Maintaining a beautiful landscape year-round requires careful plant selection and placement, proper fertilization and consistent rainfall. Since Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate in the rainfall category, many homeowners have turned to in-ground irrigation systems to supplement precipitation. While these systems can enhance the success of your lawn and landscape, they do require regular maintenance to perform efficiently and avoid costly repairs. Late winter is a the time to perform needed maintenance to get ready for the spring blooming season.
Check the Control Panel
The control panel is the "brain" of your system, so your annual maintenance routine must include a check to ensure that it works properly. Locate the manual for your control device to help with programming and to read manufacturer's recommendations for troubleshooting any potential problems. Clean out any cobwebs or dust around the panel or its cover and check for loose connections in the wiring. If your system includes a rain gauge, ensure it is operating correctly because it can dramatically improve the efficiency of your system.
Examine Your Spray Heads
Walk around the landscape and check the condition of in-ground spray heads. Replace any heads that are broken or worn out. Install only replacement heads of the same type as other spray heads in that zone of your system. This makes water pressure and coverage easier to regulate and keep consistent over the entire area.
Remove grass thatch or overgrowth that may prevent pop-up heads from working. Clean out any clogged heads. If turf growth has caused a spray head to be lower than is ideal, you may need to add a riser or replace the head to get it above grade.
Adjust Spray Heads for Efficiency
The positioning and adjustment of your spray heads can have an impact on the efficiency and water usage of your system. Heads that inadvertently spray driveways or streets waste water and cause run-off. Check manufacturer instructions for the recommended amount of overlap in the spray patterns of heads in a zone for proper irrigation.
Program Your Controller
Set up your controller to water each zone sufficiently. Your lawn and plants will require less water during the cooler spring and fall months, but more during the heat of summer. Also, factor in the exposure of different zones. A shady or northern side of your lawn may need half the water of a sunny, southern exposure. Lawns that slope also may require more water for optimum health compared to level surfaces. Adjust the settings of your system with the changes of the seasons.
Don't Forget to Winterize
At the end of the growing season, it's important to winterize your system. The water source should be turned off and the control panel set to the "Off" position. It's beneficial to drain any water from the lines so that freezing temperatures don't cause damage. Your system may have drain valves for this purpose, or you may elect to blow out the lines using air. An irrigation professional also can do this for you.