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Irrigation System Introduction

Many homeowners who have lawn irrigation systems installed feel the need to make frequent use of their investment. Frequent use, however, may not be best use. When it comes to irrigation systems timing is everything. Setting a system to water on a daily basis will result in a lawn that has little resilience to fluctuating moisture conditions, is more susceptible to disease, and has continued reliance on frequent watering. If you have a system in place it is important to learn how to set the clock. As the seasons change so do the watering needs of your lawn; the middle of the summer tends to be relatively hot dry while the spring and fall tend to have cooler temperatures and more rain. While the system may have a rain gage, these do not always perform well and it is best to have the system set for the current seasonal conditions. Itis best to limit watering to say once or twice a week during the summer months for established lawns, with watering times set for about 20-30 minutes per zone. Set watering times for early morning in order to limit water loss from evaporation, protect plants from sun scorch, and allow for a dying off period as the day warms.


When it comes to irrigation systems for planting beds there are some additional considerations. A well designed planting bed that takes the soil and light conditions into consideration should, once established, not require regular watering. The real advantage to irrigating planting bed is in ensuring the survival of new, and therefore, vulnerable plantings. Installation of a large planting plan can be costly and if one does not have the time to make sure that new plants receive sufficient watering then it may be a wise investment. After two to three years plants should be able to withstand normal moisture fluctuations and benefit from irrigation only during periods of drought.

If one does choose to have irrigation installed in bed areas, there are two basic approaches. Most people are familiar with the standard systems that employ spray heads.  Such systems do pose some issues when applied to planting beds. For one, the plants themselves tend to create obstacles to the distribution of water, especially as they grow. Such systems lead to battering of some plants creating areas that do not receive sufficient water and areas that are overwatered.

Drip irrigation systems provide an alternative approach to irrigation for bed areas; commonly used in hotter, dryer sections of the country they are now being employed more frequently in the northeast. Such systems are especially affective (and water saving) when used on tree and shrub plantings because they direct water to individual root systems. They are also quiet, unobtrusive and help limit water loss due to evaporation.

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