When clients say they want low-maintenance yards, I always ask if they’re interested in installing an irrigation system. The two most time-consuming tasks in keeping up the landscape are often watering and weeding. Fortunately, having an automatic irrigation system saves time on both!
The majority of the irrigation systems we install are the “full meal deal” kind, with a backflow off of the main water line and a multi-zone electronic controller. For clients with lawn and planting bed areas, we generally recommend spray zones for grass and drip zones for plants. The amount of time saved by having an automatic watering system varies, of course, based on the size of the property, number of plants, water requirements of the plants, weather conditions, etc. In most yards, watering duties can easily add up to hours per week.
Set It and Forget It
With an irrigation system, you can essentially “set it and forget it,” resting at ease knowing your plants’ watering needs will be met. We will program the controller for you, making sure the lawn and/or plant areas receive the appropriate amount of moisture. During the early stages of a landscape, plants will need more water because their root systems are not yet as robust. The watering times can be dialed back after the plants have acclimated.
How, you might ask, does an irrigation system also save time on weeding beds? By delivering water directly to each plant via drip watering, the surrounding bed areas are not being sprinkled with moisture. Weeds need water to grow too, and keeping non-planted areas dry helps slow the growth of unwanted vegetation.
The Installation Process
A traditional irrigation system, as described above, is somewhat invasive to install in that it requires trenching throughout the yard in order to install the main lines for water. This often involves boring under pathways, sidewalks, and sometimes under driveways. It can be a lengthy process depending on the size of the system and the number of watering zones needed. We make sure all lawn areas have “head to head” coverage so that every inch of grass is covered. In the drip watering areas, a small tube and emitter is installed at the base of each plant. Larger plants and those with higher water needs may have multiple lines and emitters leading to them to ensure they receive more water during the programmed time.
Spray or Drip Irrigation
Spray Irrigation Systems
Spray irrigation systems routinely offer the best watering option for lawns because of that head-to-head coverage. Grass is generally a thirsty plant, and spray or rotor systems can project the water over great distances, ensuring each blade gets the water it needs. While I already mentioned that spraying water over planting beds can unintentionally deliver water to weeds too, it can also result in water loss due to evaporation.
Drip systems are known to be more efficient because the droplets are delivered at ground level and aren’t cast about in the wind or being zapped by extra heat as they make their way to the ground.
Some clients have smaller spaces to irrigate and simpler watering needs. In these cases, a drip watering system that runs on a battery-operated controller attached directly to a hose bib can provide a good option for automatic irrigation. Because these hose bib systems are less complex and reduced in scope, they can be installed far faster than traditional systems. These faucet-end controllers have become pretty sophisticated too, with blue-tooth technology that allows you to set and control the program by smartphone. This drip system results in a more affordable option for those looking to stretch their landscaping dollars.
Installing a Rain Sensor
A great way to further improve the efficiency of a watering system is to have us install a rain sensor that works directly with the electronic controller. During particularly wet times, the landscape will receive enough rainfall that supplemental water is not needed, and the rain sensor will override the system. As things dry out a bit, the system will come back on as needed.
Irrigation systems don’t require much in the way of maintenance. The system should be winterized annually to ensure the lines don’t freeze; we can do this for you by blowing all water out of the lines. The system is then turned on again in the spring once the rains slow down and things warm up. If you have a battery-operated hose bib system, the controller should be removed and brought inside for the winter. It’s a good idea to refresh the batteries each spring. Take care when working around your irrigation system – drip lines can be pierced by an errant shovel, and spray heads can break if a car drives over them. Rest assured, however, that we can help with repairs. We are a Rain Bird Select contractor, which means our team has met specific technical and ethics requirements outlined by Rain Bird.
We Can Help!
If budget allows, installing an irrigation system is a great way to save yourself time and keep your plants happy. And to offer even more incentive, we offer a one-year warranty on all plants that we deliver and install if they are covered by an automatic irrigation system. We can also help diagnose and repair issues with existing irrigation systems. Contact us and we’ll help recommend the best next steps to meet your landscape watering needs!