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: http://www.thelawninstitute.org/environment/?c=184513
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!