Monday, October 4, 2010

Shutting down for the Season

I feel as if I have been neglecting you all, but September is a pretty quiet month sprinkler-wise. Other than to remind you to turn down your sprinkler from summer settings there isn't a lot happening in sprinkler world in September. October is another story. All the fertilizer companies have been busy applying fall fertilizer and we have already had our first frost. This points to one thing in our world - Winterizations.

It is absolutely vital your sprinkler gets properly winterized each fall. If you are not sure how it is done, it is MUCH more cost-effective to pay the winterization fee to a professional than it is to pay for repairs in the spring.

The two most common reasons we see spring breakage are: 1) Forgetting to turn (open)  the bleed screws on the test-cocks. This tiny 1/4 of a turn action is what releases any remaining water out of the pressure backflow device and is a very important step. 2) Failure of the sprinkler shut-off valve in the basement. Damage from this problem can be prevented by simply returning to the basement a week or so after you have winterized and re-opening the basement drain. If water comes out, your shut off valve is leaking water into the pipe, which will eventually fill up and break the backflow. Call your sprinkler or plumbing contractor immediately to have this valve replaced to avoid damage. If it is dry, all is well and you walk away until spring.  Of course, this test only works if you winterize your sprinkler BEFORE the temperatures drop below freezing.

Here is your official reminder of how to winterize your average sprinkler system. Although we can't specifically address the needs of every system, but these are some basic instruction to help you winterize.

Tools Needed : A bucket, a large screwdriver or pliers with long handles, a flat blade screwdriver.
 1.  Go to the basement and shut off the water supply to the sprinkler system. This is usually a yellow, blue or red handle. Locate the system drain valve. This typically looks like a hose bibb handle and is on the same water line as the shut-off valve. Hang a bucket off or under the drain and open the drain.
2.  Go outside and open the valve box(es) in the ground. You will need the large screwdriver or a long pliers handle to open the lid. Open the drain(s) in the valve box(es). NOTE: Not every system will have valve box drains, most newer systems have automatic drains. If you do have a drain you will see a shut-off much like a hose bibb.
3.  Go to the vacuum breaker (PVB) this will be located on the side of the building. Open the drains by turning the bleed screws on the test cocks - you will need a flat blade screwdriver. Turn the screws 1/4 turn either direction. Turn the green handles 1/4 turn so they are half-way on and half-way off.
4.  Return to the basement, close the drain and empty the bucket.
5.  Go to the garage and turn the controller to the off position. You do not need to unplug the controller for the winter. Simply turning it to off will retain your preferred watering settings for the next watering season.

This is really not a difficult process, but some people just don't get it, and that is okay. That's what we are here for! It is better to be safe than sorry.

If you can't winterize your system properly and the temperatures are going to be below freezing for a night, you can set your sprinkler to run when the temperatures are at their lowest -- running water doesn't freeze as easily.

The easiest quick fix is to take an old towel or blanket and cover up your vacuum breaker (the exposed part of your sprinkler at the side of your house), and as an extra precaution turn off the water source for your sprinkler (in your basement). That way, if the pipe outside does freeze and break, at least it won't be spraying water.

Remember -- these tricks will not get you through the winter safely -- your system needs to be properly drained to prevent damage, but they will carry you through an occasional cold night.

Have a great fall. Remember to take care of your sprinkler BEFORE the temperatures drop below 30 degrees. If you have questions feel free to give us a call.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Early Fall Lawn Care

Where did summer go? I can't believe I just typed "Early FALL Lawn Care" for a title. Seems like just a couple days ago I was writing "Early Spring Lawn Care".

We have had the wettest summer on record here in Sioux City. Not by just a smidge either, it was wetter than the previous record year, 1987, by a full three inches! The excessive moisture has complicated lawn care creating the perfect environment for mulch molds and lawn fungus.This makes it extra important for you to provide some extra TLC for your yard this month. The time you take now will pay off with a healthier yard next spring.

Fertilize - Fall is the good time to treat your lawn for broadleaf weeds like the dandelion. Many folks mistakenly treat for broadleaf weeds in the spring. The chemicals are best absorbed by the plants in the fall, which will keep them from sprouting in the spring. Fall is also a good time to replenish the nitrogen in your grass.

Dethatching  is also a good activity to open up the grass after a season of mowing. A thin layer is good for your grass, but thatch that’s deeper than 1 inch should be removed as it prevents air, light and water from reaching the turf's root zone. As thatch accumulates, there is a tendency for root growth to occur primarily in the thatch layer rather than the soil. This results in a weakened, poorly rooted turf that is prone to stress injury. Thatch also makes an excellent breeding ground for harmful insects and disease organisms. If you are feeling adventurous you can use a rake, but a weekend rental of a powered dethatcher will get the job done quickly and save your back!

Aerate the lawn after it has been dethatched. Aeration allows more nutrients and water to reach the grass root zone. Fall is a good time to do it as grass plants are beginning to store food for next spring 

One reminder -- BEFORE you aerate or dethatch with a power device FLAG your sprinkler heads so you don't hit them.

Remember to keep those mowing blades high! Your grass will thank you for it!

Have a super week!

Keep it Green!

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Day Brightener

Working in any industry where you provide service is difficult. Frankly, there are people you just can't seem to make happy regardless of how hard you try! It is so nice to hear words of praise and thanks from our customers. I can't even begin to express how much it means to us when you kind-hearted folks go out of your way to show your appreciation.

A few days ago I got a early morning voice mail message from a customer out at Dakota Dunes. This woman had moved into her home several years prior and it had another company put in her sprinkler when the house was built. We serviced her sprinkler for the very first time this year.

She called because she was watching her sprinkler run and was so delighted at it's performance that she was compelled to call and say thank you. Among her comments were "our yard looks fantastic", and "I never knew what a good sprinkler head looked like", and we are "thrilled, amazed and very, very happy".  If that wasn't enough to get me good and awake to start my day, she ruined my mascara with her next comment - "May the Lord bless you and your crew for all the good work you do for people".

Let me tell you, she may feel blessed to have a well-adjusted, well-running sprinkler, but we were even more blessed that she took the time to thank us for it. To her it was a simple phone call, but for me, it made my week.

If you have someone who helps you out whom you appreciate - let them know! You will both feel better for it.

Thank you, Siouxlanders, for your calls and notes of thanks. We wouldn't be who we are without you all to support us!

Have a super weekend!

Keep it Green!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Highlights from the Jensen Garden

Greetings from the mosquito capital of the world! Okay, that isn't any official title, but if you have spent any time outside lately you certainly know what I mean. I am starting to think that something along the lines of a bio-hazard suit is the only way to avoid getting eaten alive. Bug spray doesn't even seem to stop the little buggers.

Someone asked why I didn't post a garden update for July. The answer: Embarrassment! On our first garden blog I admitted to being a neglectful gardener - you remember that, don't you? Our garden is a haven for weeds this year. Between the rain storms and the humidity encouraging rapid growth and the realities of being hard-working folk, we just couldn't keep up. Next year we will return to the newspaper and grass clippings method of weed control. It is biodegradable, ads nutrients to the soil, is very cost effective and reduces the weeds by at least 75% if you do it correctly. It takes a bit of effort to get this accomplished in the spring (which was the problem this year!) but we were very pleased with the results the season we did try it.

