Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hot and Dry Conditions Prevail

This is the first summer in many years we have hit an extensive hot and dry spell. It is easy to see who has a sprinkler and who doesn't, and even who has a good sprinkler and who doesn't. Yards that haven't received any supplemental water look like this right now:

Extremely dry Midwestern lawn
This spring, and even early summer brought repeated heavy rains encouraging grass to keep all their roots at the surface. If the turfgrass never has the opportunity to establish a deep root bed it tends to stress in the heat much more quickly. Those of you who insist on watering daily even in early spring are finding that you have to water even more to keep up with your spoiled root system.

We have had several customer calls this week about properly functioning sprinkler systems. They were concerned that their irrigation system was not functioning at all because the yard was beginning to show stress. Every one of these callers still had their sprinkler systems on the same settings that were programmed when the system was started in April. April conditions are much different than July conditions, particularly here in the Midwest. When it is extensively hot and dry you need to either add watering days and/or increase your watering times. If you have a water budget feature on your controller this is where it really comes in handy. Increasing the water budget to 150%, a common setting for July and August, will add 50% more run time to your existing times for each zone and is easy to scale back as conditions warrant.

For folks who have let their lawns get extremely dry before even starting their sprinklers we recommend a cycle and soak pattern of watering. Running your sprinkler through two full cycles during the overnight hours leaving a couple hour break in between cycles to allow the water to be absorbed.

Don't you want your lawn to look like this?

Lush, healthy turf grass

A poorly designed or maintained sprinkler will certainly apply water, but it won't do it completely, efficiently or well. The easiest way to have a lush green lawn is to have a well designed, professionally installed sprinkler system.  To add to the ease of owning your system, and make it so you don't have to fret about adjusting for rainy weeks and hot dry weeks, we highly recommend installing a weather based Smart control system. These controllers have become surprisingly more affordable for this year. For those of you who have a had Rain Bird sprinkler system installed in the last five years, Rain Bird has upgrade kits available for their ESP 4 Modular controller. The older your sprinkler controller is, the more you should look into upgrading. Without any effort on your part, this impressive technology will adapt the amount of water your yard receives based on soil type, slope, wind, rain, temperature and evaporation. Smart controllers pay for themselves in water savings in about two seasons, depending on the weather conditions.

Water smart and your lawn will thank you.

Keep it Green!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Watering Tip

What time of day should I water? 

This question gets asked a lot. Today I had to run an unscheduled mid-morning errand and in a mile long stretch of road saw five sprinkler systems running.  It became clear that we need to cover this again.

Water your yard early in the morning BEFORE the sun rises. The wind is typically the most calm at this time of day and watering early in the morning allows for maximum absorption into the soil while the sun is still below the horizon.  

Watering in the evening, particularly during days of high humidity levels, creates ideal conditions for breeding a variety of lawn diseases. The most common lawn disease fueled by high humidity levels is fungus. Fungal patches in the lawn can spread quickly and ruin your yard for the season. 

Unless you have freshly laid sod, avoid watering mid-day. Most of water applied mid-day is lost to evaporation. Watering in the heat of the day is the least effective time to water your yard. 

Depending on this size of your yard, set your clock to start sometime between 2am and 4am so the run cycles are completed before sunrise. If you are worried that you won't notice if something is broken when the sprinkler only operates in the middle of the night you can run a two minute test one evening a week and watch each zone run. That way you can keep and eye on it AND water at the right time of day. 

Watering smart will keep your water bill down and your yard green.

Keep it green! 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Welcome to Smart Irrigation Month!

This spring has been a wild ride here in the Midwest. Flooding and rain and thunderstorms (Oh, my!). Thirteen of the 30 days of June had measurable rain. We have certainly had some weather that made having a smart controller or a rain shut-off device a very wise investment.

We have turned very quickly from very wet to very hot. July is typically a high water use month and with the 100 degree temperatures yesterday it is easy to see why. 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 and landscapes, 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.This is an easy and ultimately cost-effective way to save water. We have had three very wet watering seasons in a row. The installation of a rain sensor or smart controller would have easily been paid for in water savings. Rain Bird has made their Smart Controller much more cost effective this year. If you have one of their ESP modular controllers that unit can be upgraded to a weather-controlled Smart controller. Our customers who have upgraded their old units have nothing but good things to say about their new controllers.

