The spring of 2009 has been the third driest season in recorded history. Heat stress on yards and landscapes result in water stress, greater weed pressure and a greater tendency for plant diseases. Increased irrigation also adds an additional burden on water supplies during these drought conditions. Consider these tips as we join the Irrigation Association in celebrating July as Smart Irrigation Month.
Fine-tune Your Irrigation System to Save Water and Money
For a healthy, drought- and stress-tolerant lawn and landscape, use less water. Adopting water-savvy habits also is essential to maintaining and extending your community’s water supply, especially during peak use. Water-efficient habits will result in a healthier lawn and landscape, in addition to conserving water and saving money. With some simple practices and new technology, existing irrigation systems can be made more efficient -- lowering your water bill, reducing runoff and eliminating waste.
Reduce demand. Use native plants in your landscape -- they require less care and water than ornamental varieties -- and apply mulch around shrubs and garden plants to reduce evaporation.
Less is more. If you step on your lawn and the grass springs back, it does not need to be watered. Watering plants too much and too frequently results in shallow roots, weed growth, disease and fungus. Seasons change, so should your system. Familiarize yourself with the settings on your irrigation controller and adjust the watering schedule regularly to conform with seasonal weather conditions.
Play “zone” defense. Schedule each individual zone in your irrigation system to account for the type of sprinkler, sun or shade exposure and soil type for the specific area. The same watering schedule rarely applies to all zones in the system.
Make it a date. Inspect your irrigation system monthly. Check for leaks, broken or clogged heads and other problems, or engage an irrigation professional to regularly check your system. Clean micro-irrigation filters as needed.
Get your head adjusted. Correct obstructions in sprinkler heads that prevent sprinklers from distributing water evenly. Keep water off pavement and structures.
Check for WaterSense! A certified irrigation professional can design, install, maintain or audit your system to ensure optimal efficiency using the proper amount of water to maintain a healthy landscape. Ask if your irrigation contractor is a WaterSense partner, which means he or she has been certified through a program that focuses on water efficiency.
Get smart. Climate or soil-moisture sensor-based “smart” controllers evaluate weather or soil moisture conditions, then calculate and automatically adjust the irrigation schedule to meet the specific needs of your landscape.
Flip to a switch. Rain shutoff switches, required by law in many states, turn off your system in rainy weather and help compensate for natural rainfall. This inexpensive device can be retrofitted to almost any system.
Easy does it. Install low-volume micro-irrigation for gardens, trees and shrubs. Micro-irrigation includes drip (also known as trickle), micro-spray jets, micro-sprinklers or bubbler irrigation to irrigate slowly and minimize evaporation, runoff and overspray.
Watch the clock. Water when the sun is low or down, winds are calm and temperatures are cool -- between the evening and early morning -- to reduce evaporation. You can lose as much as 30 percent of water to evaporation by watering at midday.
July is Smart Irrigation Month!
The Irrigation Association has named July Smart Irrigation Month to provide tips about smart practices and new technology. Learn what you can do to operate your system at peak efficiency throughout the year by visiting this Web site.