Sprinkler Maintenance Tips For This Fall

sprinkler maintenance

If your home has a lawn/landscape irrigation system, regular inspection and sprinkler maintenance are key to keeping it operating efficiently and effectively. In addition to utilizing a professional service, such as Spring-Green’s Irrigation Maintenance Program, homeowners can take an active part in their sprinkler maintenance program periodically by walking the property and looking for visual cues to verify that their sprinkler system is working properly or that adjustments or repairs are necessary.

This can be done anytime you are out on the property, but a as a rule of thumb, the more traffic or use an area receives, the more often it should be checked.

What to Look For: Sprinkler Maintenance Tips

When something goes wrong with an irrigation system, the consequences generally fall into two categories: wasted water and plant damage or loss. Water is wasted if too much of it is applied or if it goes where it shouldn’t. Plant damage or loss, as the result of an irrigation issue, can occur if too much water or too little water reaches the affected plant(s). As you might imagine, these consequences can be quite costly.

Here are some things to note for sprinkler maintenance:

● Persistent puddling or saturated areas, even when the sprinklers are off, may indicate a line break. There are many possible causes for this, including winter damage, unusual activity, and ordinary deterioration.

● Misdirected water—i.e. a sprinkler head is watering the driveway or the side of your house instead of the lawn or bed—may mean the head requires adjustment or an obstruction needs to be cleared.

● Sprinkler heads and rotors are the parts that distribute the water to where it belongs. When these parts become worn or damaged or end up missing, the evidence is fairly easy to spot when the system is running, but may also be apparent while the system is off. Rotors that don’t rotate will cause over-watering in one direction and brown spots in another. Pop-up mechanisms that no longer retract are easy to spot, as are missing or physically broken heads.

● Leaks may occur many different ways. Water lines, valves, fittings, spray heads and rotors are common areas where sprinkler system leaks occur. Look for water squirting or streaming out from behind a sprinkler head or from anywhere water should not be coming.

● Dead zones—entire sections of a sprinkler system not receiving water—may be caused by a line break, mechanical issues, electrical issues, or some combination of these. Diagnostics will determine which of these is the case and what needs to be repaired or replaced in order to resolve the issue.

● Electrical gremlins in the form of failed sensors, faulty controllers, broken wires and more can also cause sprinkler systems, in whole or in part, to be on when they should be off and vice versa. Like any other electronic device, the “smart parts” of your irrigation system wear out. And just like smartphones and tablets, smart irrigation systems and controllers  require updates and upgrades from time to time.

End-of-Season Sprinkler Maintenance

It’s fairly easy to spend a lot of money on irrigation repairs. If you want to see a big repair bill next spring, all you have to do is ignore your irrigation system this fall. Proper winterization to remove all water from the irrigation system will help prevent freeze damage to the lines, valves, rotors and heads.

This is often done by introducing carefully controlled air pressure to individual zones until the entire system has been cleared. While this does not guarantee there will be no damage from shifting and movement of the ground during freeze and thaw cycles, it does remove the threat of freeze damage caused by water left within the sprinkler system components.

Fall winterization is a key component of Spring-Green’s Irrigation Maintenance Program. Do you have any questions or concerns about the current state of your irrigation system or sprinkler maintenance? Please do not hesitate to call on your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green. We will be happy to share our expertise with you.

Summer Lawn Care: Mowing and Watering Tips

summer mowing and watering tips

It’s summer, which means it’s hot, and in many cases, dry. Lawns are showing the effects of these stress factors. It is critical to the health of the lawn to water properly and to set the mower to cut the lawn at a higher setting.

Mowing Your Lawn Properly

One of the most common problems that Lawn Care Operators face involve lawns that are mowed too short. Many homeowners are under the impression that if they cut the lawn short, they don’t have to mow as often. To a certain extent that is true, but by mowing short, the lawn will not grow well since it is trying to recover from the loss of food that was being produced by the grass blades. This is NOT a healthy practice to follow as it will weaken the lawn.