The picture in the upper left is what our garden looked like after the storms on Sunday the 8th of August. Flattened. We should still be able to harvest the corn that was ready, but the garden is in a sad state. I am very thankful that this is just a hobby and not what provides our income. It was very happy to see the acres of corn across the way from us were mostly still standing, just a few around the edges were down. We were disheartened at the sight of our little plot, I can only imagine what farmers go through when their entire livelihood is destroyed by a single storm.

In addition to weeds we had to contend with a fungus that took out the cucumber plants. This is the third year in a row we have had this issue with the cucumbers. Apparently the fungus is remaining dormant over the winter and reawakening to attack mid-summer when the plants are just starting to produce. It is a cruel fungus, killing off the plants just as your mouth is watering for fresh cucumber! According to the experts, this problem is called "brown spot" and should be treated weekly with copper sulfate. We have been directed to treat the soil with copper sulfate this fall after the plants are out of the ground to prevent it from returning next spring.

Among the weeds, fungus and bugs and a nibbling ground squirrels we have had some great garden successes. We have a TON of tomatoes this year, which is always a good thing - few things taste better than a fresh garden tomato. We harvested a few record-sized vegetables, which is exciting. One of them was a two pound, 8" long potato:

Another was an almost foot long yellow pepper:
And the last giant vegetable of the week was a 4x4 red pepper. You won't find them like this in the grocery store!

These are the finds that keep us going back day after day; fighting the weeds, mosquitoes, fungus and critters that want to gobble up what we are trying to grow!  It makes it all worthwhile when you find an exceptional vegetable to share and enjoy.

So that is what is going on in our garden. How about you?

Have a super week!

Keep it Green!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Smart Irrigation Month Finale

Smart Irrigation Month has zipped right by, much like the rest of the summer! We have had the weirdest weather here in Siouxland this summer. Heavy rains coupled with days of fast-drying heat. This was a great summer to show folks the usefulness of a rain shut off device! I have had calls from customers thanking me for explaining the benefits of these devices and installing one on their system. Not one customer has regretted having one installed.


Following is our last installment from the Irrigation Association for Smart Irrigation Month - (The words in italics are from me)

Water Wisely

Today’s irrigation systems include sophisticated controllers that allow you to easily adjust watering schedules to fit different needs.
  • Get in the zone. Schedule each individual zone in your irrigation system to account for type of sprinkler, sun or shade exposure, and soil in that section. Different zones will almost always need different watering schedules.  (This is where Smart controllers really shine with zone by zone precision controls)
  • Consider soil type. Type of soil determines how quickly water can be absorbed without runoff. Watering more than soil can absorb causes runoff and waste.  (The clay soils of Sergeant Bluff are going to hold water much longer than the sand soils of Dakota Dunes)
  • Don’t send water down the drain. Set sprinklers to water plants, not your driveway, sidewalk, patio or buildings.  (I don't care how much you water it, concrete isn't going to grow! Keep it on the grass!)
  • Water only when needed. Saturate root zones and let the soil dry. Watering too much and too frequently results in shallow roots, weed growth, disease and fungus.
  • Water at the best time. Watering during the heat of the day may cause losses of up to 30 percent due to evaporation. Prevent water loss by watering when the sun is low or down, winds are calm and temperatures are cool — typically between the evening and early morning.
  • Water more often for shorter periods. For example, setting your system to run for three, 5-minute intervals lets soil absorb more water than watering for 15 minutes at one time, reducing runoff.
  • Adapt watering to the season. Familiarize yourself with the settings on your irrigation controller and adjust the watering schedule regularly based on seasonal weather conditions. Or invest in a smart controller so your system can make these changes automatically.

Smart Irrigation Month is over, but that doesn't mean you should stop being a smart consumer. Take care of your sprinkler and your mower. Your yard will thank you by staying green, lush and healthy AND need less water!

Have a super week!

Keep it Green!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sprinkler Check-Up

We know that many of you do all you can to avoid a service call. We understand! We designed our website to help the do-it-yourself folks. We hope the blog entries provide you with education and information to assist you as well.

The hot summer days are sure to show you very quickly where you are having an issue with your system. It is best to catch them before they show on your lawn- or worse - your water bill!

Your system, even if started by a professional in spring, will need to be checked by you at least once a month during the watering season. A weekly walk is even better. A simple check of the following five areas can go a long way toward helping keep your irrigation system running efficiently and your landscape looking great.

1. Misaligned heads: If any sprinkler heads are watering the street, patio, sidewalk or driveway, they’ve   probably shifted from their original position and require a simple adjustment.
2. Obstructed heads: Taller grass around sprinkler heads may block your intended spray pattern and prevent water from reaching your lawn or other plants. Make sure you have at least 3- or 4-inch pop-up sprinklers to fully clear taller grass. You may also need to trim back overgrown plant material that could block the spray.
3. Broken parts: Sprinkler parts can sometimes be broken by lawnmowers or foot traffic. Replace any broken parts, being sure to match the spray pattern and distance for peak performance.
4. Clogged nozzles: Dirt, small rocks or other debris can occasionally clog sprinkler heads. Clogged heads will need to be cleaned. For do-it-yourselfers, this involves turning off the zone, unscrewing the nozzle and then rinsing the nozzle and filter screen in some clean water. Once cleared, the nozzle and filter screen should be put back into place, checking to make sure the spray is aligned properly.
5. Head-to-head coverage: For even, efficient watering, each sprinkler’s spray should just reach the next sprinkler head. Under-spray may result in dry spots that can eventually turn brown, while over-spray wastes water. A simple adjustment should take care of this problem.

Understandably, you may not be able to take care of all of these adjustments or repairs yourself, but knowing what to look for is half the battle. Knowing who to call when you are over your head takes care of the other half!

Have a super week!

Keep it Green!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Water Smart with Underground Irrigation

After our little fungal detour last week (that doesn't sound quite right, does it?) we are back on track with Smart watering tips from the Irrigation Association.

Having an automatic sprinkler will save you time and water. A well designed irrigation system will properly cover your landscape and you don't have to remember to move the hose or turn off the water.  

The following list contains the reasons why the Irrigation Association encourage you to have an automatic sprinkler:

Using an automated irrigation system is one of the best ways to keep your lawn and landscape beautiful and healthy, while minimizing water waste. Plan carefully for a reliable, flexible irrigation system that can grow and evolve along with your landscaping.
  • Use components that provide flexibility. Different plants have different watering needs, and these needs may change over time. Your system should allow you to apply the right amount of water for each type of plant by the most effective method.
  • Install excess capacity. Irrigation zones are areas that are watered by the same irrigation valve and plumbing. Installing extra connections now makes it easier and less expensive to expand your irrigation system later.
  • Think smart. Include “smart” controls that automatically adjust watering based on rain, soil moisture, evaporation and plant water use.
  • Check water pressure. Low or high pressure can seriously affect sprinkler performance; choose sprinklers based on the water pressure on your site.
  • Buy the best. Use the best components you can afford to minimize future maintenance and total lifetime cost of your system.
  • Meet code requirements. Include the right backflow prevention device for your area. Required by the National Plumbing Code for all irrigation systems, backflow prevention devices prevent irrigation system water from contaminating the water supply.
  • Dig deep. Install lines deep enough to protect them from damage from aeration and other lawn maintenance.
  • Look for savings. Many water utilities offer rebates for certain water-efficient products. Before finalizing your new system, consult with your local water provider.
  • Hire carefully. Even the best irrigation system won’t perform well if installed incorrectly. When looking to hire a designer or contractor, always get multiple bids, check references and confirm all vendors are insured.

