by Greg Van Trump
Recent rainfall has delayed the watering season a bit, but with warmer days expected, now is a good time to inspect your irrigation system. It’s simple to do and only takes a few minutes for each watering zone. Just manually turn on each station, walk through the zone, identify any problems, then schedule your landscaper (or spouse) to fix them.
A very common problem found in spray systems is blocked spray heads, caused when plant material grows too high for sprayers to reach over. The fix may be as easy as mowing the lawn more frequently or pruning foliage around the sprayers, or it may require moving a plant located too close to sprayers.
Another common problem is tilted sprayers. In an efficient irrigation system, all spray heads are perpendicular to grade, so they apply water evenly over the area. A tilted spray head will create wet and dry spots because the side tilted up disperses water high into the air, creating a dry area, while the other side shoots water straight into the soil, creating a small flood. This condition also applies to rotors, micro sprayers or any other type of overhead irrigation. Tilted heads are easy to identify and often only require a quick dig around them to straighten.
Drip systems are generally more efficient than spray systems, but maintenance is often deferred since they are tucked under plants and mulch and are easy to forget. Even though you may be used to seeing small geysers springing up where drip emitters once were, or rivers emerging where a shovel has cut a drip hose, believe me, a drip system is not a backyard water feature. Identify the problems, grab a handful of drippers and some “goof plugs” to fix any goof-ups, and fix those leaks.
While you’re at your timer don’t forget to evaluate it, too. Use your timer’s programs to schedule watering of different zones at different intervals according to water needs or microclimates. Plants in part or full shade can be scheduled less frequently than the same types in full sun. Ideally all plants in each zone will have similar water needs. If not, you may need to do more relocating. Also, check that the backup battery is not dead—many timers will erase all programming if they lose power because of a dead battery.
And remember, MMWD offers free water use consultations for our customers through our Conservation Assistance Program (CAP). We’ll evaluate your indoor water use and walk through your landscape irrigation system and timer with you. Just call 945-1523 to schedule an appointment.