Spring has officially arrived. And this time of year means the start of regular lawn watering.
In most areas of the country an irrigation system should be checked each spring before use to make sure it was not damaged by frost or freezing during the winter. Part of the activation process for a sprinkler system includes testing each "zone" to ensure the sprinkler heads are working and programming the irrigation system to water at intervals optimized for the local climate and time of year.
When it comes to a home's irrigation system, a little maintenance goes a long way. Throughout the upcoming months it is important to tweak the irrigation system settings to meet the lawn's changing needs and align with any local water restrictions.
March 22nd is also World Water Day. So what better way to recognize the day than to check your irrigation system for leaks? An irrigation system that has a leak 1/32nd of an inch in diameter (about the thickness of a dime) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.
Automatic sprinkler systems make it easy to forget that regular lawn watering uses a tremendous amount of water and can contribute to higher than necessary water bills. Consider these easy tips for saving money and water when caring for your lawn:
- Water only when your lawn needs it. The rule of thumb is that your lawn needs one inch of water per week. If you walk across your lawn and leave footprints, it's time to water. Or you can use a screwdriver as a probe to test soil moisture. If it goes in easily, don't water.
- Water during the coolest parts of the day. Mornings are best to prevent fungus growth and minimize evaporation.
- Water slowly and deeply to avoid runoff and allow for better absorption. This will help your lawn's roots learn to grow down into the soil, improving their strength and health. It will also prevent evaporation.
- Use sprinklers that throw big drops of water close to the ground. Smaller drops of water and mist often evaporate before they hit the ground.
- Consider using a soaker hose, which waters closer to the ground and plant roots and reduces evaporation.
- Double check that your sprinkler heads aren't spraying onto your sidewalk or driveway. It's easy for a sprinkler head to get knocked loose or jolted by lawnmowers or summer recreation lawn activities.
- Check for and fix leaks and replace broken heads, which can waste hundreds of gallons of water. A broken head can waste 25,000 gallons in six months!
- Install a WaterSense-labeled irrigation controller to avoid watering when it's not needed.
- Check your sprinkler system's water pressure and use a flow and pressure gauge, which can save hundreds of gallons of water.
- Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants, which will help keep the soil moist and prevent evaporation.
- Set your lawnmower blades one notch higher, which keeps the grass blades longer, provides shade to the roots, prevents greater evaporation, and inhibits weed growth.
- If an area needs a little extra water, don't run your sprinkler system longer. Try watering that section by hand.
Be certain to check out the Energy Saver page on landscaping for water conservation for more tips on how to save water when irrigating.
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