 The most important aspect of your underground sprinkler is the design. I cannot emphasize that enough. You can have a smart controller, and top quality materials, but if it is designed and installed by someone with little or no knowledge of layout, hydraulics or precipitation rates, you will still be making a poor investment.
Talk to your neighbors, look at yards you like and yards you don't, get references, and request a detailed estimate. Select a company that will service your sprinkler for you after it has been installed. Be an educated consumer and your new irrigation system will keep you happy and your yard green for many, many years.

Have a super week!
Keep it Green!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lawn Diseases

I know I promised more great tips from the Irrigation Association for this week, but I had a little mental detour I wanted to share with you. Last week we had a customer who had a lush green lawn on Saturday morning and a scary patchy brown and green lawn on Monday. What happened here?!?  One ugly word: FUNGUS.

The morning was spent on researching lawn diseases. Exciting, I know. I learned a lot, and because it can be relevant to all of you, I am going to pass along what I learned from folks along the course of my day.

"Managing Lawn Diseases" by Purdue Professor of Plant Pathology, Richard Latin, provided a wealth of information. Dr. Latin reports there are over 70 diseases of turfgrass species worldwide! Fortunately for us here in the beautiful Midwest, we only are subject to about nine of them. Five of that nine are summer diseases: Brown Patch, Pythium blight, Rust, Summer patch and necrotic ring spot. All five are especially keen on the very popular Kentucky Blue Grass.

I will not bore you with the details of each of these summer diseases, but I will tell you how to try to avoid them. There is a common thread among these summer lawn diseases - heat, humidity and mowing practices.

We can't avoid heat or humidity in a Midwestern summer, but we can utilize watering practices that do not add to what is called the "dew period" or the amount of time your yard is wet. Water early in the morning and finish up just before the sun rises. Unless you are establishing new seed or sod, avoid night time watering. A yard that never has the opportunity to be dry when evening temperatures are above 65 degrees is a yard that is providing a prime environment for fungal growth. We do know there are conditions, such as new sod, where you have to keep it wet, but if you have a well-established yard there is no reason to be watering in the evening hours. Many homeowners who do not have automatic sprinklers water their lawn when they get home from work or later in the evening. This can leave your lawn damp for hours, allowing fungus to get a foothold in your yard. Watering your lawn in the morning will allow the heat of the sun to evaporate any excess water.

Your mowing practices can impact your yard in ways you probably never imagined. I gleaned a few tips from the experts:
1) Keep your mowing blades sharp. Dull blades have a tendency to rip grass blades instead of cutting cleanly, leaving grass susceptible to diseases. A good, sharp mower blade is a simple step to a healthier lawn.
2) Mow on the same day that you water or receive rain. The turfgrass will be in prime condition and recover much more quickly from being cut.
3) Avoid mowing a wet lawn. Grass is torn instead of cut when you mow a wet lawn, which leaves your grass unhealthy and weak. Avoid early morning mowing when the dew is heavy and mowing during or just after a rain. This almost seems counter-intuitive to suggestion #2, just wait until it has dried, which can happen very quickly in the summer.
4) Do not overwater your lawn. Overwatering your lawn can be more harmful to your lawn than not watering it at all. Even in the dog days of summer your established yard shouldn't need water every day. If you have run-off when you water you are watering too long. If you have an automatic sprinkler and you are not sure if you are over watering, check with your irrigation professional to see if your controller settings are appropriate for your yard.
5) Don't mow too short. You never want to cut off more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time. The hotter it is, the higher your mowing deck should be.

If you have a fungus you should bag your lawn clippings rather than mulch, so the spores are not being redeposited on the grass. You should also sterilize your tools and mowing deck to avoid the spread of disease. They will need to be sterilized with a solution of bleach water. Always clean and dry your tools well after any contact with fungus of any type.
Hopefully you will never cross paths with a lawn fungus, but every summer the conditions are ripe for you to do so. Mow smart and water smart and you should be able to avoid most fungal infections in your turfgrass.

Have a super week!
Keep it Green!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Smart Irrigation Month Planting Tips

July is the Irrigation Association's Smart Irrigation Month. Irrigation professionals across the country are working to educate their customers and prospective customers on how to care for their yards in a water-use savvy manner. From years of research in water conservation and field experience the Irrigation Association has created a list of tips on how to conserve water in your landscape. I will post it here in it's entirety:

Plant Right
 It’s easy to save water and reduce your utility bills with simple changes to your landscaping and gardening routine.
  • Landscape to suit your lot. Choose grass or plants that have low water requirements and will thrive in your local climate. Consider your lot’s exact features, including sun and shade, dry and damp areas, plant size, and how you plan to use each section of your yard.
  • Keep soil healthy. Aerating your lawn and around trees at least once a year helps improve water penetration. When planting, turn and cultivate the soil and add compost or fertilizer to improve moisture retention and grow healthier plants that need less water to stay strong.
  • Mulch well around plants, bushes and trees. Using 2 to 4 inches of mulch reduces evaporation, moderates spikes and lows in soil temperatures, improves water penetration and helps control weeds that compete for water.
  • “Hydro-zone” your yard. Grouping plants with similar moisture needs in the same area makes it easier to make sure they get the water they need without overwatering. Separate plants from grassy areas, which have different water requirements.
  • Plant in spring or fall. Avoid summer, when hotter temperatures mean plants need more water to become established.
  • Save grass for functional areas. Plant grass in play zones and other areas where it will be used and enjoyed. Instead of planting turf on sleep slopes or other hard-to-water spaces, consider ground cover, perimeter plants or mulch.
  • Plant shade trees. The shade they cast creates natural “air-conditioning,” lowering air and soil temperatures, and reducing soil moisture loss.
  • Maintain your yard regularly. A well-maintained yard requires less water, so weed, prune and mow as needed

Great tips! I will post more in this blog from the IA as the month progresses. If you can't wait here is the link to their consumer help pages ( I have to add to the "Maintain your yard regularly" highlight -- mow high! This is my pet-peeve of the year. The hotter it is the higher your lawn-mower blade should be. This is the easiest water conservation improvement you can make. If you hire out your mowing, ask them to mow no less than 3.5" blade height.

Hope this helps you Keep it Green!

Have a super week!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Original Green Industry

All the talk these days is about being "green". Working in the green industry has taken on a new meaning in the new era of environmentally friendly products and practices. Prior to this new awakening the green industry involved those of us who care for your lawn and landscape.

The new green industry and the original green industry need to find ways to work together to find a healthy balance in responsible water use.

There is not a blanket solution to water conservation. What is appropriate for me in  Iowa is not necessarily going to be an appropriate solution for my brother in Nevada. What we both can do is water responsibly. I talked about responsible watering in my Smart Irrigation Month post, but is important we are all good stewards of the water we have available. You don't have to water 5 or 6 days a week to maintain a green yard.

Many water conservationists are calling for removing lawns and lanscape in favor of concrete and rock gardens. I believe this is a short-term, short-sighted solution that will have long-term consequences. The biggest use of our water is not for our landscapes, but for electricity. The healthy front lawns of just eight average houses houses have the cooling effect of about 70 tons of air conditioning, while the average home-sized central air unit has only a 3-4 ton capacity. You can feel the difference in the heat outside depending on where you are -- it is a much hotter walk across a barren parking lot than it is across a lovely park.

