Maintaining Your New Irrigation System

criss-crossing spraying lawn sprinkler irrigation system on grass yard of brick house

Atlanta summers can bring long dry spells where you wonder if it will ever rain again. With an irrigation system in place, you do not have to worry about where your plants will find their next drink. One bonus of irrigation systems is tapping into the main water lines, making auto fill water features and water spigots significantly less expensive.  Most lawns only need one inch per week. To find out how long it takes for one inch of water come out, place cups on the lawn and turn on the system. Time how long it takes for an inch of water collect in your cups. Hint: Measure your cups before you place them in the yard making a mark at one inch. 

Irrigation System Maintenance

Occasionally, check your irrigation system to make sure there is no damage from your lawn mower. Make sure your drip irrigation is working. If you have drip irrigation or spray heads, make sure the plants have not outgrown the space. The system may need to be adjusted or retrofitted.
Replace any back-up battery in your irrigation controller so your system will maintain its memory in the event of a power failure.

Prepare for Winter Weather

You must winterize your system. In Atlanta, the ground generally does not freeze below the first inch, but in the case of a more serious freeze, you must be prepared or you risk possibly having to redo your irrigation system. Before extreme weather comes, you need to get most of the water out of the system. Your shutoff valve is located underground close to the water meter. With the water shut off, use the controller to turn off all the zones, then turn on all your zones. Allow the system timer to run through all of its cycles in its normal manner. Much of the water in your pipes will run out of the lowest irrigation heads. The water that remains will not be under pressure. Your system should be fine when you turn it on after the cold weather.

Another alternative is to purchase a maintenance contract from an irrigation contractor. Typically, a contractor will check the heads prior to a winter drain and after the winter, before the next season. They may also shoot compressed air through the pipes to remove all of the water. 

Other Maintenance Tips

If you suspect a leak in your system, find out by going to main water meter. There is a very sensitive red triangle that rotates if there is even a small amount of water. Make sure all faucets are shut off in the house, and then check the water meter. Re-check the meter after you shut down the irrigation system. If the triangle is present, there is no water movement. There is a leak if the triangle moves when the system cycle resumes.

Once you have identified a leak, find the location of the leak. To find the leak, wait for a time free of rain and a couple of days without the sprinkler. When the system comes on the next time, check for wet areas, most likely the irrigation valves or main shut off area. Water in a low point will need to be traced to its source. 

The system needs adjusted if the irrigated area produces run off, standing water, or becomes muddy. Certain soils and slopes make this worse. Adjust your cycle to a shorter duration with more frequent cycles.

Example: A thirty (30) minute cycle becomes two 15-minute cycles.

Evaporation makes watering in the heat of the day inefficient. Much of the water is lost before it hits the ground. Less evaporation and less wind make early in the morning the best time to irrigate.

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