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!