At an irrigation conference last year one of the speakers talked about green roofing. This is something that never occurred to me. Miles and miles of roof tops in big cities radiating heat that could be providing coolness and clean air for the inhabitants. Architects abroad are way ahead of the USA in this area of greenscaping. Interesting to note - it is now mandatory in the City of Copenhagen that all new flat roofs under a 30 degree pitch, for both private and public buildings, have to be vegetated. Perhaps we will delve more deeply into green roofing in a future blog.

In terms of wasted water, it is important for you be aware of how effectively you sprinkler is watering. As I said last week, look for areas of over-spray and run-off. I saw a sprinkler running this morning at a commercial site that had 3 heads turned totally the wrong direction and watering the parking lot - a total waste of water. This kind of waste adds up in a big way so be alert and kindly tell your neighbors and business establishments if you see a broken head or water rushing down the street. (Yes, I did notify the store of the problem!)

One vital factor for effective irrigation is to hire a professional. We have serviced some sprinklers that should be an embarrassment to the industry. It is just sad that people pay their hard-earned money for an irrigation system that doesn't water their yard properly. According to one of the local lawn care experts, "a bad sprinkler is worse than no sprinkler" when it comes for keeping a healthy landscape. If you are in the market for a new sprinkler system check references on your prospective contractors, check with your neighbors, or stop and talk to people who have awesome yards. When you get estimates don't just take the cheapest one - a poorly designed and installed sprinkler system will cost way more in the long run. Cheaper is not always the best option - be a smart consumer!

I believe I may have digressed from a smidge from my original track here, but we are highly involved part of the original Green Industry. At Jensen Sprinkler, we are an industry leader in our community, we are committed to spreading awareness and educating consumers. We love this wonderful planet we live on and we want to help you be responsible consumers of it's resources. We can live green and be green, too.

Have a super week!
Keep it Green!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Smart Irrigation Month

 The weather here in the Midwest has been like a wild roller-coaster ride the last few weeks. We seem to have gotten out of the severe thunderstorm pattern and arrived at HOT and dry. We have certainly had some weather that made having a smart controller or a rain shut-off device a very wise investment.

July is just a couple days away and it is typically a high water use month. The Irrigation Association has deemed July "Smart Irrigation Month". We all want you to have a green grass and all the wonderful benefits that come along with having healthy turf-grass, but we want you to be smart water consumers.
This from the Irrigation Association:
Automatic sprinklers offer convenience and control in protecting your landscape investment. Irrigation systems help you to enjoy your yard, and to keep it healthy and beautiful. However, most homeowners tend to over water their lawn or waste water through inefficient habits. Adopting water-savvy habits is essential to maintaining and extending your community's water supply, especially during peak use.
The key to efficient outdoor irrigation is applying just enough water and only when necessary. Water-wise habits will result in a healthier lawn and landscape, in addition to conserving water. Plus, reducing your consumption will help reduce your water bill.
 How can you be a smart water consumer? Here are a few pointers.

Inspect your sprinkler on a regular basis. Check for leaks, broken or clogged heads, and other problems, Clean drip-irrigation filters as needed. Don't assume that a sprinkler serviced in April will not need any repairs for the entire season - mowers, cars and kids can quickly misalign and damage heads. Be aware of any wet areas or run-off in and around your property.

Adjust sprinkler heads. Correct obstructions that prevent sprinklers from distributing water evenly. Plants and grasses grow very quickly and can block or clog heads. Keep water off pavement and structures (they don't grow!)

Consider a Smart controller or install a rain-sensor. If you missed learning about Smart Controllers back in April, here is a link to the blog entry ( and we talked about rain sensors in March ( Each of these devices will pay for themselves in water savings.

Water at the optimum time. Water when the sun is low or down, winds are calm and temperatures are cool - between the evening and early morning - to reduce evaporation. You can lose as much as 30% of water to evaporation by watering mid-day. We recommend completing your water cycle before the sun rises.

Don't over water. Watering too much and too frequently results in shallow roots, weed growth, disease and fungus. Water just enough to keep your grass green. The appearance of your lawn will tell you it is time to water if you are not watering enough. The leaves will begin to wilt/curl and develop a bluish cast. It will recover quickly once water is applied. Try not to wait until your grass is browning out to apply water. The point here is to find a happy medium.

Hopefully this will give you a starting point for being a smart water consumer.  If you are unsure if your sprinkler is running at peak efficiency, have it checked by a professional.

Have a super week!
Keep it green!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jensen Garden Update

The Jensen Garden June 16, 2010.
It is amazing how much a square of land can change in a few short weeks. This is taken from the same spot as the picture posted as a blog entry on May 24th. The potato plants were barely out of the ground and the onions were just thin little blades. We weren't battling a horrible weed problem then either!

The weeds have been amazingly abundant this year. I swear every drop of rain that has fallen in the last week has created 50 new weeds. Two in particular invade our garden - Pigweed and Purslane.

Purlslane is sold as an annual in many garden centers. We received a Purslane plant as a gift many years ago and overwintered it for 4 years before it died. It was a lovely cascading plant with orange flowers. The Purslane that is invading my garden rarely gets the opportunity flower, but I understand that wild Purslane has yellow flowers. If you look closely at the picture you will see mounds in the background -- that is almost all Purslane pulled from the garden! You can still see plenty of it still growing in the foreground (the back can only take so much weeding in a day!).

Interesting thing I discovered while trying to figure out how to rid myself of this pesky plant. Purslane is an edible plant! I found this on Wikipedia:
Although purslane is considered a weed in the United States, it can be eaten as a leaf vegetable, providing sources can be found which have not been poisoned deliberately. It has a slightly sour and salty taste and is eaten throughout much of Europe, Asia and Mexico. The stems, leaves and flower buds are all good to eat. Purslane can be used fresh as a salad, stir-fried, or cooked like spinach, and because of its mucilaginous quality it is also suitable for soups and stews. Australian Aborigines used to use the seeds to make seedcakes. Purslane contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant.
So, I am thinking, perhaps we aren't bad gardeners after all!  I don't know if I am brave enough to actually eat this plant I have been pulling out by the handful, but it is good to know that if we fail to grow anything else, we can eat the Purslane!

Another garden pest we have had trouble with is moles. The little critters are not only tearing up my yard, but have snatched a large number of seeds out of the garden. We have planted corn twice and have only about 8 stalks growing of the 5 rows we planted (twice!). Mr. Mole ate part of the first and all of the second batch of peas and beans as well as all of the peanuts. I believe we have several of the little buggers out here. Any suggestions on getting rid of them are welcome!

Garden pests aside, we did get a good crop of strawberries this year. The radishes grew nicely, but were HOT even though I selected a mild variety. We have already been using the onions and herbs - it is so nice to walk down and pick what you need to use right away to make supper! The raspberries are just now ripening enough to eat. Just a few at a time now, but soon enough it will be by the bowlful. The cherry tree is going to be chock full of cherries this year. Time is just flying by, it seems the tree was just in full blossom, but the cherries are starting to turn red.

An exciting time of year for a gardener, new discoveries every day. Even if it is weeds!

Have a super week!
Keep it green!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer Lawn Care

Summer is just around the corner. We have had a few days where it feels like it's already here! If you want to maintain the beautiful lush lawn you had in early spring, you will need to make a few adjustments to your routine.

How much to water? 
As a rule of thumb your turfgrass requires approximately one inch of water per week. As we have blogged previously, watering too much is not a good thing. As a general rule of thumb, you want to water more in times of high heat, lots of sunlight, high winds, dry air, and drought. Alternately, you may want to water less in times of cooler temperatures, lots of clouds or shade, low winds, humidity, and high rainfall. Every yard is unique. Mr. Smith who has sandy soil and no shade is going to need more water applications than Mrs. Jones who has rich brown soil and many trees. Your lawn will tell you whether it needs more water or if it is doing fine. You want to apply just enough water to keep your grass green.

