2018 Guide to Property Irrigation: Everything You Need to Know

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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.

Controlling Crabgrass and Dandelions Without Chemicals

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Walt Whitman once wrote about weeds as “plants whose virtues have yet to be discovered.” We’re pretty sure that most Nashville residents are still waiting for those virtues

to be uncovered. Crabgrass tops the list of lawn complaints, while dandelions have both admirers and detractors.

Weed control is a lawn maintenance issue that affects all homeowners, and many of those homeowners want what seems to be an impossibility.

Homeowners often want to control weeds but not use chemicals. At the Parke Company, our 30 years of experience delivering superior landscaping services to the Nashville community tells us that a “natural” solution is possible.

The problem, of course, is that a natural solution takes time, possibly years. In an age of pre-emergent herbicides, few homeowners want to pursue a far slower strategy. But that may be changing. Where there is a consumer need that is not being met, entrepreneurs smell opportunity. That may be at play here when it comes to controlling crabgrass.

Crabgrass – Super Weed?

The best defense against crabgrass, or any weed, is a thick, healthy lawn that chokes out weeds before they can gain purchase. For crabgrass that means a healthy, thick lawn, and soil with the proper pH balance (7.0-7.5). Perennial ryegrass is the best competition for crabgrass. It also provides some insect control, as it emits a natural poison that gives some pesky bugs a lethal dose of natural insecticide.

And now, Iowa State University has studied an all-natural material that has amazing crabgrass stopping powers. Corn gluten meal, a product of milling corn, turns out to be a highly effective herbicide. Some manufacturers are adding potash and nitrogen to the meal to give the soil a boost as well. A systematic application of corn gluten meal results in 60% reduction in weeds of all kinds the first year, 80% the second year, and a weed free lawn the third.

Pretty powerful stuff.

Dandelions – Exotic Flowers?

When Walt Whitman was musing about weeds, he probably wasn’t including dandelions in that class of vegetation. The fact is, dandelions were intentionally imported to North America in the 1700s by colonists from Europe. Back then, they enjoyed a much better reputation and had a higher level of appreciation.

If you examine the “virtues” of a dandelion compared to crabgrass or chickweed, dandelions look downright attractive. Consider the following:

  •        Dandelions make a tasty wine
  •        They can be dried, ground, and used as a substitute for coffee
  •        Young dandelion leaves are used in salad
  •        They are a natural source of potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and vitamin A
  •        They are a natural diuretic

 

Still not buying it? Then get a weed fork and cut these rascals out of the lawn. Make sure you get the root, which can grow to 5 feet long. A dandelion has a two-year life cycle and you have to get rid of it before the end of the cycle. That’s when the flower is replaced with the fluffy white bloom that spreads seeds on the wind.

To prevent the growth of dandelions, fertilizing in the spring and fall are the best defense. Again, the thicker the grass, the less opportunity for weeds of any kind to thrive.

Contact The Parke Company

Another option, of course, is to let us take care of the issue. We provide a full line of lawn services including lawn mowing, shrub pruning, and tree trimming. Contact us today and let’s plan your “weed abatement” strategy together.

Summer Grass Care Tips for Nashville Lawns

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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.

Springtime Seasonal Landscaping Maintenance in Nashville

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Spring has arrived in Middle Tennessee, and people are once again spending more time outside their homes enjoying the great outdoors – even if that “outdoors” is just out back on a patio or deck. Spring is a time for new beginnings, and homeowners in Nashville, Brentwood, Cool Springs, and other communities who have invested in beautiful landscapes need to take a breath and remember they have some springtime lawn issues to deal with to protect those investments.

The Parke Company, a leading landscaping service in Nashville, firmly believes that proper lawn maintenance not only keeps the lawn and shrubs healthy, but can add to the value of the property as well. Investing in landscaping yields many benefits, but it does take some work and care.

So, let’s get started. Here are two simple spring lawn maintenance tasks to get a Nashville landscape off to a great start.

