If you plan on maintaining a sizable lawn and want to keep it green during the growing season, a permanent in-ground irrigation system can conserve water and save time, too. A properly installed system can deliver just the right amount of water when and where your lawn needs it, and it eliminates the need to drag portable sprinklers and hoses all over the yard. In-ground sprinkler systems also make sense for a vacation home that you visit irregularly or if you travel frequently and are not always home in summer to attend to your lawn’s water needs.
HOW PERMANENT SPRINKLER SYSTEMS WORK
A typical in-ground sprinkler system delivers water via a network of underground pipes to all areas of a lawn. It consists of multiple control valves, each of which can either stop or start the flow of water to an area of lawn, or zone. Each zone consists of several sprinkler heads attached to buried pipes by risers (short vertical pipes) that are arranged to provide uniform water coverage to the grass in that area. Systems are divided into zones because household water pressure is capable of supplying only a limited number of sprinklers at one time.
2 TYPES OF SYSTEMS
There are two types of in-ground irrigation systems, manual and automatic. A fully automatic in-ground system will typically include a programmable controller that allows you to schedule when and where various portions of your lawn will be watered. A signal from the controller activates a small servo-motor that opens or closes each control valve at the programmed time. Some automatic systems, are equipped with moisture sensors (weather or soil) that override the controller program and prevent the system from turning on during rainy weather or after rain, while the soil remains moist. A manual system requires that you turn the control valves on and off by hand at your desire.
A well designed sprinkler system will deliver water evenly to all grass areas. It’s important to select heads that provide the right spray pattern for your needs but also avoid overspray onto streets, paths, driveways, patios, buildings and unwary passersby. Also, avoid placing a sprinkler where It will spray directly onto the trunks of trees and thereby damage the bark. The sheer force of the water pressure can score the bark, and constant wetting weakens it, making it more susceptible to pests and diseases.
SAVE TIME AND MONEY BY WATERING THE RIGHT WAY
True, water is essential to lawns. But too much or too little can harm them. Running the sprinkler all night wastes a precious resource and sets up the right conditions for disease. Frequent, light watering sets up your lawn for trouble in hot weather. Here are a few easy pointers for correct watering.
You want deep, infrequent waterings that get into the root zone. That means at least half an inch twice a week, or an inch once a week as a rule of thumb.
WHEN TO WATER
Early in the morning is the ideal time to water for most lawns. There’s less wind, less hot sun, and your lawn has a full day to dry. Watering at night invites mildew and fungus. In the hot afternoon, much of your water can be lost to wind and evaporation. If you live in the dry southwest, though, the rules are different. There, watering in the evening or night causes less evaporation.
USE THE SCREWDRIVER TEST
You can water carefully and properly, but if the water isn’t absorbed, your efforts are wasted. The only way to tell for sure whether the water is soaking in is by testing. Stick an 8-inch screwdriver into the ground after watering. If it goes in 6 inches, you’ve watered well.
MAKE SURE YOU’RE WATERING EVENLY
Sprinklers are ornery things. They don’t always put water down equally. To make sure water is going where it’s supposed to, place a few empty soup cans around your lawn, and run your sprinkler for about 20 minutes. If water collects evenly in the cans, you know your sprinkler is doing its job.
BE ACCURATE: USE A RAIN GAUGE
How do you know how much you’ve watered unless you’ve measured? That’s what’s nice about water gauges. At a glance, you can tell how much water has gone on your lawn – either from your sprinkler or rain. You’ll find gauges at most lawn and garden centers.