Normally during the summer months, Mother Nature leaves us with enough daily rain to keep our lawns green and plush with only a minimal amount of manual watering. Most of this beneficial rainfall falls during the months of June, July, August and September. The remainder of the year can often leave our lawns and yards with a serious deficiency of water. This either requires us to water our lawns by hand or use portable sprinklers. The problem with this is that you have to move the sprinklers around the yard in order to get even coverage. Another alternative is a home irrigation system.
A well-planned, in-ground system can be easily controlled with a timer box and can even shut itself off when it rains to conserve water. The drawbacks of an in-ground system are maintenance and cost. Even a good system will require regular maintenance to maintain efficiency. The good news is that the system will eventually pay for itself over time with what you will save on landscape maintenance.
To design a good system, you should start out with a map, drawn to scale, of the area you wish to irrigate. Be sure to include all the details including plants and buildings. Then, draw in the diagram of the route you are going to use for the PVC pipe. Mark off the spots where you will install your sprinkler heads and consider whether you need a full, half or quarter spray and also the distance needed to cover that segment. Be sure your segments overlap to ensure you have no dead spots. You can draw this out on graph paper or you can buy special kits that guide you through the planning process.
The next thing that must be considered is how many zones you will have on your system. If you try to put too many sprinkler heads on your system, the water pressure may be too low to operate that zone correctly. You may only want to put four or five sprinkler heads in one zone or even less if you have poor water pressure. The various zones will be rotated automatically by the electronic water timer. In fact, more zones give you more versatility when it comes to managing your system.
The best water source for your system is to have a separate well and pump to feed water to your sprinklers but for some people this is not in the budget. You can use an existing well and pump that you use for your home water supply with good results. If you happen to have an onsite pond or water retention area, you can recycle this water by pumping directly from these sources.
One important part that should be installed on your system is an automatic rainfall override. These inexpensive devices automatically shut off your system when sufficient rain falls and satisfies the adjustable sensor. These devices not only save water and electricity but they also prevent your lawn from getting watered too heavily. In fact, they are required by code in many counties.
There are three basic pumps that are most frequently used to power irrigation systems: A surface centrifugal pump, a jet pump and a submersible centrifugal pump. The most commonly used pump for home use is a jet pump. These pumps can be used for both shallow and deep well applications. For very deep well applications, a submersible centrifugal pump may be used. The disadvantage is if the pump needs to be serviced it has to be removed from the well.
One last consideration is the quality of the water being pumped from the well. If the water has a lot of sediment or sand, it will be necessary to install a sand filter inline before the water reaches the sprinkler heads. This will help prevent clogging of the sprinklers and will provide more enjoyable and trouble free operation of your system.
The bottom line: A well designed water system can save you loads of time and take the worry out of getting the proper amounts of water to your lawn. In the long run, it can pay for itself over time by saving you money on lawn maintenance. There is also one added bonus; you can install an inline device that will actually allow you to fertilize your lawn directly through the water system! This can be a real time saver and convenience option.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website www.hometowngarden.com.