Top Irrigation Mistakes for Lawns and Gardens
Effective water management is important for several reasons. Not only does this keep soil moisture at optimum levels and lawns and gardens beautiful, but it keeps water bills manageable as well. Some irrigation flaws occur in the system itself, while others involve operator error. Fortunately, most are easy to fix once you are aware of them. Here are the top irrigations mistakes for lawns and gardens that end up costing the homeowner money and some tips on how to avoid them.
- Overwatering plants. Interestingly, saturated soils can actually harm plants, as they starve the roots of essential oxygen. Thus, for a watering schedule to be effective, the soil must be allowed to dry out so that enough air can get to the roots. To promote a robust root system and healthy plants, experts recommended deep watering on a less frequent basis.
- Watering during rainy weather. One of the best ways to waste water via your irrigation system is to have the system run during periods of rainy weather. To determine whether or not your system should run following a storm, your best bet is to check the water content in the soil itself and make a decision from there. Some irrigation systems now offer a rain sensor, which contains small hydroscopic disks that swell up during rail fall and send a signal to shut the system off. Smart controllers are also being introduced that will only run irrigation based on the current status of the soil in terms of evaporation and rainfall.
- Not using the correct spray nozzle pattern for the area you are watering. Different spray nozzles offer different patterns that are ideal for the type of area being watered (for instance, the lawn versus a flowerbed). Using the incorrect pattern and flowing distance can result in overwatering or overspray (where the water is thrown onto a driveway or patio surface), wasting a great deal of water. In fact, it’s estimated that an irrigation head that throws water outside the landscaped area can easily waste the same amount of water in a year as that’s contained in the average spa or hot tub.
- Watering shrubs, planter beds, and lawns on the same system. Virtually all of your common landscape plant materials (meaning trees, shrubs, and groundcovers) and flower and vegetable garden materials have vastly larger root systems than your grass. This means that most of your plants are able to exist on roughly half the amount of water you are putting on your local grass. Keeping everything on the system will impact the effectiveness of your watering and waste a great deal of money as well.
Having your irrigation system serviced on an annual basis will be another important component in keeping it running optimally, as breaks can affect water pressure while wasting a great deal of water. There are now features available on irrigation systems that monitor flow rates through the pipes to alert the homeowner in the event that the flow has been interrupted due to a cracked or broken irrigation pipe and fitting.