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. Unless you have new sod, avoid watering mid-day.

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.With all the rain we have been having the grass will panic very quickly now that the heat has been cranked up.

If you are unsure if your sprinkler is running at peak efficiency, have it checked by a professional.

Keep it green!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Flood Preparations and irrigation

Life has taken an unexpected turn here in the last week. The Missouri River is rising rapidly into the yards and homes of countless people who live along her banks. We have customers in Dakota Dunes, Wynstone, South Sioux City and Sloan that are at imminent risk of flooding.

Since last Thursday Galen has had his crew working on flood control rather than on irrigation. They have installed sump pumps, moved hundreds upon hundreds of sandbags and have even hauled furniture. I am proud of these young men, they have worked tirelessly, going far beyond what they signed up to work for this summer! I am absolutely certain this is not how anyone in the area planned to spend their holiday weekend.

Officials have asked that all irrigation at the Dunes and other areas along the river be shut off. We are asking that you not only turn off your controller, but as an added safety please shut off the water to your irrigation as well. A full winterization is not necessary, simply turn the water off in the basement or at the backflow device outside your home and turn the controller to OFF.

If you are pumping from the river or canal systems you will need to remove your pump and move it to higher ground. They are made to move water, but their electrical systems are not waterproof. Even if you have a submersible pump, the sheer volume of water flowing through the area has the capability of snapping off the pump feed line.

I can't imagine the stress of having to move out entire communities in a matter of days. We are thankful that there has been adequate warning. Only time will tell if all the efforts will pay off.

God be with all of you who will feel the direct impact of the flood waters.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Congratulations, Graduates!

At Jensen Sprinkler we get the distinct pleasure of seeing boys grow up to be fine young men. They start off often coming to us in the early years of high school as their first job. Some leave when they start college, and we have had several continue with us throughout their college years. This year we have three graduates among our employees, two from high school and one from college. It is our distinct pleasure to offer congratulations to these young men:

Marshall Tuttle, an employee since 2009,  graduates Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Morningside College. Marshall will have another milestone moment later this summer when he marries his high-school sweetheart, Megan.

Luke Schauer has also been with us since 2009, he graduates from Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School and will be attending Morningside College in the fall. (go Mustangs!)

Chad Pruehs has been with us since the summer between his freshman and sophomore year. Actually, Chad came and asked us for a job when he was still an 8th grader. We told him to wait a year and he did. I can't believe the scrawny kid that showed up here 4 years ago is now several heads taller than either of us and heading off to college. Chad graduated from Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School and will be attending University of Nebraska, Lincoln in the fall.

To these and all the other graduates in our community:

Congratulations! May all your dreams come true!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Even Sprinklers Need a Tune-Up!

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 live along one of the busier streets in your area you probably have quite a bit of sand along the front edge of your property from winter street crews. 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. Watering three times per week is common for this time of year. Your yard needs about 1" of precipitation per week. We certainly have had quite a bit of precipitation this spring. If you do not have a rain shut-off  on your system yet, we strongly recommend you have one installed. These cost-effective devices keep your sprinkler from running when mother nature has already taken care of it for you.

Have a super spring! Enjoy the sunshine!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Welcome April!


Welcome to April!
It certainly feels like it has been a long time arriving. This first day of April has brought along with it a blustery wind and beautiful sunny skies. The wind still has quite a bite to it, but the sunshine sure feels nice. I would imagine it won't be too long before we are complaining that it is too hot! 

Although the nighttime temperatures are still getting down into the not-so-sprinkler-friendly range, we aren't too far from being able to safely run sprinklers. Historically the nighttime temperatures tend to stay above freezing after April 15th. Of course, we live in the Midwest and anything is possible, but most years waiting until after tax day is a safe bet. 

What can you do in the two weekends in between? There is always something you can do for your yard. I will give you one easy on and one tough one for homework. The two best things you can do for your yard while the grass is still dormant are: 1) Give it a good raking and 2)  Get your mower blades professionally sharpened. 

Admittedly, raking is hard work, but one good raking a year is all your yard needs and spring is the prime time to take care of that. Raking removes any dead grass which prevents drainage and retards growth. Raking lets air into the crown of the plants and encourages the formation of new shoots. Besides the health benefits for your lawn think of all the great calorie burning and fresh air that benefit your own health!