Using the water budget or seasonal adjust feature on your controller is the easiest way to add time to the system across all zones. If you have hot spots in your yard, increase the time or add a day for those specific areas rather than across the entire system to conserve water.

Raise the Mowing Height
I almost feel like I am beating a dead horse on this point, but I see it every day- lawns shaved within an inch of their life. Raise the height of your mower in the summer! This is easiest way to ensure the health of your lawn through the summer. When in doubt, just raise the mower all the way to its tallest setting. You never want to cut more than about one-third of your grass in any single session. Yes, this does mean you'll need to mow with a little more regularity, but don't fret: the growth of your lawn will slow considerably as the temperature average goes up. By maintaining a tall lawn, you deter weed growth and allow the grass to root deeper into the soil.

Mulch rather than Bag
I will admit right off that I am a mulcher. I know there are very opinionated camps on mulching vs. bagging. I hate to bag the grass, it doubles the time it takes me to mow. If you are mowing frequently and with a high blade, mulching does not leave grass clippings in ugly rows on your lawn. Done properly, grass clippings left on lawns conserve water because they protect the soil from the hot sun and thereby reduce evaporation. Also, they decompose into water absorbent humus. There are numerous municipalities in and around large cities that are encouraging residents to mulch by offering rebates and discounts for mulchers. All those grass clippings add up to huge amounts added to the landfill during the summer. If you are going to bag, I encourage you to start a compost bin to reduce the spent grass to rich nutrients you can utilize in your plant beds later.

Keep it green !
Have a super week!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Drip and Micro Irrigation

Greetings! Another fickle weather week here in the Midwest. We had storms yesterday all around Sioux City, but we missed the bulk of it only receiving a quarter inch of rain. Better than no rain, I suppose, but the landscape around here is fairly parched. You can tell in a glimpse who has been watering and who hasn't.

This week we are going to look at drip and micro irrigation.

Drip irrigation is the slow application of water directly to the plants' root zone. With drip irrigation water is not wasted on non-growth areas and the plant root zone is maintained at its ideal moisture level. Drip irrigation is at the surface rather than below ground. It is utilized to water plant beds, vegetable gardens and trees. It is typically placed below the rocks or mulch in the plant bed and, as the name implies, simply drips the water to the base of the plants at a slow rate.Watering at the surface results in less loss from sun or wind thus making drip irrigation very efficient. Test plots show that 90% of the water presented to plants via drip irrigation is available to the plants.

Many plant varieties prefer to receive their water at the root rather than over the leaves. Rose bushes, for example,  are most happy when watered at the root. If you have the opportunity to see the lovely Rose Garden at Grandview Park you'll notice all those beautiful plants receive their water through drip irrigation.

Micro-spray irrigation is also used in plant beds and trees, but have applications in shrubbery, planters, hanging baskets and pots. The applications for these small sprayers are almost endless. Micro-sprays are likened to mini sprinkler heads. Here is one design from Hunter Industries -

Micro irrigation provides water with pin-point accuracy. The variety of micro-sprays and their various adjustments of patterns and flow rates can be custom designed to match the needs of the plants they are watering. Micro sprays are little but mighty.

One of the most overlooked facets of these types of irrigation is just how versatile they are. If you are one who is always changing things up in the plant beds, you can easily change out to another type of sprayer or shift around the emitters or drip you already have to water your new configuration.

Drip and micro-spray irrigation take the hassle out of watering plants.  Drip irrigation is a simple answer to efficiently and effectively applying water where and when you want it!

Have a super week! Keep it green!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gardening Season!

Gardening time is here!

How does your garden grow? With rich Midwest soil, abundant and sunshine and adequate water you can grow just about anything.

The picture posted to the left is the first picture of our garden for the season. It always amazes me how something that starts out so sparse ends up to be so full of plants you can barely walk through by the middle of summer.

We have a variety of plants growing this year. The ones you see in the foreground are potato and onion plants. Those have been in the ground since Easter weekend. The potato plants took a good hit in the freezing temperatures we had a couple weeks ago, but they have recovered well. We also have planted asparagus, lettuce, tomato, sugar snap peas, peas, pole and bush beans, radishes, brussel sprouts, broccolli, yellow/orange/red peppers, muskmelon, watermelon and, of course, sweet corn. Galen's grandpa grew peanuts on his farm in Nebraska one year, so we are going to try Spanish Peanuts this season. We have some berry plants as well, the only berries in the actual garden are strawberries. We do have raspberries and blueberries elsewhere on the property, and rhubarb, too. 

We enjoy gardening, but admit we are rather neglectful gardeners. Due to the nature of our work life we have very little time to devote to maintaining our garden space. We water when it needs water and weed when we can, but otherwise leave the plants to their own devices. I do admire folks who have beautiful weed free gardens. I have tried to convince my children to invite their friends over for weeding parties but they never take me up on it!

All gardens need water. If the weather patterns are not providing your garden with adequate moisture you will need to provide supplemental moisture. We have a highly technical watering system that involves a sprinkler head on a post and a hose hook up for spot watering. Not really high-tech at all, but it does the job. If you have an underground sprinkler system the options are almost endless as to how you can water your garden.  We have customers who opt for the raised head option, like we have, and some that have drip irrigation that they re-install to match their garden layout each year.

How much should you water? It is dependent on many factors. Your plants will tell you what they need. I did find an article from "How Stuff Works", titled: "Watering a Vegetable Garden" by C. Colston Burrell, that explains very well about watering I will paste it here in it's entirety:
Some plants are composed of up to 95 percent water. Water is vital from the moment seeds are sown through sprouting to the end of the growing season. Plants need water for cell division, cell enlargement, and even for holding themselves up. If the cells don't have enough water in them, the result is a wilted plant. Water is essential, along with light and carbon dioxide, for producing the sugars that provide the plant with energy for growth. It also dissolves fertilizers and carries nutrients to the different parts of the plant.

Watering, whether for rows of crops or in containers, is often necessary to supplement
rainfall. Ideally, water for plants comes from rain or other precipitation and from underground sources. In reality, you'll often have to do extra watering by hand or through an irrigation system. How often you should water depends on how often it rains, how long your soil retains moisture, and how fast water evaporates in your climate. Soil type is another important factor. Clay soils hold water very well -- sometimes too well. Sandy soils are like a sieve, letting the water run right through. Both kinds of soil can be improved with the addition of organic matter. Organic matter gives clay soils lightness and air; it gives sandy soils something to hold the water.

Other factors may also affect how often you need to water your garden:

    * More water evaporates when the temperature is high than when it's low. Plants can rot if they get too much water in cool weather.
    * More water evaporates when the relative humidity is low.
    * Plants need more water when the days are bright.
    * Wind and air movement will increase the loss of water to the atmosphere.
    * Water needs vary with the type and maturity of the plant. Some vegetables are tolerant of low soil moisture.
    * Sometimes water is not what a wilting plant needs. When plants are growing fast, the leaves sometimes get ahead of the roots' ability to provide them with water. If the day is hot and the plants wilt in the afternoon, don't worry about them; they will regain their balance overnight. But if plants are wilting early in the morning, water them immediately.

