April showers are supposed to bring May flowers, but Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with plentiful spring rain on schedule. Now is the time to be sure your sprinkler system is ready to take up the slack.
Restarting Your Sprinklers
Before you actually start needing your sprinklers, you should take the proper steps to be sure your irrigation system is functioning properly and efficiently.
- Check that the ground is not still frozen.The deeper parts of the soil are the last areas to feel the warm kiss of spring, and before you begin work on your sprinkler system, you want to be sure your buried pipes aren’t still in frozen ground. Use a spade or shovel to check that the soil is fully defrosted at least 12 inches below the surface, otherwise you may damage your sprinklers and pipes when you start them up. If the soil is still frozen, wait another 5-7 days before checking again, and do not start your sprinklers until defrosting is complete.
Adjust your automatic controller as needed.
The times and durations of watering cycles you used last fall are not likely to be the same that you will want to use this spring. Furthermore, your timer may not be set to the correct time depending on Daylight Saving or power adjustments, so now is the time to double check that your controller is properly adjusted and timed for spring use. Reread instructions if necessary to refamiliarize yourself with how to change the settings appropriately.
Recharge the sprinkler lines slowly and carefully.
When you open the main line to your irrigation system, do so very slowly and carefully, staying alert to possible leaks or problems. It is crucial to allow the line to fill slowly, otherwise the air pressure and water pressure surge could damage pipes, valves and sprinkler heads, leading to costly repairs and landscaping damage. Once the main line is recharged, do the same for each individual sprinkler zone, but keep the pace slow and gentle. It may take up to 30 minutes to recharge each zone, but use that time to watch for leaks or other indications of damage, particularly at valves or sprinkler heads where even slow leaks can add up to hefty water bills.
Run each zone briefly and adjust coverage if necessary.
Once your system is fully charged and ready to be operated, run each zone for a few minutes to check the efficiency and coverage of individual sprinkler heads. Frost heaving, snowblower incidents and even inadvertent kicks from pets or children can all misalign sprinkler heads, leading to more water on sidewalks or driveways than on the lawn. This is also the time to remove any dirt or debris that has built up on the sprinkler heads, and check that the overall coverage is adequate for each watering area.
If you find damage in your sprinkler system, you can make the proper repairs on your own or hire our company to repair and inspect the system thoroughly. You may also want to consider upgrading to better or more water-wise sprinkler heads in the spring, which can save you money all through the watering season.
Is It Time to Start Watering?
Just because you’ve fired up your sprinkler system, that doesn’t mean it’s time to set the automatic timer and let the sprinklers take care of themselves. The actual time you will start using your sprinklers will vary based on your lawn’s condition, local climate, recent precipitation and your fertilization schedule. While you will want to get your sprinklers ready to go 2-4 weeks before regular watering begins in case there are repairs to be made, a good rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t start watering your lawn until the grass starts to grow naturally. At that point, more water will be needed to nourish a healthy root system and keep the grass lush so weeds do not take over. You will want to schedule your sprinklers to provide two inchs of water to the lawn each week, using 1-2 watering cycles to reach that total. When Mother Nature does oblige with a good spring shower, you can use your sprinklers less.