Mulching

Nashville can get hot quickly. Protecting plant beds with a couple of inches of mulch will help retain moisture, keep the soil cool, inhibit the growth of weeds, and give your plants a healthy head start. At the Parke Company, we offer a variety of traditional mulches along with two alternatives that may prove more beneficial.
Pine straw is an excellent renewable, organic, lightweight mulch that holds better than traditional mulch on slopes. If you have a planting bed that is built on an incline, pine straw may be your best solution. Shredded pine tree mulch is also an effective mulch, with the added benefit of a pleasant pine aroma.

If your lawn has debris and litter left over from the winter weather, we have an option you may be interested in. We offer a chopping and grinding service (using a Vermeer shredder) that will take your “waste” wood, branches, stumps, brush, and other organic debris and shred it into mulch.

Inspecting the Health of Plants and Shrubs

How well have your plants, shrubs, and trees survived the winter? A quick inspection can reveal common problems, hopefully early enough to get plant-saving intervention. Look for new growth on all the plants. New growth is typically an indicator of a healthy plant or tree. If you spot dead patches in shrubs or tree limbs that are bare, you should have a professional look at them.

If black spots appear on leaves, it could be an indicator of azalea lace bugs. If these spots appear on new growth, then you need to explore treatment options to prevent spread. Boxwoods are a favorite in the Nashville area, and they are also a favorite for boxwood leaf miners. Flip the leaves over and use a handheld magnifier to look for their eggs.

Finding these signs early is essential. Too many times, the conditions are allowed to progress to the point where there are no viable treatments and replacement is the only option.

Of course, if you would like a professional to make these evaluations, feel free to call us. We can have a qualified technician or arborist do a thorough inspection and create a treatment plan specific to your plants’ condition. You can count on the Parke Company for the best in tree service, lawn maintenance, and landscaping. Call today.

Landscaping to Lower Your Energy and Water Bills

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We’ve all enjoyed the cooling shade of a tree on a hot, humid Nashville summer day. The relief from the heat is almost instantaneous. Trees are a great natural source of “air conditioning” that can protect people from the sun’s direct rays, and if planted correctly, they can do the same thing for your home.

A cooler home means less “man-made” air conditioning required, which translates into lower energy bills. Who doesn’t like lower energy bills?

Trees providing cooling shade isn’t a new idea, but using them strategically to cool a home usually isn’t considered by Nashville homeowners unless they are working with a leading landscaping service like The Parke Company. Staffed with certified arborists, and with nearly 30 years’ experience in tree trimming, tree transplanting, and other tree services, the Parke Company has a solid understanding of how trees can be used to “direct” weather to or away from your house.

It’s an interesting idea, but you may be thinking that trees take forever to grow and you want help now. Well, trees are not an instant fix, but you can see heat relief in less than a year and it just gets better every day after that.

Real Dollar Benefits of a Well-Designed Landscape

It is generally accepted that a strategically planned landscape will pay for itself in reduced energy and water costs in eight years or less. That obviously is beneficial for the homeowner, it also drives up value of the home, and of course, it’s environmentally responsible.

Here are a few ways that landscaping helps in reducing energy and water costs:

  • A smart landscape uses both deciduous and evergreen trees. Deciduous trees provide abundant shade in the summer but then allow the winter sun to warm the house in the colder months. Evergreens also provide shade. They make great windbreaks in the winter, blocking bitter cold winds from reaching the home if properly positioned.
  • A new 6’ to 8’ deciduous tree will cast shade on your ground level windows inside a year. Depending on the species (and how many stories your home is), it will shade the roof in 5 to 10 years.
  • Evergreen windbreaks will reduce the wind chill near your house, reducing the amount of heat you need to remain comfortable. Windbreaks also create “dead air space” that insulates your home year round.
  • Succulent ground cover will reduce the air temperature before it reaches your home. The same holds true for shrubs and bushes.
  • Mulching trees and gardens not only protects the plants’ roots, but reduces evaporation. Less water is needed to sustain these plants.
  • Smart lawn maintenance, like raising the lawn mower blade during summer and only irrigating lawns in the cooler morning hours, can greatly conserve water.

 

Creating a strategic landscape must take in a multitude of considerations. Terrain, existing stock, prevailing winds, house design, availability of stock, and other issues all have to be examined to come up with a plan that will yield the best results.

If you would like to benefit from a well-designed landscape and the beauty of an amazing green space, give The Parke Company a call today and we will be happy to help.