In areas of lower rainfall, many homes have irrigation systems installed to supplement insufficient precipitation levels. The benefits of having an irrigation system for your landscape go much further than simply providing water to your lawn and plants.
Professional Installation versus DIY
Installing your own irrigation system can be a big project to tackle, but some homeowners do opt to do it themselves. If you’re not the DIY type keep a few things in mind when hiring a sprinkler/irrigation company to complete the work.
When looking for a professional contractor look for one that:
- Specializes in irrigation or landscaping. Someone of this nature may cost more to complete the project but it will be done correctly the first time around, saving you expenses down the road to fix improper installation or problems.
- Ask up front if they are familiar with local building codes, and whether or not their work will require any permits from the city. They also need to call local utility companies to mark out any underground lines so they can be avoided during installation.
- Carries the proper insurance on his work and any crew members to cover liability if damages do occur during the installation.
- A good irrigation contractor will understand different landscapes require different products and will design a system that meets the specific needs of your landscape.
- When finished with the installation, they will walk you through the system step-by-step so you understand how it works and where all the key components are installed.
Tips For Installing an Irrigation System
When installing a landscape irrigation system on your own, some careful planning needs to be done prior to the actualy installation process to ensure the system is designed and implemented correctly. This helps ensure the system functions correctly and is installed to meet the local building code requirements.
- Determine the water pressure for your home. Sprinkler selection will depend on the psi range you have to work with. Gear-drive rotors need a higher psi; pop-up sprinklers work best at a slightly lower pressure.
- Assess the different needs of your landscape. Turfgrass has different watering requirements than trees or flowerbeds. A properly designed system applies the right amount of water for different types of plants.
- Match all of the rotors and spray nozzles in a single zone so precipitation rates are even.
- Allow flexibility in the initial design to allow for changes in the system as plants grow larger and need more water, or specimens are taken out or added.
- Consider adding a smart irrigation controller that adjusts the watering schedule automatically by monitoring the local weather.
- Educate yourself on local code requirements for parameters such as backflow preventers and mainline depth. Backflow prevention devices keep the irrigation water from contaminating your drinking water supply.
- Contact utility companies such as gas, electric, and cable to have them inspect the property and mark out where any lines have been buried underground.
- When it’s time to start digging and bury lines, make sure to Install all of the pipes deep enough underground to protect them from basic lawn maintenance such as aeration, thatching, etc. Trenches should be dug at least 6 to 12 inches deep to account for the freeze/thaw cycle in your local climate and allow retractable heads to drop below the turf deep enough to avoid damage from lawn machines.
Irrigation System Maintenance
- Periodically check the water pressure. If pressure drops, this is a good indication there may be a leak in the system somewhere. Also, water pressure can change based on extraneous factors. In that case, you will need to adjust your system to maintain efficiency.
- Check the system monthly for leaks or broken/clogged sprinkler heads. This is as simple as walking around your yard when the sprinkler system is on to visually look for problems.
- Adjust spray patterns and sprinkler head positions as needed. Over time they may misalign and begin spraying water incorrectly, not hitting the intended target.
- Winterize system every year based upon your climate. In areas where the temperatures drop below freezing, this means shutting the main water off to the system and blowing any water out of the irrigation lines to prevent lines from freezing and bursting.
Increasing Water Use Efficiency
To get the most benefit from your irrigation system, heed the following tips to maximize your water use efficiency.
- Plant to fit your yard. Access the landscape you are working with and really take a good look at limitations or factors that impact what you can plant: climate, sun exposure, low-lying spots, random patches of differing soil types, and slopes.
- Aerate once a year to allow water to penetrate through the turf easier, moving down into the soil quickly and efficiently.
- Add compost or other organic matter to improve water infiltration and retention within the soil.
- Incorporate shade trees into the landscape to reduce water needs.
- Use drip irrigation, micro-irrigation, or subsurface irrigation when appropriate.
- Water when needed, and at a higher rate but less frequently to encourage a deeper root system on plants and turf grasses. A deeper root system increases overall plant tolerance to drought stress.
A properly designed, well-installed, and routinely maintained landscape irrigation system provides many benefits to you as a homeowner. It can not only save time and money but increases water use efficiency, providing your plants with precisely the right amount of water they need, when they need it. The above guide offers tips to help optimize a system based on your needs.
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