Here are the four main reasons why a lawn needs to be cut at a longer length:

  1. The grass blade is the food producing part of the plant. When mowed short, less photosynthesis is taking place until the plant grows a new grass blade.
  2. The longer grass blade will shade the ground underneath, keeping it cooler and inhibiting water evaporation. The lawn will require less water when cut at a higher length.
  3. By shading the ground underneath, less sun will reach the soil and there will be less chance for weed seeds to heat up and germinate. Having longer grass will help reduce weed growth.
  4. It is a natural balance of nature that the roots will grow in depth to match the height of the lawn. This does not mean that the grass should be mowed at 6 inches, but it does mean that the roots will be better developed and grow deeper than a lawn where the grass is cut short.

Many commercial lawn maintenance companies mow too short, stating that is what their customers want. It is important to discuss the mowing height requirements with the company that mows the lawn and find one that will mow at the proper height. These are the recommended summer mowing heights for common lawn grasses in the US:

• Bermuda Grass 1-1/2”
• Zoysia Grass 1-1/2”
• Centipede Grass 2”
• St Augustine Grass 3-1/2 ”
• Tall Fescue Grass 4”
• Bluegrass 3”
• Perennial Ryegrass 3”
• Fine Fescue 3-1⁄2”

Watering Your Lawn

Watering is the second most misunderstood lawn care practice. Unless the lawn has an automatic sprinkler system, watering can be a laborious task. Moving around hoses and sprinklers can be tedious and remembering to turn on and off the water can be difficult, especially when not at home during the day. The best time to water a lawn is during the early morning and try to avoid watering at night. The prime conditions for diseases to develop in a lawn is when it is cooler, there is a good deal of available moisture on the grass blades and the sun has set for the day.

Either water a lawn on a consistent basis or allow it to go dormant. Except in extreme drought conditions, most grasses can survive for about 30 days without water. Watering enough to stimulate new growth and then allowing the lawn to go back into dormancy, time and time again will use up the plant’s carbohydrate reserves – increasing its susceptibility to disease and insect infestations. If you are going to water, be consistent and provide one inch of water per week, regardless if you are doing it manually or have a sprinkler system.

If you do have a sprinkler system, be sure you have your system checked by a professional company. Many Spring-Green locations offer lawn irrigation system maintenance check-ups during the summer. This is a great idea to ensure that all sections of the lawn are receiving adequate water and there are no leaks or damaged heads. It is also a great time to update your system with rain gauges and moisture sensors to provide water when it is needed and not every day.

Feel free to contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green if you’re interested in learning more about our Irrigation System Maintenance program.

Sprinkler System Maintenance, What Should I Know?

sprinkler system

Many people use an automatic sprinkler system to water their lawn. For the most part, all one has to do is set the timer and the system will take care of the rest.

For sprinkler systems that are located in the northern parts of the country, it is important to blow out the system in the fall with compressed air. This helps to remove water from the lines so freeze damage does not occur. It also means that the sprinkler system has to be turned on for the following spring, but that is fairly simple. Open a valve, reset the timer and away it goes.

If only it were as simple as flipping a switch and it is done. If your sprinkler system is more than 5 years old, there is a good chance that the controller is out of date and does not have the latest in sprinkler technology. If it is not a “smart” controller, then your system is probably wasting water. The “smart” controllers have the ability to determine how much water your lawn and landscape requires on a daily basis. The use of rain sensors and in-ground moisture sensors are well worth the investment.

sprinkler start-up

Every year, companies that manufacture sprinkler systems come out with new, more efficient designs for spray heads and rotors. Installing more efficient designs will provide water in a more efficient manner. The nozzles that are an integral part of spray heads and rotors wear out over time and should be changed. The newer versions have the ability to reduce water usage while increasing uniformity.

A common problem with many sprinkler systems are leaks…

Common areas where sprinkler systems see leaks:

  • water lines
  • valves
  • fittings
  • spray heads
  • rotors

That is why a sprinkler system should be checked every spring by a professional service. They have the equipment, knowledge and experience to fix these problems. Even if only 1 cup of water is leaking per minute, which can result in a water waste of over 19,000 gallons over a normal 30 week period that most sprinklers are working.

