By: Bond Jordan
It’s spring and time to think about starting up our irrigation systems. We had a cold winter and some systems most likely did not get properly winterized. Be careful if you are turning on your system yourself for the first time this season.
Look for leaks on zones and main lines. April 15th is when irrigation activation season starts. Be conservative about watering times. Check moisture levels in the soil. If you your soil is moist you will not need to run your system as much as you might think. You want to try and achieve 1” per week. If you have heavy soil you can sometimes get away with a lot less.
Checking your clock
Your controller is one of the first places to examine. You need to know where your zones are, what kind of heads are on that zone, how long that zone is set for, what type of soil is in that location and what your sun exposure is in that area. All these factors will help determine how long those zones need to run. Understanding your controller or hiring someone who understands your controller can save you time and money. Believe it or not, many people over water their yards and many yards don’t get enough. Your sprinkler heads need attention also. Check to make sure they’re properly adjusted, not leaking or blocked by debris, tall grass, or overgrown shrubbery. This may cause some areas to get too much water and other areas to thirst for water.
Signs of irrigation problems
There are signs that plants and turf are not receiving the proper amounts of water. Turf can look grayish blue and you will see foot prints if you walk on the turf. A closer examination will let you see folded leaves showing signs of drought stress. Too much waster can show up as a slight yellowing of the turf, with some brown spots throughout the leaves also if you were to kneel down on the turf your knees will probably get wet. Plants which are receiving too much water may lose leaves or the leaves may turn yellow then fall off of the plant. Those signs will clue you in on watering problems in your yard. Adjust your heads and controller to maximize your yards watering needs. You can also check for other signs your system my be having problems. If the side of your house or fence stays wet, then your yard has a circular or partial circle that looks very drive. These signs could indicate a broken or blocked head.
Turn your system on and go through each zone and watch all the heads operate. Make sure you watch each head rotate over its entire area and back so you see its full range. Once you have checked the whole system, make sure you zones have been set to the proper times. If you don’t know how long to run each zone you can put baking pans in your yard to measure how much precipitation your heads are creating. If you are running your system three times a week you should try to get 1/3rd of an inch each watering. If you have heavy clay you might want to run 2 times a day at 1/6th of an inch to achieve 1” of precipitation per week. Drip lines are a great way to conserve water by going straight to your target and not evaporating. Also watering between 4am-10am is a best practice. Your yard can better absorb the water while it is cooler in the day. Just remember, use your water wisely, its a limited resource.