Monday, April 29, 2013

Starting Your Sprinkler System

On top of all the other Monday sort of stuff, the weather was beautiful, the phone was ringing off the hook and our website disappeared off the internet. Wow was it MONday!

Many of you are looking for our start-up instructions, so while I wrestle with the world wide web to try to restore a live website for you, here are our general start-up instructions -

  Go outside to the valve box(es).
Open the lid(s) and CLOSE the drain(s) inside the box(es). Check for any other drains on the system, for example an above ground hose attachment or pool fill hoses. (NOTE: Not every system will have manual drains in the valve boxes, most newer systems have automatic drains - these are yellow.)

2. Go to the vacuum breaker. (The brass device on the side of your house)
The handles should have been left at a half way on half way off position for the winter. Turn the green handles so they shut the valves. Typically in the off position, the upper handle will be vertical and the lower horizontal, or going across the pipe. You will need a flat blade screwdriver to turn the screws (2) on the test-cocks 1/4 turn so that they are also across the pipe (meaning if the pipe is vertical you want the screw to be horizontal).

3.  Go to the basement.
SLOWLY turn on the water to the sprinkler system. If you have correctly closed the backflow, the water will fill up to that point and stop (If the water does not stop flowing within about 30 seconds shut the water back off inside and check the vacuum breaker for leaks). Return outside to the vacuum breaker and slowly turn the green handles starting with the lower green handle. As you turn the lower green handle, you may hear a popping sound as the air is released from the backflow, properly setting the backflow. After this turn the upper green handle so both are in line with the pipe - the lower green handle should be vertical, upper green handle should be horizontal. You should feel the water flowing through the backflow. The water will stop running when the pipes are full to the valves. If the water continues to flow though the backflow after the first few minutes, you need to check in the valve boxes for signs of water. Turn off the water, stop the leak (Frequently is it just a drain that has been left open in a valve box) and try again.

4. Go to the controller.
 Manually start the system, checking each head of each zone for proper operation, walk your yard and check for leaks. After insuring the system is operating properly set your controller to run as needed. Typically three days a week is adequate for early season watering.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rain, Snow, Sleet & Sun

More snow?!?!?
Can you believe it? It snowed again. The second snowiest April in Sioux City history. It just seems a little crazy to all of us who are itching for spring to arrive.

Looking on the bright side, our area has moved from "Exceptional Drought Conditions" to a more "Moderate to Severe" level. This is great news for area landscapes and farmers. Also in the good news category, I heard an agronomist on the news saying that in that full 10 days of moisture we had, there was virtually no run-off. You could about hear the trees heaving a sigh of relief when those first early rains started to soak in.

Although we humans are sick of the dreary weather, it will be for the best in the long run. If we can get a dry enough run here (and the forecast looks promising!) the farmers can get their crops in, followed by another period of rain we will be practically golden. So hang tight! It is all for the greater good!

Many of you are dying to get out into your yard, get the sprinkler running and all those things that tell you that summer is on the way. Don't get into too much of a hurry. Give your yard the opportunity to dry out a litte and dig those roots in deep to look for water. If you start your watering before your grass even needs it you set yourself up for surface roots. I know we have covered that before, but I know some of you haven't listened yet, because every year we see you watering in ways that make us crazy! Besides, as of today, our techs were finding ice in valve boxes located on the north side of properties. Frozen sprinklers won't run. If the forecast holds true we will finally get some sunny and warm days. (Hooray!) The trees are going to explode with color and the grass is going start it's growth cycle. Keep in mind that even though the sun is shining and everything is coming out of dormancy, watering is not an immediate need. So be patient, the season has just begun.

One final note - If you didn't get your spring fertilizer on before all this wet weather, be sure to get your sprinkler up and running before you apply the chemicals. Every year we get a handful of calls from panicked individuals who have fertilized and then discovered that have a non-functioning irrigation system. We encounter such a huge volume of calls in the spring, the odds of us getting your call picked up within the "water in 24 hours" window are slim to none. So this year, do us both a favor and make sure your system works before you break out the fertilizer spreader.

Keep it Green -

Monday, April 15, 2013

Wild and Wacky Spring!

Wild and Wacky Spring!

Wow! Has Mother Nature been having some serious mood swings in the last few weeks!We have seen several types of weather, sometimes in the same day! Looks like after this week we should settle down a bit. I am very thankful for the moisture, which has moved us out of the "extreme drought condition" category, but am ready a little more moderate weather patterns!

It is interesting to me how things change from one year to the next. Last year was crazy hot really early in the spring. We were starting sprinklers earlier than we ever had before. Our fruit trees all blossomed out early, then we got a frost, the blossoms all died and we didn't get any fruit (two years in a row that happened!) This year, here we are at April 15th, which is our average start day, still not starting sprinklers. You just never know how things are going to go here in the Midwest!

The good news is that you have had extra time to make sure all your summer equipment is ready to go. The lawnmower blades should be good and sharp and the mowers and trimmers all tuned up and at the ready. What? You haven't done that yet? Better get on it! Won't be too long before you will be needing those!

I took advantage of the milder days to prune some dead wood out of some trees and bushes on the property. The early bloomers are just starting to fatten up, so it is quite easy to see which branches will be producing this year and which ones are needing to be cut loose. My lilac bushes look so much better. I look forward to having them in full bloom.

Many of you will be applying spring fertilizer in the next few weeks. Remember, make sure your sprinkler is fully functional BEFORE you apply fertilizer. Every year we get panicked phone calls from people who have applied fertilizer that needs to be watered in and then discover that they have winter damage to their sprinkler. Plan ahead and save yourself the emergency call fee that can arise from this situation.

 Hang in there all you winter haters! Spring will arrive soon!

Keep it Green!

Have a super week!