Some of these types of repairs may seem simple, such as unscrewing a broken spray head and replacing it with a new one, but what happens if the supply line is damaged? Digging up the lawn to fix the break is a difficult task without the proper knowledge or tools. The same is true when faced with repairing a solenoid switch within a valve box.

Having your sprinkler system turned on by a professional is a good thing, but so is a mid-season tune up. Sprinkler heads can go out of alignment as the year progresses. Most people set their timers for the water to come on in the early morning. This lessens the chance of seeing where the water may not be missing or watering the street or driveway instead of your lawn. Water can be expensive, so make sure it stays on the lawn and doesn’t run into the storm drains.

Spring-Green offers irrigation service in select markets. Contact your Neighborhood Lawn Care Professional to inquire about this and all the beneficial services that Spring-Green offers.

5 Tips For A Successful Sprinkler Start-Up

sprinkler 2

Most of the United States is experiencing a lot of rain so far this year. With the only exception (Spring-Green service area) being the Pacific Northwest. Just Make sure to not let all this rain  keep you from remembering to turn on your sprinkler system.  As it is said, out of sight, out of mind.

This is a perfect time to recharge your sprinkler system. There are numerous do-it-yourself YouTube videos that show different ways to get your system up and running again.

Remember these 5 sprinkler start-up tips:

  1. Depending on where you live, one of the first things you have to do is reinstall the backflow preventer, especially in the northern areas of the U.S. This may seem like a simple process, but unless you have the right tools, it can be a real challenge.
  2. If you are able to reinstall the back flow preventer, then you need to know the correct procedure to follow when recharging the sprinkler lines. When you watch the videos, it seems easy enough, but if done incorrectly, you could cause damage to your system.
  3. If you get past the previous step without incident, then you need to check each zone to make sure the sprinkler heads, nozzles and rotors are all functioning properly. Along with those parts, you need to make sure the valves are functioning correctly and turning on and off the different zones.
  4. If a valve is not functioning properly, there are re-build kits available. However, you run the risk of losing one of the 10 little pieces when taking the valve apart which can be frustrating.
  5. Remember to check with your state’s requirements regarding the start of your system.  In some states, like Illinois, you need a licensed plumber to start up your system.

Unless you have more than a working knowledge of how the system works, you could be spending a good deal of time going back and forth to the sprinkler supply store getting parts. It would be well worth the money to have a professional company take care of the start-up procedures of your sprinkler system. Contact your local Spring-Green to see if they offer irrigation services.

Why You Should Call the Pros to Winterize Your Sprinkler System

There are fall tasks that everyone needs to complete, such as raking leaves and stowing outdoor furniture. If you own a sprinkler system and live in an area where the ground freezes, you need to get the water blown out of the pipes. This process is often referred to as winterizing your sprinkler system. It is already the end of October, so this task needs to go to the top of the list.

Spring Green Lawn Truck and Equipment

Why Can’t I Do It Myself?

Winterizing your sprinkler system is not something that most homeowners can tackle on their own, regardless of what those YouTube videos show. Most people don’t own an air compressor that can deliver 50 cubic feet of air per minute. That means you would have to rent a large pull-behind industrial air compressor that is going to cost more to rent than hiring a professional company to do it for you.

Control Panel for Sprinkler System

When winterizing your sprinkler system, check for broken heads, rotors or other plumbing problems. The company you hire should have the experience and knowledge to inform you of any problems. You may want to wait until the following spring to fix them, but at least you’ll know what has to be fixed.

The type of backflow preventer your system has varies by state. In some cases, the backflow preventer has to be removed and stored for the winter. In Illinois, a licensed plumber has to perform a test on the backflow preventer before the sprinkler system is started up again in the spring.
Another item that needs attention is the controller. The battery should be removed from the unit. If it is hard wired, than be sure to turn it off for the winter.

