Pre­par­ing your ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem for spring­time

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - GARDEN - By Paul F.P. Pogue

If you’ve in­stalled an au­to­matic ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem in your lawn, you al­ready know you’ve made a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in your lawn’s health. Pro­tect that in­vest­ment by tak­ing the proper steps to turn­ing it on for the first time of the sea­son. Ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems in­volve many small mov­ing parts and a con­stant wa­ter flow, and these el­e­ments re­quire fre­quent main­te­nance. You should per­form an in­spec­tion at least twice a year — when you start up for spring and when you close up for win­ter.

Startup af­ter freez­ing ends: You can han­dle many el­e­ments of prepa­ra­tion your­self with a lit­tle know-how and care. If you prop­erly win­ter­ized your sys­tem last fall, you’ve al­ready drained and blown out all the ex­cess wa­ter, so the pipes are clear. Check the weather re­port be­fore turn­ing on your sys­tem for the first time. Ice is an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem’s great­est neme­sis. Make sure you’ve passed the sea­son’s last frost be­fore turn­ing things on.

If you ac­ti­vate your sys­tem your­self, make sure you check all zones to be sure the heads are work­ing prop­erly and ro­tors and sprayers are do­ing what they should be do­ing. Look closely for wa­ter bub­bling up around the heads. That could in­di­cate a crack or a leak that will need to be re­paired. In any case, it’s a good idea to hire an ir­ri­ga­tion pro­fes­sional to per­form a thor­ough in­spec­tion, which can help pin­point leaks or other po­ten­tial prob­lems. This ser­vice usu­ally costs be­tween $65 and $100.

An in­spec­tion helps catch prob­lems early. For mi­nor prob­lems, early re­pair will pre­vent your sys­tem from wast­ing wa­ter. And for big­ger prob­lems, you could pro­long your sys­tem’s life by re­pair­ing them be­fore they cause ma­jor dam­age. A tech­ni­cian can also of­fer ad­vice about the best way to set up each sprin­kler head to al­lo­cate wa­ter use.

An ir­ri­ga­tion in­spec­tor will check for leaks, check for wiring is­sues, ver­ify that the timer is work­ing prop­erly, slowly pres­sur­ize the main line, check the rain sen­sor, check all the zones for proper func­tion and spray pat­terns, straighten crooked heads, and per­haps most im­por­tant, test the back­flow pre­ven­ter.

Check the back­flow: Your back­flow pre­ven­ter is a cru­cial com­po­nent of the ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem, and of­ten you can’t check it your­self. Out­door wa­ter can eas­ily be­come tainted by fer­til­iz­ers, pes­ti­cides and an­i­mal waste. If that ma­te­rial flows back into the potable wa­ter sys­tem, your fam­ily could eas­ily be­come sick by drink­ing the tainted wa­ter. A back­flow pre­ven­ter makes sure the flow of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter goes only one way: out.

In fact, this is so im­por­tant that many mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties re­quire ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem own­ers to hire a cer­ti­fied pro­fes­sional to per­form a test and ver­ify it works, even if you aren’t per­form­ing sep­a­rate main­te­nance. In most cases, a pro will in­clude this ser­vice as part of the over­all sys­tem in­spec­tion. Check your lo­cal reg­u­la­tions for de­tails, and even if it’s not re­quired, strongly con­sider a back­flow in­spec­tion any­way.


Ex­perts rec­om­mend in­spec­tion of your ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem af­ter win­ter’s last frost.

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