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!