watering too much and too frequently results in shallow roots, weed growth, disease and fungus.