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!