With water efficiency being more important than ever this season, it is important to conduct a spring appraisal of the automatic sprinkler system. Here are a few tips on making sure that sprinkler systems are tuned up and ready to keep your landscape looking great without wasting water.
Survey for problems. Since it is best to water the lawn and garden in the early morning hours, a problem may not be discovered until it is too late. Turn on the irrigation system for 15-20 minutes and survey the landscape for any potential problems. Look for dry spots or puddles and adjust the sprinkler heads accordingly.
Adjust watering times. Water long enough to saturate the soil six inches deep. Poke a screwdriver into the soil to see how deep the water is being absorbed. If the screwdriver meets resistance caused by dry-hardened soil less than 6 inches from the surface, then adjust watering times to increase soil saturation.
Repair parts. Replace cracked, chipped or worn plastic nozzles. Nozzles and sprinkler heads are designed to withstand the normal wear and tear of irrigation, but are no match for errant lawn mowers, the neighbor's dog, or even curious kids. A broken sprinkler can wreak havoc on lawns, gardens, and water bills, so it is important to check and replace them periodically.
Inspect heads. Check for rocks, dirt, sand and other types of debris that may block the even flow of water from sprinkler heads, uneven distribution can lead to too much water in some areas and not enough in others, both resulting in a discolored, unhealthy landscape.
Flush out debris. Simply twist two sprinkler heads completely off and then turn on the sprinkler system for two or three minutes. This should flush out any debris that may have accumulated over the winter, and relieve air pressure within the underground pipes.
Replace the back-up battery. Every 6 months, replace the back-up battery, and keep a copy of the watering schedule nearby. A power surge, or brief outage in the middle of the night could cause the timer/controller to reset and clear all of the pre-set watering programs, a glitch that may go undetected until the grass starts turning brown. A fresh back-up battery will provide enough power to keep the pre-set programs saved until the power resumes.