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Spring has Sprung - and So Did My Sprinkler System

April 12, 2011 - 3:05pm


While it hasn't even been a month since the official arrival of spring, we've already enjoyed a handful of dry, sunny, 80-degree days. Like in many areas around the country, this time of year also means the start of regular lawn watering.

Last week we turned on our sprinkler system for the first time since winterizing it last October. Part of the activation process includes testing each "zone" to ensure the sprinkler heads are working correctly and are only spraying the lawn and plants (not the sidewalk or street).

Halfway through the process, I noticed that one of the sprinkler heads didn't "pop up" as expected. Water was gushing from under a newly placed concrete paver. Upon closer examination, we realized the sprinkler head was missing—and the plastic underground tubing was severed. We've made plans to have it repaired.

We also programmed the irrigation system to water at intervals optimized for our local climate and time of year. Throughout the coming months, we'll tweak these settings to meet the lawn's needs and align with the city's water restrictions. Especially for home owners who have automatic sprinkler systems, it's easy to forget that regular lawn watering uses a tremendous amount of water and can contribute to higher than necessary water bills.

Consider these easy tips for saving money and water when caring for your lawn:

  1. Water only when your lawn needs it. The rule of thumb is that your lawn needs one inch of water per week. If you walk across your lawn and leave footprints, it's time to water. Or you can use a screwdriver as a probe to test soil moisture. If it goes in easily, don't water.
  2. Water during the coolest parts of the day. Mornings are best to prevent fungus growth and minimize evaporation.
  3. Water slowly and deeply to avoid runoff and allow for better absorption. This will help your lawn's roots learn to grow down into the soil, improving their strength and health. It will also prevent evaporation.
  4. Use sprinklers that throw big drops of water close to the ground. Smaller drops of water and mist often evaporate before they hit the ground.
  5. Consider using a soaker hose, which waters closer to the ground and plant roots and reduces evaporation.
  6. Double check that your sprinkler heads aren't spraying onto your sidewalk or driveway. It's easy for a sprinkler head to get knocked loose or jolted by lawnmowers or summer recreation lawn activities.
  7. Check for and fix leaks and replace broken heads, which can waste hundreds of gallons of water.
  8. Install a rain-shutoff device, soil moisture sensor, or humidity sensor in your sprinkler system to avoid watering when it's not needed.
  9. Check your sprinkler system's water pressure and use a flow and pressure gauge, which can save hundreds of gallons of water.
  10. Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants, which will help keep the soil moist and prevent evaporation.
  11. Set your lawnmower blades one notch higher, which keeps the grass blades longer, provides shade to the roots, prevents greater evaporation, and inhibits weed growth.
  12. If an area needs a little extra water, don't run your sprinkler system longer. Try watering that section by hand.