So much depends on climate and the ability of different soil types to hold moisture that it's difficult to give specific directions for watering your garden. Generally, however, vegetable plants need about an inch of water a week. The best time to water your garden is in the morning. If you water at night when the day is cooling off, the water is likely to stay on the foliage, increasing the danger of disease. Some people believe that you shouldn't water in the morning because water spots on leaves will cause leaf-burn when the sun gets hot; this isn't the case.

When watering your vegetable garden, there is one rule you should follow: Always soak the soil thoroughly. A light sprinkling can often do more harm than no water at all: It stimulates the roots to come to the surface, where they are killed by exposure to the sun. 
So, fellow gardeners, that is how, when and why to water your garden. If you ever have a hankering to pull some weeds, I know a garden where you can get your hands dirty!

Have a super week!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Selecting the right grass for your yard.

Most things in life need to have a good, solid foundation to be successful. Your grass is no different. You need a good quality seed and good soil to create the foundation of a lush, healthy yard.  We aren't going to talk about soil today, but if you have ever stood in the lawn care section of your local nursery or box store feeling totally overwhelmed at the sheer number of seed choices - this blog is for you.

If you are looking at establishing a new lawn from seed, read this article from the Extension office. It offers advice on seed mixtures, timing, mowing, watering and fertilizing: Establishing a Lawn from Seed.

The type of grass seed best suited for your yard is largely dependent upon where you live. We live in Hardiness Zone 4, which is a cool season zone, so I am going to focus on grass types for our area. If you live in Hardiness Zones 1-5, you are also in the cool season zone and these tips will apply to you as well. There are three types of grass that are successful in our area: Rye Grass, Blue Grass and Fescue.

Bluegrass: This cool season, perennial ground cover forms a beautiful, high quality, dense sod when grown in pure strands. Bluegrass is very common here in Iowa. The Iowa State Extension has a care schedule specific to the needs of your Bluegrass lawn. You will find it here. (Turfgrass Management Calendar: Bluegrass) Bluegrass is the hardiest for cold weather. Blue grass has a fine texture, fills in bare spots quickly, requires more mowing, does not do well in shady areas and does not tolerate salt.

Ryegrass: are one of the best lower maintenance lawns of the cool season grasses. This is one of the toughest and most wearable turf covers that can be grown. Ryegrass is noted for quick germination, shiny green color, fine texture (newer turf type varieties), dense forming sod, high disease and insect resistance.

Fescue: endures heavy traffic, developed for higher disease resistance, insect resistance, better blade structure, and lower mowing capabilities. Fescue is low-maintenance, shade tolerant and drought resistant its better color makes a good choice for a premium lawn. Tall Fescue is a popular choice and used in many lawn seed mixtures. Fescue will grow in some shade areas where other grasses won't because it grows deeper roots than most other lawn grasses. It can also penetrate around tree root systems and compete for water. As people look for more ways to conserve water Fescue grasses just may be the trend for the future.

              Carl Wilson, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Agent, says this of Fescue:    
     Alternatives to thirsty Kentucky bluegrass look better all the time. One alternative proving its worth is turf-type tall fescue. A recent tour of a Denver curbside area seeded to tall fescue three years ago showed the grass to be healthy and weed-free, unlike adjacent city tree-lawn strips planted to bluegrass.
      Tall fescue is well suited for growing in areas between streets and sidewalks, because it resists the wear of foot traffic from people getting in and out of cars. It also solves some of the water-waste problems in these narrow tree-lawn strips, which are difficult to irrigate and always result in water runoff from overspray onto the pavement. But with a healthy tall fescue turf, fewer waterings means less run-off. Turf-type tall fescue uses about half the water as bluegrass, or 10 gallons per square foot per year (in addition to natural precipitation). Many miserly managers find they can water even less and still grow a satisfactory turf.
      Less watering also means less mowing, an additional plus in the minds of many.
      Tall fescue is a cool season turfgrass, as is bluegrass, and it remains green for about the same period of the year. Although slightly coarser than bluegrass, it is a similar green. The majority of those attending a recent public garden show found tall fescue to be very satisfactory for lawn use in a side-by-side comparison of fescue and bluegrass.
We narrowed it down to three choices so at least the seed selections won't be totally overwhelming! The next step for you is to decide which one is the right for your yard. All three are similar in texture and maintenance, but the Fescue is the clear winner in water conservation.

Have a super week!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tips for Efficient Irrigation

 Greetings from a gray and dreary Northwest Iowa! The forecast is looking up and we should get out of this March-like weather and move on to normal May weather in a couple days.  A very strange spring we have had this year. Above average temperatures in April followed by below average temperatures in May. What in the world will June bring? 

Before we really need to water we need to look at how to water. People tend to over-water their yards  (A little is good so a lot is better, right? Wrong!). Providing more water than your yard needs is wasting a precious natural resource, wasting your hard-earned money and creating a disease prone yard. Over-watering your yard creates a shallow root system, makes your yard more attractive to insects, mold and fungus. Over watering causes the soil to become poorly aerated as the over abundance of water fills the soil's air pockets and makes it so little or no air can reach the root system. Lawns with shallow root systems are less drought resistant. So, watering too much creates a yard that needs more water and more care. 

Water wisely with this great information from the Irrigation Association:

Tips for Efficient Irrigation

Here are tips for reducing the cost of operating and maintaining an automatic irrigation system:
  • Know how to run your irrigation controller and change watering times.
  • Adjust the watering times (number of minutes) and the frequency of watering (daily, twice a week, etc.) based on weather conditions.
  • Change your settings to adjust for seasonal differences and reset the timer when needed.
  • Ask your contractor to install an inexpensive rain shutoff device or soil moisture sensor.
  • Regularly have a professional check for leaks, broken heads and other problems.
  • Make sure your maintenance contractor is certified and licensed (if required), is insured, experienced and reputable and is legally authorized to maintain irrigation systems in your area.
  • Only water after the sun has gone down or in the early morning. (Finishing just before sunrise is best)
  • Make sure your spray and sprinkler heads are properly adjusted to avoid watering pavements and other non-landscape areas.
  • Water areas in the shade about 30 percent less than sunny areas.
  • If possible use drip irrigation to water trees and shrubs.
  • To eliminate runoff, set your clock to cycle 2-4 start times (no longer than 5 minutes each), 1 to 2 hours apart to allow water to soak into the soil. For example: water three times for 5 minutes, instead of 15 minutes all at once.
  • Develop a separate drip watering schedule for trees, shrubs and flower beds.
  • Aerate in the spring and fall to loosen soil and reduce runoff.

 If you have any questions on how to implement these suggestions. Contact your irrigation professional.

Happy Watering!
Have a super week!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Selecting a Contractor

     Another busy week for us at Jensen Sprinkler, but that is what spring is all about. As I promised last week, today's blog is going to be about selecting a contractor. Again, most of the blog points are going to be taken from the Irrigation Association's "Irrigation Consumer Handbook". In perusing this part of the handbook, these points do not only apply to irrigation contractors, but for almost anyone you would hire to work on your property.

