On Underground Sprinklers
It’s no secret that home improvement is one of our favorite subjects. What isn’t as well known is our passion for gardening. While we don’t classify ourselves as members of the green thumb club, we do take great pride in our gardens. Moreover, we find gardening to be a great source of relaxation and pleasure.
Maintaining a healthy and lush garden is no easy task. It can take lots of work. Weeds, pests, pruning and soil quality are just a few of the many challenges that face the weekend gardener. And depending upon where you live and how arid the climate may be, it can take lots of water.
Unfortunately, even the most well-intentioned gardener can have difficulty properly watering his yard. Some sure signs of an H2O-challenged yard are soil that is too wet, too dry or not evenly irrigated. Consequently, plants and turf are brown and brittle or yellow and soggy. In either case, with the watering under control, you’ll have a healthier garden and, at the same time, you will be helping save the earth by preserving one of its most precious resources – water.
Water conservation is increasingly important, as the word “drought” has become an all-too-familiar term to many. Water shortages have changed the completion of landscaping. Thus, drought-resistant landscape materials that reduce the demand for water anchor more and more gardens.
Though important, plant material choice only addresses part of the water problem. Plants still need water, therefore, as important a consideration is the water delivery system — how the water gets from the well or municipal water system to your trees, shrubs and turf.
In days gone by, most watering systems consisted simply of a garden hose connected to a faucet. The end of the hose was placed at the base of a tree or plant and often forgotten resulting in a wasteful and unhealthy overwatering.
This crude system was improved upon by placing an operator at the end of the hose. The operator generally placed his thumb over the end of the hose that caused the water from the hose to be dispersed over a broader area. As long as the operator continued to work his arm from side-to-side and moved from here-to-there, his garden got a pretty decent watering.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned method took forever. Consequently, a host of “hose-end” water disbursement devices (sprinklers) appeared on the market. Alas, more even watering without the need for an operator to be present all the time. This method, however, did nothing to solve the problem of overwatering. As a matter of fact, it made it worse as home gardeners relied on their “robots” to perform unattended for hours on end. Another drawback of this system is that, in order to be effective, the sprinkler must be moved frequently. May as well go back to the thumb-at-the-end-of-the-hose method.
Finally, someone got creative and replaced the hose with pipe and instead of one sprinkler, a group of sprinklers. Voila, the sprinkler system was born!
Since its humble beginnings, the sprinkler system has increasingly become easier to install, more affordable to buy and more effective to use. And as if that wasn’t enough, a good sprinkler system is worth its weight in water savings!
Keep in mind that not all sprinkler systems are created equal. To get the best bang for your sprinkling system buck, start with a good diagram or plan. The plan should outline what is to be watered (trees, shrubs, turf) and where existing sources of water are located. A professional landscape designer, landscape contractor or nursery specialist are the best resource for a top-notch irrigation system. If you would rather design and build the system yourself be sure to consult your local library or bookstore for the information you’ll need to end up with a quality job.
Water pressure, pipe diameter, the distance the water will travel and the size and shape of the area to be watered are just a few of the many details that must be considered when designing an irrigation system. Will you use a full circle (360 degrees) head; a half circle (180 degrees) or a quarter circle (ninety degrees)? And once you’ve decided what to use and where to use it, you’ll be faced with the distance that the head will cover and the amount of water that it uses expressed in gallons per minute (gpm).
The materials used to construct a sprinkler system have evolved from iron pipe that rusts easily to lightweight plastic that will last virtually forever. And that’s not all, the inefficient and clumsy sprinkler heads of yesteryear have been replaced by finely engineered stealth models that are the pinnacle of performance and efficiency. What’s more, they can even be hidden in the ground so that you don’t trip over them or cut them off with the blade of your lawn mower. What will they think of next? An automatic timer — that’s what!
Automatic timers that control watering time are an absolute must for an irrigation system. Formerly analog time clocks, these state-of-the-art water-yielding computers regulate the duration and number of times that a particular area of your yard is to be watered on a given day or in a given week. Some advanced models have multiple programs that allow for seasonal adjustment or varied watering times throughout the day or week.
You really get what you pay for when it comes to an irrigation system. Water is a costly precious resource — not to mention what it costs to landscape a yard. A good irrigation system is an investment. Therefore, don’t cheap out when it comes to the design and material used to create your system. Spending a bit more money up front for sprinkler installation will pay big dividends in water savings and a healthy garden over time.
A few tips to keep in mind when sprinkler shopping: don’t buy bargain basement pipe, fitting, valves, heads or timers. Get the best you can afford. Less is not more. More valves give you more and better control over the areas to be watered in your garden and boosts water pressure at each station. Dig a little deeper — pipes should be buried between seven and nine inches below the surface of the ground to avoid damage. Locating the valves below ground in a prefabricated box improves the overall appearance of your yard and is the sign of a true professional. Make a list of the items you need before going to the store and always buy extra pipe, fittings and glue to avoid making unnecessary trips.
Go for it! Install a sprinkler system and give your thumb a break.
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