2018 Guide to Property Irrigation: Everything You Need to Know

The Parke Company is Nashville’s leading landscaping services provider, specializing in tree service, lawn maintenance, hardscape installation, and, of course, irrigation systems.

We have been providing irrigation design, installation, and system servicing to new Nashville construction and century-old landscapes for more than 30 years. We don’t advocate that you attempt to design and install an irrigation system as a DIY project, but we do believe that as the property owner, you should have a working knowledge of how an effective system works.

That’s the objective of this guide. We want you to understand how an effective irrigation system can nourish your investment in landscaping, conserve water, and avoid the very real and costly dangers of an improperly pressurized system. With that in mind, we will walk you through the basics of design, equipment selection, installation, and maintenance of a modern irrigation system.

Hopefully at the end, you will be able to evaluate your existing system or make informed decisions if you are investing in new irrigation.

Irrigation System Design Basics

Measure Your Lawn.

Keep in mind that all the data gathered during this stage is recorded to scale on a software program that will become the “map” of your irrigation system. Because the irrigation system is essentially all about pressure, measuring distances and lawn elevations has to be accurate to avoid dry spots.

Measuring the property can be accomplished with a low-tech tape or a high-tech laser range finder, or even GPS calculations. Property on the lawn (like your house, outbuildings, etc.) need to be measured and plotted as well. This is also a good time to locate and plot trees and existing garden beds.

If your property has a slope, it’s important that changes in elevation are measured and plotted. To determine elevation, all you need are three satellites, a GPS, and a program that calculates all the variables. A DIY method is a bit less sophisticated and involves two stakes, a line of string, a level, and a measuring tape.

Measure Your Water Supply.

This measurement is critical. A mistake here could cause “hammering” in your water line and create a need for expensive plumbing repairs. Ultimately you are looking for pressure (PSI) and volume (GPM) to determine the layout and equipment that will effectively irrigate your lawn. If you are serviced by a water company, they are the most accurate way to determine PSI and GPM.

The process that our expert irrigators use involves checking with the water company for the average static water pressure available to your home, measuring the diameter of the water supply line, and in cases where there is a regulator between the meter and the intake pipe, using a gauge to measure the actual pressure in the home’s plumbing. These measurements are important because we will use them to decide where to tap in for the irrigation system.

Once we determine how much pressure we have to play with (PSI), and the maximum amount of water flow (GPM) available, we can start to lay out the system knowing how much pressure will bleed off during irrigation based on product specifications. This will tell us how to design the system and where to install the sprinklers for optimum coverage.

Select Spray Heads

At The Parke Company we are big advocates of pressure regulating spray heads. The water supply pressure from Nashville, or just about any municipality, can and will fluctuate. When that occurs, it can impact the efficiency of your irrigation system, namely in overwatering or in underwatering.

Pressure-regulating spray heads are products that include a built-in regulator that maintains a more constant pressure for optimal nozzle performance. Typically for spray nozzles, 30 psi provides the best performance. For rotary nozzles, the preferred operating pressure is 40-45 psi. Correct nozzle pressure helps the nozzles distribute the water more evenly and reduces water waste caused by excessive pressure.

Plot the System

Our next step is to plot where the spray nozzles will go and what type of nozzles we will use (cull circle, half circle, quarter circle, or rotary). The placement of these nozzles determines the coverage provided. After that, we need to divide the lawn into zones, designating areas you want to irrigate as a group. The idea is to spread out the watering, preserving the pressure and maximizing the water flow.

Using the product specification sheet, we can determine the water flow rate required for each zone. If a zone exceeds the available flow rate, we can simply break out some of the nozzles and create a new zone.

As you may be suspecting at this point, you most definitely are going to need an automated system with robust control and scheduling capabilities.

Once the nozzles are located, it’s time to plot the pipes and zone valves. When selecting pipe, we always ensure the size of the pipe will be adequate to pull the water flow we need for the “thirstiest” zone. In addition, we plot the location of a backflow preventer, which will eliminate the possibility of contaminating your clean water supply.

