How to make the most of your irrigation system
The dry summer months are nearly upon us, which means it’s time to consider installing an irrigation system to simplify your watering needs – and your life. If your irrigation system is set up right, you’ll be able to spend balmy summer evenings sitting on the porch and enjoying your lush yard instead of dragging the hose and sprinkler around. You’ll also save water because the nozzles are set to focus on plants and turf instead of spraying onto the driveway, the house and into the street.
Here’s your guide for choosing and using an irrigation system.
Drip, soak, spray or stream?
The green rule of thumb is that your plants need one inch of water per week. Today’s “smart” irrigation systems take out some of the guess work by using your ZIP code to access historical weather data for your area; adding a weather station to monitor actual conditions; and programming soil type, plant type and slopes to give precise control over your watering needs.
There are, however, some varying factors that need to be programmed into the system to regulate water distribution for different zones of your yard. These factors include:
- Grass should have its own zone as it needs the most water due to its shallow roots.
- Established trees and shrubs need the least amount of water.
- The type of soil determines how much moisture is needed. Clay holds a lot of moisture, while loose sandy soil does not.
- Water immediately after fertilizing in the summer or the turf will burn.
- Newly planted shrubs, flowers and grass need water daily for 14 days while roots are establishing.
- If runoff occurs on steep slopes, try irrigating that zone multiple times per day with shorter durations.
There are four types of irrigation systems used for home landscape maintenance.
1) Drip irrigation: This water-efficient method entails a slow, steady drip delivered through thin hoses or tubing and bubbler nozzles, inline emitters or micro-sprayers. It’s great for rock gardens or flowerbeds on a slope where heavier watering may mean runoff into the street or driveway. The downside is that the filters need periodic flushing to prevent clogging as well as the buildup of minerals and dirt. Improper installation can be another problem, resulting in poor root development.
2) Soaker hoses: These porous hoses are typically buried a few inches under the topsoil of your garden for quick, deep watering of plant roots that won’t dry up during hot summer afternoons. Soaker hoses can cut down on wasted water because there’s no runoff and moisture can be sealed in with a thin layer of mulch. The downside is that the hoses tend to be thin and it’s easy to slice into one with a rake or weeding tool.
3) Spray sprinkler systems: Nozzle heads installed at ground level are employed for even watering of turf, shrubs and flower beds. This method is the easiest way to water a large area in a short period of time, and works best on flat areas where runoff isn’t an issue. On the downside, this is the least water-efficient method because a certain amount of precipitation evaporates on the surface before it can soak in on hot day. And, conversely, overwatering can easily occur if the system is left on too long.
4) Rotor sprinkler systems: This method operates similarly to an automated spray sprinkler system. The difference is that the entire sprinkler body rotates in an arc, dispersing water through “stream” nozzles that are more concentrated and precise than spray heads. Rotor nozzle heads are generally used for large areas of shrubs, trees and turf. They can also be programmed to rotate in patterns that are compatible with oddly shaped areas. It’s important to note that the effectiveness of the powerful jet streams of water is dependent on higher water pressure than spray nozzles.
How do irrigation systems work?
The trick to a worry-free irrigation system that delivers a steady precipitation rate is twofold.
First, choose the right hose or sprinkler for each zone of your yard. Newly planted spring pansies have much different watering needs than established perennials. And both have different requirements than turf and shrubs.
Second, a well-tuned irrigation schedule keeps water conservation in mind, and ensures your garden won’t get scorched and your yard won’t turn yellow from flooding. You can run a drip zone for hours, but a spray zone only needs a few minutes. The automatic timer ensures you won’t forget to turn your sprinkler on or off. You also can install a “smart” system that can be remotely adjusted with a smartphone app while you’re on away on vacation.
Uyeta Landscape & Maintenance has been family owned since 1967. Our caring and knowledgeable team has over 50 years’ experience combining art and science into landscape environments that leave clients and communities with a sense of pride and place.