Keeping your sprinkler system in good running condition is easy to do if you hire someone to do the fall winterization as well as the spring start up process. Don’t wait too long to contact a reputable sprinkler service company to blow out your sprinkler system. It can turn cold quickly, which can mean trouble for your system.

Spring-Green offers sprinkler system maintenance in certain markets. Contact your local Spring-Green owner to see if this service is offered in your area.

Do You Really Want to Do This Yourself? (Winterize Your Sprinkler System)

Irrigation_700x200

Sadly, summer is officially over. Fall is upon us and that means there are a number of projects that need to be taken care of before winter arrives. Even those people that live in the southern states, there are a few winter projects that need attention. For the rest of us, fall is the time to take stock of the successes and failures in regards to the plants in your yard. It is also the time when we have to winterize equipment. If your yard includes a sprinkler system, a very big project to complete before freezing temperatures arrive is to drain the water from the lines to winterize your sprinkler system.

Maybe I Can Do This Myself . . .

I often do a little Internet research before writing most of my blog posts and looked up the subject of winterizing a sprinkler system. One do-it-yourself website provided three options of how to do so – draining the system manually, using an automatic system and using an air compressor to “blow out” the system. Each method had its good points, but after reading the procedures, it was clear to me that winterizing a sprinkler system is a job better suited to a professional.

sprinkler system valves

As with any number of do-it-yourself websites, the authors assume you have a working knowledge of the system you are trying to work on. For example, on one site the directions were to open the boiler drain valve or the drain cap on the stop and waste valve. Unless you are a licensed plumber, you may not have any idea where those valves are located. I know I don’t have any idea where they may be located.

Since reading the directions posed some problems, I looked on YouTube and found several videos that went through the winterizing process. The main problem I found with the videos was where the filming was taking place. A number of them focused on temporary winterizing for people who live in Texas, which generally does not get as cold as in the Midwest. Following that procedure in Minnesota would not prevent your sprinkler system from being damaged. I did look at a few, but the procedure did seem a good deal more complicated and required more time than what most homeowners have available to devote to this process.

Maybe Not . . .

Considering how much a sprinkler system costs to have installed, and how much expert knowledge it takes to work through any issues with an irrigation system, having a licensed professional winterize your sprinkler system the right way makes the most sense.

If you do plan to hire someone, do it quickly as their schedules fill up. Contact your local Spring-Green office to determine if this service is offered near you.

Get Smart with your Sprinkler System

July is Smart Irrigation Month

Did you know that July is Smart Irrigation Month? The Irrigation Association dedicated this month to smart practices for your sprinkler system, which makes sense since July tends to be the hottest month of the year due to scorching temperatures and high humidity.

The initiative was started in 2005, focusing on providing consumers information on the value of water as well as increase awareness in water saving products, practices and services.

Using water wisely and being efficient when watering, starts with have a properly working and calibrated controller. Today’s controllers have “smart” technology that can determine which zones need more or less water and adapt the run times to water needs and current weather conditions.

sprinkler system control panel

The type of soil in your yard and landscape also plays a major role in how your sprinkler system is set-up. Some soil absorbs water quickly without runoff where as other soil may need to be watered for a short period of time, waiting for the water to be absorbed and then watering the same area again until it has received the correct amount. This process may need to be repeated three or four times to supply the correct amount of water to heavy, compacted soils. In most cases, different zones within your yard are going to need different amounts of water. The amount of water needed changes based on the amount of sun or shade the zone receives, the type and quantity of plant material in each zone and if the area is level or sloped. A good controller will allow you to set each zone to receive the correct amount of water.

Regardless of how efficient your controller is, if the sprinkler heads are not properly aligned or the wrong heads are being used, you will be wasting water. Inspecting your sprinkler system will alert you to water that ends up flowing down sidewalks, driveways and into the street from incorrectly set sprinkler heads. Clogged nozzles can also affect the even distribution of water across a lawn.