Installation Basics

Installation starts by flagging the location of each nozzle. Nozzles are spotted so there is 100% coverage meaning the spray from one nozzle will reach the spray head of the nozzle next to it.

As you might imagine, there is a lot of trenching involved in installation. Because Nashville has relatively mild winters, we only dig down 12” for the main line and 8” for the laterals. We will use a trencher to speed things along but even so, there is a great deal of hand trenching required. So, step one is to dig all of the trenches.

To get a feel for what the piping grid looks like, let’s walk through how the water gets from the supply line to the sprinkler head.

The Pipeline

We will tap into your water supply line at a point between the water meter and the house. Obviously, we need to turn off the water when doing this, but the process takes very little time. Once we install a connection to the water supply line, we install an irrigation system shut-off valve. With this valve closed, we can turn the water back on to the house.

The main line runs from the shut-off valve to the valve box. Inside this box is a manifold consisting of a series of electrically operated valves. One for each zone. So, if your design has three zones, the manifold box will have three valves each connected to an outgoing zone pipe. The valves are connected to a low voltage controller cable that runs back to the timer and programmer. The valves automatically open and close per the schedule entered into the timer.

The zone pipe provides water and pressure for the lateral lines, which feed directly into the sprinkler heads.

Sprinkler Heads

Sprinklers come in a variety of configurations. We have already selected the sprinklers we want and where we want them based on the maximum water flow (GPM) available. The ultimate objective of the sprinklers is 100% coverage and our placement and type strategy assure that goal is met.

There are a variety of connections that can be used to mate the sprinkler with the lateral line. Once that has been done, the sprinkler is stabilized with some dirt in an up and down position with the head even with ground level.

Sprinklers are tough, but if they are sticking up out of the ground somebody is going to run a lawn mower over them or hit them with a weed cutter and do damage.

Controller

The controller is the brain of your irrigation system. It decides when and for how long each zone will be activated. It can communicate with a rain sensor and stop irrigating when nature takes over the job. The better models can also take mandated conservation efforts into account, like watering on odd days only. At The Parke Company we will make a recommendation on controllers but the final decision is yours. We can install and program all major brands.

Controllers can be located inside or outside, although outside requires protective covering and a direct connection with the electrical system. Garages tend to be popular spots for these devices. Interior installations require drilling through a wall to run conduit containing the control cable to the controller, and access to a nearby outlet.

Once the control cable is connected, and the system is programmed, you have a bare bones irrigation system ready for the final phases of installation.

Flush the Lines

With all the cutting, gluing, crimping, digging, and other activity, the pipes are likely to have dirt and debris in them. This material needs to be flushed out so that sprinklers will not be clogged from the inside. To accomplish this, all of the sprinkler heads are removed, and the irrigation system shut-off valve is opened to charge the system with water.

We let this flush run about 15 minutes then close the cutoff valve and replace all of the sprinkler heads.

The final step is backfilling the trenches. Care needs to be taken not to dislodge the sprinkler heads from their up and down position. The dirt is compacted to prevent low spots from forming. Then, using seed or sod, we restore the lawn that was disrupted by the trenching.

What We Didn’t Tell You

There are two components to an irrigation system that we didn’t mention because we didn’t want to confuse you about how the water flows through the pipes. Both components are important. One is required by code and the other is a must have maintenance feature.

A backflow preventer device ensures that water in the irrigation system cannot be sucked or siphoned back into the main supply line of the house. Nashville’s Metro Water Services requires that this valve be placed on the main supply line immediately behind the water meter.

The second item is a drain valve for the irrigation system. Our winters aren’t all that cold but they are cold enough to freeze the water in your irrigation pipes. If that happens you will have a major repair on your hands, not to mention a new pond in your lawn when you first turn the water back on. There are a number of ways to drain your system, but the best way will be determined by the terrain. Once we have inspected the lawn we can plan for effective drainage.

Why You Need The Parke Company to Install Your Irrigation System

We know Nashville and the surrounding communities. We know the soil, the species that thrive (and fail), and we have been at this work in Nashville for more than 30 years. The people in Nashville are very pleasant but they are also practical. They won’t let you stay in business for three decades unless you have a stellar reputation for delivering as promised.

We have the experience, staff, and resources to design, install, and maintain irrigation systems of any size anywhere in the Nashville area. Call us today and experience The Parke Company difference for yourself.

Summer Grass Care Tips for Nashville Lawns

Summer is coming, Nashville, and it’s time to brush up on a few simple lawn maintenance tips to keep your grass looking lush and beautiful. The combination of hot

temperatures and heavy rains can do damage to your lawn. This is particularly true if it is planted with cool weather grass like  Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fine fescue.

The key to keeping your lawn healthy in the summer revolves around two simple tasks: lawn mowing and watering. Done right, a properly mowed and irrigated lawn can stay lush and green throughout the summer. Done wrong, roots could be damaged, and the blades can be exposed to disease.

At the Parke Company, we have been serving the Nashville metro area as a premiere landscaping service for over three decades. We know the most common mistakes that homeowners make in their summertime lawn care. To avoid unintentional damage to your lawn, we are offering simple guidelines to keep your lawn healthy, lush, and green.

Mowing – Buzz Cuts are Not in Fashion in Nashville

Mowing can be a hot, sweaty chore. It’s not surprising that some people give their lawns a buzz cut thinking that they won’t have to repeat the process as many times because it will take a while for the grass to grow tall enough to need another mowing. Unfortunately, if they do that often enough, they won’t have to worry about mowing at all because the grass will most likely turn brown and go dormant.

Taller grass is healthier grass. When grass is allowed to grow to 2.5” to 3”, it actually shades the soil, lowering the temperature and slowing evaporation. Here are a few tips on correct mowing.

  • Tune up your mower. Inspect/replace the spark plug and check for oil or fuel leaks. Most importantly, have the blade sharpened. A dull blade does not cut the grass, it tears it. Ragged tips on the grass invite disease.
  • Set the lawnmower to a 2.5” cut. If you are uncertain of the height, just set it as high as it will go.
  • Change up your mowing pattern. Mow north to south and then east to west on your next outing. Changing up patterns keeps the lawn looking level.
  • Using a mower with a bag or a mulching mower will minimize thatch buildup. Deep raking or thatching should not be attempted until the fall.

Watering – Giving Your Lawn a Tall Drink of Water

The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service says that typically lawns need 1” to 1.5” of water per week. That’s a flow rate equal to 630 to 945 gallons of water. Infrequent, deep watering is far more effective than daily light irrigation. Ideally, the watering session will reach 4” to 6” into the soil.

The Extension Service advises that the best time to water to minimize evaporation and the possibility of watering lingering on the surface of the grass is between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. If that’s not possible, try 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

So, the takeaway is to use a sharp blade, don’t cut your grass too short, and give your lawn a deep drink instead of sprinkling daily.

Contact The Parke Company

Or, if you don’t have the time, contact us today. We offer a full line of lawn services including maintenance of shrubs and tree trimming.

How to End Standing Water in Your Nashville Lawn

leaves in water

Did you know that Nashville gets over 47 inches of rain each year? If you have an area in your lawn that always seems to attract standing water, you’re probably well aware that Nashville gets its fair share of precipitation. We are also pretty sure that you are not looking forward to May, Nashville’s rainiest month.

Standing water is more than just an inconvenience, particularly if it is gathering along or near your foundation. There is a solution for standing water, it’s just not what most people think it is.

The water is standing because the ground is a low spot, right? So, to correct that, all you need to do is add topsoil and build the ground up. That’s a popular belief, but unfortunately it doesn’t solve the problem. The topsoil eventually will be washed away, and the standing water will return.

Short of grading your entire lawn, the water that lands on the lawn is still going to drain to what is your “low spot.” What you need is a way to move that water to another location. What you need is a French ditch.

Ditch Digging Your Way to a Dry Landscape

At the Parke Company, Nashville’s leading landscaping service and tree service, we are no strangers to lawns with standing water. Water seeks the lowest level and if you put something in the way of that natural flow, like the foundation of a house, it will backup, saturate the soil, and become standing water. The solution is to capture that water and move it someplace else. And that’s just what a French ditch can do.

The French ditch has been in use since the mid-1850s, usually as a farm drainage system. While the materials have been upgraded since then, the concept remains the same. Essentially, you dig a ditch through the standing water area and to an area that can either absorb or disburse the moisture. The ditch uses a perforated pipe that allows water to percolate up into it and carries it away. Sounds like a simple lawn maintenance issue, right?

Well, if you’re planning on doing it yourself, here’s a quick list of equipment and materials that you will need:

  • Flat edge spade or rent a Ditch Witch
  • A pick
  • Perforated pipe and connectors (if required)
  • Dry well (if required)
  • Washed gravel (lots and lots of washed gravel)
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Enough garden fabric to cover the length of the pipe

Installing a French Ditch

Putting the ditch in takes a lot of physically challenging work. But before you break the first sweat, there are steps you want to take:

  • First, call your local utilities and find the location of any buried lines on your property. If you have an irrigation system, you’ll want to determine if the line or control cable runs through your projected ditch.
  • Stake out your ditch.
  • Start digging. The depth and width of the trench will depend on the size of the pipe you use. The ditch should be graded to lose 6 inches over 100 feet.
  • If you are going to use a dry well as a collection point, dig a hole for it at the end of your ditch.
  • Start pouring a gravel base into the ditch. Dump the gravel into the ditch and use the spade to spread it.
  • Lay the pipe and snap the end into the dry well (if applicable).
  • Cover the pipe with gravel and then cover with garden fabric to keep dirt from entering the perforated pipe.
  • Cover with dirt. If you were careful about saving the sod when you started digging, add the sod and tamp down.
  • Wait for a good rain to see results.

Contact The Parke Company

Of course, if you want to skip this exercise, give The Parke Company a call. Our lawn services are not limited to lawn mowing and tree trimming. We can solve your “standing water” problem fast and professionally. And if you take into consideration your time, material, and equipment costs, Deep Heat rub and aspirin expense, we can probably install your French ditch for less than you can. Call us today!

Spring Start Up of Irrigation Systems

The weather is changing in Nashville, and soon homeowners will want their winterized irrigation systems watering lawns, trees, shrubs, and flower beds again. To do that, you have to charge the system with water, and if that’s not done correctly, you could end up with a new “water feature” in your landscape powered by a burst irrigation line.

Nashville’s leading landscaping service and tree service, the Parke Company, provides comprehensive irrigation system services as well. Our advice on re-energizing an irrigation system is to have a trained technician do the job. You’ll save time, avoid serious damage to your irrigation investment, and eliminate a bucket full of frustration that often accompanies the inexperienced who tackle one-off projects.

At the Parke Company we design, install, service, winterize and re-energize irrigation systems in spring. While different manufacturers have different procedures and automatic systems are obviously different from manual watering systems, the steps listed below will give you a general idea of what is involved.

How to Start Up an Irrigation System in Spring

When done right, and if the system wasn’t damaged over the winter, recharging your system should take less than an hour.

  • Spare parts. You hope everything survived the winter, but in case something didn’t, you want to have a replacement part ready to go. Before the recharging process begins, be sure to have extra fittings, risers, and sprinkler heads. Extra lengths of PVC plus primer and cement are also handy items to have available.
  • Test the ground. Don’t become overenthusiastic on the first warm day of spring. Before you attempt to recharge the irrigation system, take a spade and probe at least ten inches down in the ground to ensure there is no frost. Putting water in the lines when the ground is still frozen is a sure-fire way to burst a pipe.
  • Avoiding the “Air Hammer.” The biggest risk to the system is over pressurization. There’s air in the lines and if precautions aren’t taken, the incoming water will push that air until the system can’t contain it. If you hear a “hammering” sound, you are risking blowing a sprinkler head off the line. If your system has air pressure relief valves, open them before charging the line. If you don’t have the relief valves, remove the sprinkler head at the highest point in a zone. Then fill the lines by zone slowly. When the water comes out without bubbles, close the relief valves or replace the sprinkler head. Repeat the process for each zone.
  • Test the system. Once you have recharged the system, run it for two minutes and make adjustments in spray direction if needed. Make sure there are no leaks and that sprinkler heads are level with the ground. If everything is working, open the main feed valve all the way. You’re ready to go. Reset your automatic timer if necessary.

Get an Expert Opinion

Why not take care of this important spring landscaping chore by giving us a call and having us do it for you? We are best known for our tree trimming and tree care services, but we also have clients all across the Nashville area who count on us to service their irrigation systems. Check us out and call today!

Installing an Irrigation System – Not a Great DIY Project for Most Nashville Homeowners

sprinkler

If you don’t have an automated irrigation system, you probably spend many humid Nashville evenings hauling out a hose and sprinkler to water the lawn and shrubs. Some people see that task as a pain while others enjoy the quiet time after a hectic day at work. The truth, however, is that both kinds of people are wasting water and may be damaging their lawns.

The hose/sprinkler technique is incredibly inefficient. If you care about your lawn, trees, shrubs, flower gardens, and water bill, you should seriously consider a professionally planned and installed irrigation system. At the Parke Company, we do more than tree trimming. We offer a full range of landscape services including all aspects of irrigation systems from planning to installing to seasonal maintenance.

Nashville residents are known for their sense of self reliance, and many may wonder why they would need a tree service company to put in a watering system. After all, it’s just a matter of buying the parts, digging a ditch or two, laying the pipe, burying the pipe, and hooking the whole thing up to a water source. Piece of cake.

Actually, it’s a tad more involved than that. Here’s the short list of what is required before you dig a trench or lift a piece of PVC:

Considerations

  • What type of grass do you have? Some turfgrasses require more water than others.
  • What kind of soil do you have? Sandy soil will absorb moisture while clay will not. Soil type will play a major role in how frequently you irrigate and for how long.
  • Are you going to need a building permit in your community?
  • What are the ordinances regarding irrigation systems, particularly backflow safeguards?
  • Check with your utilities before you start digging.
  • Does your community require a licensed contractor to install the system?

Gather Data

  • What is your water pressure expressed in pounds per square inch (PSI)?
  • What’s the size of your water meter and water line?
  • What is your water flow rate expressed in gallons per minute (GPM)?

Map the System

  • Use graph paper and make a “to scale” map of your property. Identify your house, garage, outbuildings, trees, shrubs, mulched areas, low and high spots, sidewalks, and fences.
  • Once the map is completed, plot your irrigation zones and the location of sprinklers, taking into consideration “spray overlap.”
  • Each sprinkler head will have a specific target. You want to avoid watering non-organic materials like foundations, driveways, and sidewalks.
  • You’ll use this map to order parts. It’s important that it is as close to scale as possible so you don’t come up short or buy too much.

Of course, all this is just the planning stage. You are definitely going to need help identifying the parts you need and how to assemble the zones.

Even a relatively small lawn can wind up being a sizeable investment if the planning and implementation is done incorrectly.

Contact The Parke Company

Avoid that risk and the frustration and give the Parke Company a call for a free consultation. We’ve been in business in Nashville for over 30 years. We are the premiere tree experts and home for certified arborists. We have the professional staff, experience, and equipment to handle all your irrigation needs. Call us today!