4 Signs Your Irrigation System May Need Repair

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The right irrigation system can be every property owners best friend. When functioning properly, irrigation systems ensure that the beauty of your landscape design is maintained, even when the weather is less than hospitable.

Caring for finicky plants and upkeep of green grasses requires that your irrigation system is running at top performance to ensure that the moisture content of your soil remains optimal.

On the other hand, if it isn’t functioning properly, a faulty irrigation system could spell trouble. Dying plants and flooded flower beds shouldn’t be your first clue that something is up. Do you know how to spot a damaged irrigation system?

For the best landscape maintenance, check out these four signs that your irrigation system may need repair.

1. Increased Water Costs

As a prudent property owner, you should be well aware of how much your water bill typically costs – and for more reasons than one. While this cost may fluctuate somewhat from season to season, a sudden skyrocketing of your water bill for lawn care may be a sign that your irrigation system is malfunctioning.

This may be one of the first and only ways to quantifiably assess that your irrigation system isn’t working properly.

An increase in your water bill tells you that the system is pumping more water than normal onto your property, either due to a glitch in its settings or a leak. In either case, it is vital to have a lawn care professional evaluate the damage immediately before any harm is done to your property.

2. Flooding

An over watered landscape doesn’t always look like a small pond has cropped up in your flower beds. When your irrigation system functions as it should, the appropriate amount of water should be distributed to the soil.

If you notice pooling of water anywhere near your irrigation system, this lawn problem could be a sign that maintenance is required to fix a leak.  

When evaluating the leak, check to see if the excess water is only showing up in certain places or if it appears to be along the entire line of irrigation. This could help pinpoint the area of concern and narrow the focus of your landscaping professional.

This is also a good opportunity to assess your drainage systems. Flooding can also be caused by an inability to sufficiently drain excess water that collects when an irrigation system releases too much water.

3. Dry Patches

Conversely, dry patches on your property can also be a bad sign. At this point, if there are dry patches along your irrigation system, your system has likely been malfunctioning long enough for parts of your lawn to die.

It is paramount that you seek a lawn care professional immediately to quickly mitigate the situation before any further damage is done to your landscape or to your irrigation system.

4. Leaking Valves

You would never let a leaky faucet go unaddressed. The same goes for leaking valves in your irrigation system.

While a little extra water around your spigots may not seem like a cause for concern, it is a clear sign that your irrigation system may need repair.

On its own, an extra few drops of water will not cause significant damage to your landscape, but left unattended, this small issue can turn into a crisis.

If excess water seeps into your soil, it can result in constant moisture around the roots of your plants which can harbor mold and cause serious damage.

Healthy Irrigation with The Parke Company

An irrigation system seems like a form of landscape maintenance that doesn’t require much attention: you can install the system and worry a little less about watering your property as frequently.

While irrigation systems are certainly a source of convenience, a malfunctioning system can be hazardous for your property. The experienced professionals at The Parke Company are uniquely qualified to help you evaluate irrigation system issues or any other lawn problems you may be experiencing.
Don’t leave your lawn service up to fate. Give the experts a call  at 615-350-6033 or contact us online today to see how The Parke Company difference can work for you.

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.

Springtime Weed Control for Nashville Lawns

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Many people believe that weeds, like roaches, will be around when all other living things have ceased to exist. They are the bane of Nashville lawns. There is no permanent fix short of paving over your grass with asphalt. You can’t rid weeds from your life, but you can keep them in check if you exercise a solid weed control plan.

At the Parke Company, Nashville’s leading lawn service and landscaping service, we know the importance of a timely weed control program. Timing truly is everything when it comes to preventing weeds from taking over your grass. There are a number of herbicides available, the trick is knowing what types of weed they are designed to control, and when and how to use them.

If weed control was just about laying down some chemicals, the chore wouldn’t be all that bad. But there’s more to it than that. Let’s walk through how to do springtime weed control.

Lawn Audit

Grab a couple of leaf bags, gloves, and a leaf rake and head out to “audit” the condition of your lawn. Pick a time of day when the grass is completely dry so you aren’t crushing damp blades with your shoes. What we’re looking for are signs of weak soil. Weeds thrive where the soil doesn’t easily support grass.

Bald spots, winter weeds, brown spots, or thinned out spots are all signs that the soil is probably not up to par. You can get DIY soil testing kits at any garden supply store. Winter weather can have a significant effect on pH levels. If you test your soil and it’s below 6, a thin layer of lime can be added to bring it up.

While you are on this walkabout, pick up debris and trash that has accumulated over the winter. Use the rake to thatch matted patches of grass. Allowing sunlight and air to reach the soil is helpful in maintaining soil nutrients. You may run across some brown slimy stuff. This is snow mold and while it looks ugly, it won’t kill grass unless the lawn is covered in snow for 100 days or more and that’s not going to happen in Nashville.

So, with a cleaned-up lawn and full understanding of soil health from your soil test, it’s time to tackle the weeds.

Pre-emergent Weed Control

The idea here is to prevent weed seed from taking root. Pre-emergent weed killers do a great job if they are applied at the right time. Ideally, the temperature should be between 55 – 60 degrees, which means late March normally, but the weather has been dodgy, so it could be later. In Nashville, watch for the forsythia to bloom. When that happens, you have about two weeks before weeds germinate.

The downside of pre-emergent herbicides is that they can’t discriminate between weed seed and grass seed. It does a good job on crabgrass and other grass type weeds, but you want to wait at least eight weeks before you use it on an area that you have laid down new grass seed.

Let a Pro Do It

If your schedule is hectic, or if raking, cleaning, and putting down weed killer is something you just don’t want to do, give us a call. Parke started his company in high school doing just this kind of work. Thirty years later, the Parke Company is a trusted Nashville landscaping service known for its certified arborists, excellent tree trimming, and lawn maintenance, including weed control. Call us today and get started on getting your lawn off to a great spring start.