A good controller will allow you to set the best times to water. Generally, this is early in the morning. Having your sprinkler system come on at 3 o’clock in the morning is ideal. Overall, there is less water being used at that time, so water pressures should be good. Adding soil moisture probes into the lawn and rain gauges will also improve water efficiency. These tools will reduce the need for water if the amount in the soil is sufficient.

sprinkler system water saving tips

This year has been a strange one in regards to weather. Some areas of the Midwest are experiencing record setting rain levels where other parts of the US are mired in a drought that has lasted three or more years. Regardless of where you live, having a properly functioning sprinkler system will help reduce water usage and save you money.

Contact your local Spring-Green Professional today to learn about how we can help your system reduce water usage and cost.

Smart Sprinkler Systems: Upgrade Today to Save Money and Water

sprinkler system tips

Saving water should be everyone’s concern. Water is a limited resource and its availability is becoming a greater concern every year. Unfortunately, as homeowners, we don’t think about water usage as frequently as we should. We turn on the faucet and water comes out, we turn on our garden hose or sprinkler system and water our lawns and landscapes without hesitation – Everything is good!

Being smart about how much water we use is going to become a greater issue in the future. This is especially true when it comes to watering your lawn or landscape. It is estimated that outside water usage can reach 70% of the total water used during certain months of the year. We want our lawns to be green and our landscapes and gardens to flourish. Being green is a good thing and growing healthy plants is good for the environment, but you may be using more water than necessary to keep your lawn and landscape green and healthy—that’s where smart sprinkler systems come into play.

How Do Smart Sprinkler Systems Work?

If you have a sprinkler system, you should have an automated irrigation controller. Most of these have a season adjust or water adjust feature to allow you to cut back on water at certain times of the year. Try decreasing watering by 10 % and then wait a week or two to see if your lawn or landscape becomes stressed. If not, you were over watering. Try reducing it by another 10% and see what happens. If parts of your lawn show signs of drought stress, but other parts of the lawn look okay, then you may have a problem with sprinkler uniformity, which is compounding the problem.

Investing in a new controller that has water-smart features or installing rain gauges and moisture sensors will quickly pay for themselves. These smart sprinkler systems are designed to automatically determine how much water your lawn and plants need and irrigate accordingly without wasting water. Rain gauges are also helpful to shut the system off when it rains. Even if you only replace your current controller with one that has water smart technology will help. Then, over time, add moisture sensors and rain gauges to become even more efficient.

Saving water should be everyone’s concern. Do your part and upgrade your sprinkler system. You will save money and water, which is a win-win.

Winterizing Your Sprinkler System: How to Blow Out Your Sprinklers

blowing out your sprinkler system

If you have an automatic sprinkler system installed in your lawn and landscape and you live in an area where the ground can freeze during the winter months, the most important task to ensure the system will function properly next year is to winterize your sprinkler system. Not only are you removing the water from the pipes, you need to shut down the controller and remove and store the backflow preventer.

I did a search on how to winterize your sprinkler system and I found several YouTube videos and various instruction sheets with detailed and not-so-detailed instructions on performing this task. Winterizing a sprinkler system is not as easy as it seems. You may need to rent a commercial-sized air compressor unless you have one that can supply a minimum of 50 cubic feet per minute of air volume. Blowing out your sprinklers by attaching the air compressor to the pipes may require some type of adapter. You also have to have the correct type of wrenches to remove the backflow preventer, and you also need to know how to shut off the water supply to the system.

sprinkler system control box

Winterizing a sprinkler system is probably not the task that the average homeowner should tackle on their own. Contracting with a sprinkler maintenance service is often the best and safest choice to winterize your system. The company should be able to inform you of any possible breaks or malfunctions that they observe while blowing out the sprinkler lines. Most companies will also shut down your controller and remove the battery for the winter. The backflow preventer, once removed, should be stored in a location where it will not freeze during the winter.

Winterizing your sprinkler system is an important task that should be completed before the cold weather sets in. Don’t put off this task too long. There was snow falling on Halloween morning in the Chicago area. Winter could be right around the corner!

Contact Spring-Green Lawn Care today to set up your maintenance appointment!