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. Much grass damage and disease can be prevented by proper mower height. When in doubt, raise the blade!

Enjoy the milder weather!

Keep it Green!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hot Topic!

We spent two days last week at the wonderful Siouxland Garden Show. It is such a delight to see live green plants so early in the spring. The variety of speakers, vendors and available products certainly fan the flames of spring fever. We enjoyed the opportunity to chat with folks and show them some of the new technology available in irrigation.

The most talked about item at our Garden Show booth is technically not an irrigation product, but a rain collection product.   It is pictured above and is a rain barrel. Collecting rainwater is a great way to water your house plants or annuals. Rain water has trace minerals that you just don't get from city water.

This particular unit is not your average rain barrel. It has a large 75 gallon capacity. The lid can be used as a planter. One lady I spoke with also thought she could fill the top with small pebbles and use it as a bird bath as well. The gutter inlet is screened to keep debris and small critters out of the barrel. There is a brass spigot for garden hose connection. Unlike other less expensive rain barrels, this model has a large safety overflow that will direct the water overflowing from the barrel away from house. Barrels without this feature will overflow right against your foundation. Thick plastic, UV resistant walls are durable and will withstand extreme conditions. The barrel is currently available in two colors, the sandstone pictured above and a terracotta color. All these great features and as an added bonus this product is Made in USA.

We look forward to installing a rain barrel at our house. It will be a great addition to the watering systems all ready in place. I can use it to water all the plants that came home with us from the Siouxland Garden Show - Earl May had some beauties we couldn't resist!

Keep it Green!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Garden Show!

Ahhhh, Spring! You can feel it in the air, you can see it in the landscape. I am amazed at how much the trees have changed in the past two weeks. Now that the snow has melted I can look across my domain and... see how much yard work there is to do.... heavy sigh...

Before we deal with all the to-dos that show up with the arrival of spring we ought to have a weekend to have some fun. The Siouxland Garden Show is a fun, educational and informative way to fan the flames of spring fever. 

Here is a link to a PDF of the schedule of events and speakers:
2011 Garden Show Schedule

I am really excited about hearing Dr. Jennifer Boussalot talk about green roofing. This is an exciting idea that is taking root (no pun intended) in major metropolitan cities around the globe. I would love to see it utilized in the Midwest. Two years ago Galen and I attended a presentation on green roofing and we were both amazed at the innovations people came up with that were easily sustainable and healthy for the environment.

Jensen Sprinkler will have a booth at the 2011 Garden Show. We will be in our usual spot along the back wall - close to Earl May. I think John Kluver plans that because he knows we can't resist the beautiful plants he has on display and always have to take a few home with us.

We are focusing our Garden Show displays on the ways you can conserve water with your existing or new irrigation system. We will have on hand SMART controllers from both Hunter and Rainbird and Rain Shut-Off devices to show you. The guys have created a great display to show you how to water your outdoor potted plants using your sprinkler system as well.

There is also a rumor floating around that Galen will be interviewed on the Ask Earl May show on Saturday morning on KSCJ. I haven't received confirmation on that yet, but tune in and see what John Kluver has to say!

We hope to see you at the Marina Center!

Happy Spring!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter Dreaming?

Flowering Crab Apple Tree

Has the cold and snow started to get you down a little? Are you dreaming of warm spring days? I gave you a little taste of spring up above with the picture of our Flowering Crab Apple tree. I took that last spring, isn't it pretty? Sigh.....

We have reached February, which is the unofficial halfway point of winter. Have you been dreaming of what you want to do with your yard in the spring?

Whatever outdoor project you have been dreaming of during the dreary days of winter, if you need a contractor to help you fulfill your dreams, NOW is the time to contact them. If you live in an area where outdoor work is seasonal, odds are your contractor has carry over from last fall. Before you ever call him or her you are already in line after those folks. Much like the recorded operator who tells you that your call will be answered in the order it was received, the majority of contractors will work their projects in the order they were committed.

If your dreams include in-ground work such as irrigation, landscaping or a pool installation and you live in a snowy place,  you may have to wait for the bulk of the snow to melt so your contractor can see the lay of the land and provide you with an accurate estimate. It doesn't hurt to start making phone calls and doing some pre-planning before the snow melts!

Dream on, my friends, but remember to make your dreams come true you need to add some good planning into the mix as well.