Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Getting every drop from your irrigation system...

So far this year we’ve been lucky when it comes to rainfall. But I think we all know what lies ahead this summer. Last year’s complicated water use restrictions targeted home landscapes (unfairly if you ask me) in an attempt to conserve water. However, many decision makers now understand that landscape irrigation (NOT TURF) represents a drop in the bucket when it comes to water use. Proposed changes to the restrictions would allow irrigation of landscape beds as water supplies become limited.

That being said – water conservation is the “responsibility” of all gardeners. Here’s a link to an Extension Fact Sheet outlining basic water conservation strategies.

I’ve dabbled with lots of low volume irrigation systems with varying degrees of success. For my money, permeable soaker hoses do a good job of delivering water at a reasonable cost. They don’t work well on uneven terrain (not much of a problem in Galveston) and they have to be replaced periodically. But other than that I find they are very efficient - and can be covered by mulch so they're barely visible.

Getting water to various locations in the landscape can be challenging but PVC pipe is easy to work with, making irrigation plumbing a DIY project for virtually anyone. In our sub-tropical climate we don’t even have to worry too much about freezing and in some areas I barely have the pipe buried.

However – you do need a LICENSED PROFESSIONAL to tie in to the water supply. They’ll install a back flow preventer to ensure you don’t contaminate the water supply.

Lastly, controlling each irrigation zone use to mean running wires from the timer to a solenoid valve. That can be a difficult task – especially in an existing landscape where you have to work around plants and hardscape. The advent of battery operated control valves (solenoids) has made this job sooooo… much easier. They’re a little pricey ($40 last time I checked at HD) but worth every penny.   

NOTE: Most of these systems fit together using hose connections. Hose thread is different from machine thread and if you attempt to screw a hose fitting into a regular threaded PVC fitting it will leak – even with Teflon tape. The DIY Centers have PVC slip to hose fittings in the irrigation section NOT in the plumbing section with the rest of the PVC stuff. Go figure.

Regardless of the system you choose, in the end YOU are responsible for its operation. Even the most efficient irrigation system can be wasteful if not run and maintained properly. An irrigation system is not a one-and-done setting operation. They have to be checked regularly and adjustments made based on changes in water demand.

Use your irrigation system wisely!!!


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