Spring is the perfect time to assess and repair the irrigation system for your trees and garden beds, so you can correct problems before summer heat stresses your plants. It's also a good time to consider whether your irrigation system needs renovation.
Why Renovate Your Irrigation System?
There are plenty of reasons to evaluate the function and efficiency of your irrigation system and update or upgrade it.
Foremost on the list is water savings. Even with our efforts to eliminate water-thirsty lawns and use xeriscaping principles, more than half of our household water bills typically go into the landscaping. You can conserve water and lower your bills with the right landscaping and a more efficient irrigation system.
Another way to save money is to keep plants in your landscape healthy. Overwatering, underwatering or watering incorrectly can cause stressed plants. For example, you might have the right amount of water going to your flower bed, but it's coming out of spray emitters. The sprinkler heads are less efficient than bubbler or drip systems because sprays of water in the air evaporate more rapidly than slow drips at ground level. Plus, spraying leaves of crowded bedding plants or late in the day can lead to plant problems.
You need to reassess irrigation during or after a landscape overhaul. For example, taking out a lawn means there’s no more need for sprinkler heads in the area.
Many homeowners renovate their irrigation for convenience as well. There is a point at which all gardeners tire of dragging hoses around their yards or hauling water pails to plants. Your time might be worth the investment in irrigation renovation.
By assessing how much water your trees, shrubs and beds receive, along with how they're watered, you can improve water use and plant health. Even minor steps, such as keeping up with maintenance and repairs, can help. And sometimes, it's worth your time and money to renovate the entire watering system.
Where Do You Start?
Your first step in deciding whether to renovate your irrigation system is to do a spring check-up, which involves:
- Checking for leaks or puddles of water
- Replacing or repairing broken sprinkler heads or drip emitters
- Looking for leaks in the valve box
- Checking the controller system to ensure batteries are charged and valves open and close properly (by running each station while you observe)
- Flushing filters, emitters and hoses to remove mineral buildup
Your next step is to assess your landscape and plants. People often leave drip tubes and emitters as they were when the landscape first was designed or installed. But things change! In particular, trees and shrubs grow. You might need to move or add emitters around your tree, for example. They should supply enough water for the tree's current size and irrigate the tree out to where the canopy (leaves above) end, not at the trunk. Or you might have an old emitter spraying onto roses or bedding flowers. Switch it out to drip if you can.
Check plant health at this point, recalling any problems you noted the previous growing season. If a plant has been looking less than healthy, try to determine whether it needs more water, less water or a different watering method.
Finally, if you already have a smart irrigation controller that detects rain or allows you to override watering through an app or other method, you probably are conserving water already. But a smart controller will not save as much water and money if the irrigation system itself is inefficient or antiquated.
A professional landscaper or irrigation consultant like Titan can help you estimate water use and how much you can save on water bills if you renovate your irrigation system. The investment you make likely will pay for itself in a few years, both financially and in the health and beauty of your landscape.