Maintenance: Irrigation System Maintenance

Starting and Ending the Irrigation Season Right

Give Automatic Sprinklers a Spring Tune-Up
Before you start spring watering, take the time to check your system:

1. Make sure all manual drain valves are closed. An open drain valve can waste a lot of water and increase your water bill, costing you a lot of money. You may never even see the water, as it is draining into the ground.
2. Open the main valve to the sprinkler system.
3. Check all valve wires for frays and loose ends.
4. Clean sprinklers to make sure spraying patterns are uniform.
5. Check the vacuum breaker for leaks and spring tension. This assembly prevents the backflow of irrigation water into your home's drinking water pipes.
6. Adjust all sprinklers so they spray the landscape, not the sidewalk, driveway, house or street.
7. Set the timer for correct times and watering days. Change the battery in the timer if it has this option.

Hose-End Sprinkler Tune-Up
Hand-held and portable sprinklers need to be inspected in the spring, too. Here's a checklist:

1. Good hose condition is important. Check for cracks, splits and coupling problems. Replace the rubber washers at the couplings for a snug fit.
2. Check the sprinkler for leaks, clogs and malfunctions. Replace washers.
3. Check hose bibs for leaks and clogs.

Use these guidelines to periodically check your sprinkler system throughout the summer, too.

Fall Shut-Down
In the fall, as your landscape is preparing for winter, your sprinkler system should be shut down and winterized before freezing temperatures arrive. Here's how:

Automatic Sprinklers:
1. Close the main valve to the sprinkler system.
2. Open all sprinkler control valves.
3. Open all manual drain valves to drain the system.
4. Drain the vacuum breaker (this may freeze and break if not drained).
5. Allow a couple of hours for system drainage.
6. Close the sprinkler control valves and the manual drain valves.
7. Check the main valve to be sure it is closed tightly. If it isn't, tighten it and repeat steps 2 through 6.
8. Cover the vacuum breaker to protect it against freezing. (Optional)
9. Turn off the timer and unplug it.

Hose-End Sprinklers:
1. Drain hoses and sprinklers.
2. Repair any damage to the hoses and sprinklers.
3. Disconnect and store them in a warm garage or shed.

Remember, these tips are only a partial guide to sprinkler maintenance. For more information, consult a specialist in sprinkler irrigation.

Next: General Plant & Turf Maintenance Schedule

The seven horticultural principles: