Spring has arrived, and in some regions of the U.S., the warmer weather has already begun. After another long winter, you might be tempted to jump right back into your lawn maintenance and landscaping, and no one would blame you. After all, winter weather can take a heavy toll on your natural outdoor spaces, and you might think that the sooner you can breathe life back into your greenery, the better.
That said, you must approach these processes carefully and strategically, especially when it comes to jumpstarting your irrigation system. Failing to take the proper precautions can damage your lawn and your irrigation system itself.
Understanding Your Irrigation
The first step to avoiding an irritating irrigation experience this spring is having a basic understanding of how your irrigation system works. While there is plenty of variation between these systems, they can serve the same purpose and function similarly. Their purpose, of course, is to automatically and consistently provide your lawn and garden with the right amount of hydration they need to thrive. When properly installed and calibrated, your irrigation system should save you time, energy, and water in the long run.
Irrigation systems are made up of several key components, namely pipes, sprinkler heads, and valves. Of course, the size, shape, and material of these components will vary based on your circumstances, needs, and budget. In order for your irrigation system to operate efficiently and safely, the GPM (gallons per minute) of your water source must be measured. This rating will help determine the flow, size, and overall design of your system.
Your system must also be optimized for the type and size of surfaces being watered. For example, lawns require larger sprinklers to remain hydrated, and flower beds (which are more delicate) benefit from smaller heads. Sprinkler heads may also be stationary or rotate at a certain rate and angle. Lastly, your system’s shut-off valve and backflow prevention valve(s) should be placed in convenient locations to save on water costs and allow you to control flow.
Taking Proper Precaution When Rebooting Your Irrigation System
Even with a rudimentary notion of how your irrigation system functions, you might wonder why improperly restarting it in the spring can lead to lawn problems and potentially damage your system’s components.
Consider this: your pipes (which are beneath the soil) and sprinkler heads (which are just above it) have just endured several months of freezing temperatures at the ground level. Additionally, water has not been flowing through your system during this time. All of this means that the inside of your system will be stiff and fragile, even if spring has already commenced. If you suddenly send gallons of water through it right after this dormant period, you’re bound to burst a pipe at the very least.
In order to jumpstart your irrigation system this spring without any problems, the first step is to be patient. You’ll want to wait until the ground has fully thawed. You can do so by inserting a shovel into the soil, aiming to penetrate at least 12” before contacting hard, frozen ground. Then, be sure to inspect your system’s components (sprinkler heads, valves, etc.). Check for damage and remove any dirt, debris, clogs, etc.
Also, make sure your backflow prevention device is properly attached to your system (you or your lawn services may have removed it for the winter months) and close test cocks, open shut-off valves, and tighten all bolts. Once everything checks out, you can turn on the water, but do it very, very slowly, opening the main valve just a bit so a small amount of water can enter the system. The less pressure, the better.
When in Doubt, Rely on the Professionals
All of the steps outlined above are necessary for getting your irrigation system back in action for spring. But if it all sounds too complicated or you simply want a professional touch, hire a reliable irrigation and/or landscaping service. At The Parke Company, our irrigation services include installation of new systems, add-ons to existing ones, repairs, backflow testing, winterization and spring startups, and more. Let us help you prepare your lawn for the warm weather. Give us a call today at 615-350-6033.