    " Whether you are searching for a professional irrigation contractor to install a system or to service an existing system, any professional you consider should have certain qualifications to do your work. The bottom line is that you are not just buying an irrigation system, but you are also buying the services of a contractor. Your job is to find the professional to do the work that will satisfy you. Use this guide along with questions on the IA Irrigation Consumer Bill of Rights"

Check for:

  • Insurance : Reputable irrigation professionals will carry appropriate insurance policies to protect you and your property. The insurance policies are critical to your future. You could lose your home or business if something happens and your contractor isn't insured.
  • Certifications, Training, Membership & Licensing: A contractor should readily provide information about professional certifications, training and required licensing.
  • References : All professional contractors should be expected to prove to you their track record of accomplishment. (Ask your neighbors or find a yard that looks great and see who they had helps, too)
  • How Will You Be Inconvenienced: Plan ahead for inconvenience. Irrigation installation creates change and activity on your property as well as an efficient system. How will you be inconvenienced? Will your pet have to be boarded? What will have to be moved out of the way during construction and for how long? Find out in advance.
  • Behavior and Appearance: How the contractor behaves and appears will be a good indication of how smoothly and professionally your job will go.
  • Proposals: Get a written proposal. A professional contractor will provide a written proposal. Every aspect of the job should be described in detail, have a dollar amount attached to it and include warranty terms.The more detailed the proposal, the better. Remember, the lowest price isn't always the best. You want to choose the best proposal based on all factors. The proposal should be broken down into subsections with quantities, sizes and brands specified. All preparatory and finish work should be included as should the amounts and the brands of irrigation equipment. Compare proposals point-by-point.
  • Customer Service: Expect to be told that the contractor will want to know about any problems or concerns today, tomorrow or a year from tomorrow. The contractor you want to hire will still be here years from now.
  • When the Job Finishes: Expect to be told that your irrigation system is fully guaranteed for parts and labor for a full year. This is the industry standard. The same language should also be in your contract. Expect a final walk-through prior to final payment. Expect full instructions on how to care for the system and how to use the mechanical components of your system such as controllers and timers. Do not expect seasonal reprogramming of timers or periodic adjustment of nozzles once they have been properly set and/or adjusted upon job completion unless it's part a separate maintenance agreement.

How to Spot a Nonprofessional Contractor

  1. A nonprofessional won't be listening to your needs.
  2. Nonprofessional telephone communications. Coarse telephone manners and failing to return calls indicate the type of response you will get on your project.
  3. Failure to show up for meetings on time. Maybe your work won't get done on time either.
  4. Unprofessional appearance. Inappropriate clothing and/or dirty or poorly maintained vehicles. Even smaller contractors who get out in the field regularly will take the time to tidy up before an appointment.
  5. Disorganized bids that fail to include specific details. Bids should be legible and easy to understand.
  6. Someone who gives you unrealistic prices. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  7. Belittling another contractor's work. A professional should never belittle another contractor or his or her work.
  8. Suggesting that you don't need a permit. In the event a permit is needed for your project, sometimes nonprofessional operators will try to get your okay to forego obtaining the permit. Don't give your permission. Even though permit inspections are often lax, the contractor should obtain all required permits.
  9. Offering to do construction work that is outside of the scope of the work for which the contractor was hired.
Hopefully these pointers will help you on your next project. Of course, we hope you hire us for all your irrigation projects!  Have a super week!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Benefits of Irrigation

The Irrigation Association has a great resource, "The Irrigation Consumer Handbook". Our next few blog entries will feature excerpts from this document. Starting very simply with the benefits of irrigation.

Benefits of Irrigation

A well-designed, properly installed and appropriately maintained irrigation system can be the most efficient way to keep a landscape healthy.
The benefits of an automatic irrigation system include:

    * reduced labor for watering
    * convenience
    * full landscape coverage
    * easy control over irrigation timing for overnight or early-morning watering
    * added value to your home or business property
    * minimized plant loss during drought

The irrigation industry is rapidly developing new technology to make irrigation more efficient. "Smart" technology, like systems with flow-control nozzles, climate-based controllers and automatic shutoffs are beneficial and even required for irrigation systems in some areas.

With irrigation systems that deliver exactly the right amount of water at the right time to lawn, plants and trees, you can be assured of environmentally sound and efficient results. The irrigation industry offers reliable options and affordable technology for water conservation and efficient water distribution to protect landscaping investments.

 The key words I see here are "well-designed, properly installed". A poorly designed and installed irrigation system, which may be cheaper on the front side, will almost always cost you more in the long run.
We will discuss selecting the right contractor for your project in our next blog entry.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Smart Controllers

Do you think much about your sprinkler controller or do you just set it and forget it? If you are thinking about upgrading your sprinkler controller in the near future, you should consider a "smart" controller.

What makes a controller a "smart" controller? Traditional sprinkler timers require manual adjustments every time the weather changes. “Smart” controllers automatically adjust the watering schedule based on local weather/site conditions. So, once the initial setup and monitoring is complete, there’s no need to reset the timer. The “smart” controller makes adjustments automatically.

I had my first instruction on the new Rain Bird® ESP-SMT Smart Control System back in March. I was amazed at the number of different settings required to set the controller. (Thinking perhaps I wasn't smart enough to program a smart controller!) All these initial intricate settings in regard to slope, sun/shade, soil and grass type in connection with the mini-weather station create ideal watering situations custom designed for your yard. The controller will increase or decrease the amount of water applied as your yard requires.

This is truly amazing technology. No more adjusting controller watering times up in July and back down in September. No more watering when it is raining or over-watering in shady zones and under watering in sunny ones. Controllers up to this point have been mostly a "one size fits all" technology. These new controllers are like having your suits and shoes custom cut to fit you. Precisely programmed to meet the needs of your custom landscape.

Studies from the Irrigation Association show that
"A “smart” controller saves you money by reducing your water use. Your actual water savings will depend on how you have watered in the past. Pilot studies have shown typical water savings to be in the range of 20%-40% annually.

“Smart” controllers also save money by providing a healthier landscape, since a landscape that is properly watered will be less likely to suffer from fungal disease and insect infestations that can require costly treatments, thereby protecting your landscape investment."

I am sure  you are pondering is cost. Are they more expensive? Of course they are. Currently "smart" controllers are about $300 more than a normal controller box. Are they worth it? It depends on your yard, your lifestyle and the cost of water in your area. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend them for everyone.  If you are like me, and love to have the latest and greatest technology you need to check these out. If you travel extensively and aren't available to adapt your controller settings as the watering season progresses, this might be a good idea for you. If you have an extensive landscape with many varieties of plants, grasses and soils, this is right up your alley. If you live in a place where the cost of water is very high and getting worse every season a "smart" controller upgrade will pay for itself in a short amount of time.

Bottom line, "smart" controllers are a smart move for some people. For the rest, the smartest thing you can do to save money and water, is to install a rain-shut-off device on your current controller. It is simple, inexpensive and effective.

Have a super week!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Healthy Lawn, Healthy You! Benefits of Turfgrass.

I was reading and interesting article about the benefits of turfgrass this morning. I wanted to share the highlights with you. The article was from the Lawn Institute. If you want to read the entire article, here is the link:
Here are some of the benefits of a healthy lawn - 

  • A well maintained lawn and landscape can enhance the "curb appeal" adding as much as 15 percent to the value of a home.
  • Turfgrass traps and removes dust and dirt from the air.
  • Turfgrass acts as a natural filter, reducing pollution by purifying the water passing through its root zone.
  • 2,500 square feet of lawn absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and releases enough oxygen for a family of four to breathe.
  • On a hot summer day, lawns will be 30 degrees cooler than asphalt and 14 degrees cooler than bare soil.
  • The front lawns of eight houses have the cooling effect of about 70 tons of air conditioning. That's amazing when the average home has an air conditioner with just a three or four ton capacity.
  • The cooling effect of irrigated turf reduces the amount of fuel that must be burned to provide the electricity which powers the air conditioners.
  • Watered when the grass plant needs it, turfgrass will very efficiently and effectively use almost every drop.
Did you know you had such an amazing plant in your yard?  A healthy lawn will keep your world healthier in return!

