GARDEN BLOG

Irrigation System Start Up Check List

Getting your irrigation system inspected and tuned up for the approaching growing season prolongs its life and also improves efficiency whether or not Sonoma County is in a drought year.  Water conservation begins with understanding your watering system especially if it is underground and automated.  Gardenworks Inc. and all other professional landscape services inspect, tune and manage irrigation systems for our clients regularly as part of services provided.

We are grateful to live and work in a part of California that allows for irrigation systems to be completely turned off for the rainy season, usually by the end of October or early November.  In normal winters we should turn them back on sometime in April maybe into May.  The goal of the irrigation year is to supplement only the water that is lost through evaporation and plant transpiration which can and is measured as the evapotranspiration rate. Using this data, along with the size of the landscape and type of plants present in the landscape establishes the irrigation water budget on a daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal basis.  Your landscape watering should be managed according to your landscape water budget and no more.

Once you have made the decision to begin your watering season, it is important to inspect, repair and tune your irrigation system to insure that water is not being wasted.

Step 1)  Open the main water supply to the irrigation system slowly and allow the pipes to refill gradually.  If opened too quickly the surge can result in a water hammer, which can cause pipes to crack or burst.

Step 2)  Turn on your irrigation controller/timer. Check to see if you have the appropriate watering schedule for the time of year.  Adjust the controller schedule as needed. REPLACE THE BATTERY (if any) AT THIS TIME.

Step 3)  Activate each station/zone/circuit/valve manually from the irrigation controller to be sure each one turns on and off.  You may wish to activate each valve a couple of times to be sure they are cycling on and off normally. A valve that takes a bit long to shut down may indicate that it needs tuning (reduce the flow control).  One that comes on but does not shut off will need to be cleaned or replaced.

Step 4)  As each station is activated, walk its zone checking for the proper operation of the sprinkler type is it utilizing.  Check for adequate coverage, breaks, leaks, blockages, over spray, run off, etc.  Make repairs and adjustments before turning the system on and set for automatic watering.

Step 5)  If you have a rain shut off sensor or other weather sensor, check to be sure they are clean and working.

Step 6)  With the irrigation system in auto mode but not activated or running, find and check your water meter.  There is a small needle or indicator that will be spinning if there is a slow water leak.  It that is spinning or moving when your irrigation system is not operating it might indicate as slow leak somewhere.  If you have trouble locating, or are uncomfortable with making your own repairs please contact Gardenworks Inc. and we will schedule an Irrigation Technician to assist you.

The more often you monitor/check your water meter the quicker you will know if you develop any leaks in your irrigation system.  Plan on checking one time per week.  Regularly monitoring your irrigation controller and system and adjusting for weather conditions will result in the more efficient and appropriate use of  water.  It will also have the added benefit of a healthier landscape and garden.