Have a super week!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Sprinkler Check-up

We made it to April! It certainly didn't feel like we would ever get to spring, but it has indeed arrived. The trees are budding, birds are singing and the grass is greening up.

Many folks around Siouxland are anxious to get their sprinkler systems up and running. We have a few reminders for you do-it-yourself folks.

A well-tuned sprinkler is much like a well-tuned car.  A car uses less gasoline when it is running at peak efficiency. A properly adjusted and maintained sprinkler will keep your grass and landscape green using less water. To have a well-tuned sprinkler you can't simply turn on the water, set the backflow and walk away. You should walk every zone checking for leaks and damaged heads. Check that your sprinkler heads are all still set in the ground straight. A misaligned head is not watering effectively. Also be on the lookout for debris or landscape growth blocking sprinkler heads.

If you start your system early in the season to water in your fertilizer, please be sure your sprinkler system is fully functional BEFORE you apply the fertilizer. It is especially important this year because we had so much snow and the plows were very active and not always accurate in their aim for the curb!

When you raked your yard on that first lovely spring day, I am sure you noticed large amounts of sand and salt along the curb. Sometimes sand has a way of creating problems for mist heads by clogging nozzles and reducing the effectiveness of their spray.Should this happen, unscrewing the nozzle and cleaning it out with a straight pin usually works. Remember to always make sure the plastic filter screen is in place in the neck of the head before reinstalling the nozzle.

Lastly, check your controller settings. With all the rain we had last fall, your sprinkler clock could still have settings that were appropriate for July, but not so much in early spring. Watering three times per week is common for this time of year. Your yard needs about 1" of precipitation per week.

Have a great week!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rain Sensors or Rain Shut-Off Devices

The weather this week looks delightful for early spring. Sunny days and above average temperatures. You can almost hear the sigh of relief from the entire Midwest.

In the forecast for the weekend is the possibility of thunderstorms. Now that the threat of flooding as receded we could use a good rain to just wash away all the dirt and muck left behind from the snow melt.

Rain is almost always a good thing, it does complicate our job as it creates delays, but God is always more effective at a good watering than anything man can try to design. What is not a good thing is running your irrigation system while it is raining or when adequate rainfall has occurred. Water is our most precious natural resource, we need to be certain we are not being wasteful. Water use regulations are increasing in every state. We have not seen many restrictions in our area, but I can guarantee it will reach here within the next few years.

As a home owner, what can you do? Can you have a sprinkler and be a responsible steward of the water we have available? Yes, you can. The easiest and least expensive change you can make to your sprinkler system is the installation of a rain shut-off device.

Your sprinkler controller is set to run on specific days and times. It does not know if it is sunny or rainy or if we had thunderstorms yesterday that dumped 3" of rain in the area, it just knows that is it suppose to run. A rain sensor determines whether or not enough rainfall has occurred in order to skip an irrigation cycle. How? The electrical connection between the sensor and your sprinkler system controller is interrupted when a certain amount of rain triggers the device. The sensor breaks the electrical connection so that electricity cannot flow to either the sprinkler valves.

At Jensen Sprinkler we install a wireless rain sensor that utilizes a cork disk, or expansion device, to determine when to shut off the system. This device uses a pressure switch to break the electrical connection. These can be adjusted in increments of ¼" to the desired rain fall setting. This adjustment is usually set to turn off the sprinklers after ¼" of rain has fallen. When the water evaporates and the disk shrinks, the pressure is released from the switch, the electrical connection is restored and the controller will run on the next scheduled cycle.

The best part about a rain shut-off, besides saving water, is that you don't have to remember to turn the sprinkler on or off with the changing weather patterns, the device does the regulating.

If you do not have a rain sensor, we recommend you have one installed, it will pay for itself in water savings within two seasons. Besides, conserving water is the right thing to do!

Have a super week! Enjoy the sunshine!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Early Spring Lawn Care

Were you inspired to get outside by the recent sunshine or a visit to the Siouxland Garden Show? Have you assessed the winter damage in your yard yet? Many of us can't wait to get out in the fresh air and get working in the yard. To others it is a dreaded chore or another "honey-do", but love it or hate it, yard work time is here.

We had a few people at the Garden Show ask us about some funky white-gray substance they saw in their yards. One man likened it to dissolving toilet tissue. This is snow mold. Snow mold is caused when there is an extended period of snow cover on ground that is not completely frozen. We had prime conditions for snow mold this year. Although it can look really nasty in the early spring, most snow mold damage will recover in time. Once the area has dried the turf will grow out and renew itself. To speed up the process, the infected area can be lightly raked to encourage drying. Some over-seeding may be necessary and if the damage is extremely severe.

Another question we are frequently asked this time of year: "When is the best time to apply spring fertilizer?". The answers vary widely depending on grass type and the local climate. However, from my research, all experts seem to agree that applying fertilizer too early in the season is not effective. When is too early? The local ISU Extension office recommends waiting at least until after April 1st. Here is another timing tip I found at that I have also heard from many old-timers in the area: "Applying pre-emergent herbicides should be done sometime between the time the local forsythia bushes stop blooming and the time the local lilac bushes begin blooming."

 One of the best things you can do for your lawn, besides a good spring raking, is to have good, sharp lawn mower blades. If you have did not have your lawn mower blades sharpened over the winter get out there and get it done before you need to mow. Dull blades have a tendency to rip grass blades instead of cutting cleanly, leaving grass susceptible to diseases. A good, sharp mower blade is a simple step to a healthier lawn. When your lawn does require that first mow be sure not to cut it too short. Spring mow height should be around 2",  you should never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time. This is particularly critical as the weather gets warmer.

Have a great week. The weather looks like it should be a good week to start that spring yard clean up!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Siouxland Garden Show!

Make plans to attend the Siouxland Garden Show this weekend!

Jensen Sprinkler will have a booth again this year. You will find us along the back wall almost straight across from the entrance doors. We enjoy the opportunity to chat with our customers and educate folks on the multitude of options available for irrigating their landscape.

If you are suffering from spring fever at all, this show will really get your fever ablaze! The first year of the show I was so excited to see live plants and flowers. After the long, snow and cold winter we have just experienced, seeing live plants should be a real thrill this year! It is fun to start thinking about all the things you want to do with your yard in the upcoming season. We decided to grow Gladiolus at our place last year for the first time. The blog picture is one of the beauties that bloomed last summer. They were a delight and I am looking forward to adding some new ones this year. Galen always spends quite a bit of time talking to the people at the Iris Society booth. They are very knowledgeable and have access to many amazing varieties of Iris. We may have to keep him away from them this year -- our Iris beds are reaching capacity!

Educational opportunities abound at the Siouxland Garden Show. Perusing the schedule (which is available online at there will be Master Gardeners discussing ornamental grasses, plant combining for color, new bedding annuals available for 2010, honey bees, heirloom tomatoes, planning your dream garden, lawn care and much more.

Admission is a mere $9 for a two-day pass or $5 for one day. The hours are 9am-8pm Friday, March 19th and 9am-6pm on Saturday, March 20th.

If you come to the show be sure to come by and say "hello" and grab a goodie out of the candy bowl. (But if you want chocolate you better come early because Jeff always eats those first!)

Have a super week!