The “set it and forget it” attitude wastes a lot of water due to weather changes and unobserved equipment malfunction. Schedule regular maintenance times to assess your irrigation system and adjust your controller programming.
Start up in late May. The last frost for Castle Rock tends to be mid-May. It is recommended to wait until after Mother’s Day or later in the month to turn on the irrigation system. Unless it has been an unusually dry winter, established plants don’t need supplemental watering before May.
Adjust your sprinklers, frequently. Mowers and foot traffic can easily disturb sprinklers. Periodically, walk each zone and check if sprinkler heads are broken or misaligned. Adjust to eliminate overspray onto sidewalks and streets. Adjust for obstructions such plants and fences. Adjusting a sprinkler head is usually as easy as ratcheting it or perhaps adjusting the tiny top screw.
Head-to-head coverage. Ensure the spray from one sprinkler head reaches to the next head. Having complete coverage ensures a more even irrigation pattern. If spray does not reach all the way to the next head, brown, dry spots in the lawn are likely to develop.
Choose the right sprinkler for the job.
- Design your sprinkler system and landscape into several zones to match the needs of the landscape. Plant type, soil type and condition, exposure and slope can all affect watering needs of plant material.
- Do NOT mix sprinkler head types as sprinklers apply water at different rates. Do not mix sprinkler head heights. Consistency is key to ensure efficient head-to-head coverage.
- Larger areas, like lawns, can be watered more efficiently with rotors. Find rebates for efficient rotary nozzles.
- Fixed spray heads and rotating nozzles provide more flexibility for smaller spaces. When appropriate, consider retrofitting less efficient fixed spray nozzles with more efficient rotary nozzles. Find rebates for efficient rotary nozzles.
- Rotors and rotating nozzles are better for sloped areas and those with clay soil. These heads / nozzles apply water more slowly allowing for longer run times without runoff.
- Use drip emitters or in-line drip tubing for planting beds and trees. Drip irrigation can be used for a variety of applications by simply selecting the emitter best suited for the plant material, size of plant and maturity of plant. Placing drip emitters on stakes allows for easy adjustment as the plant grows.
- All sprinkler heads / nozzles are designed to operate at a specific pressure. Knowing your available pressure is important. For example, fixed spray heads generally operate best at 30 pounds per square inch (psi) while rotors or rotating nozzles are designed to operate at 40-50 psi.
Check your water pressure. Confirm which nozzle you’re using and make sure
it’s operating at the correct pressure.
Install rain sensors and smart controllers
- Rain sensors interrupt the irrigation cycle when adequate rainfall has occurred. Rain sensors are required for all irrigation systems. Check for proper function of rain sensors; they are frequently installed upside down, placed under eaves or put in 'bypass' mode on the controller.
- Smart controllers automatically adjust either sprinkler run-times or watering frequency based on changes in weather or soil moisture. Many are easily programmable from a phone app.
- Castle Rock Water offers rebates to replace your traditional controllers with smart controllers.
- Soil moisture sensors, much like rain sensors, connect to your irrigation controller and interrupt the watering schedule until the soil dries out.
- If there are dry spots, areas where water is pooling or water waste, turn on the irrigation system and assess each zone. A visual assessment should take place at seasonal start up and at least monthly as weather, foot traffic and equipment can easily affect irrigation equipment.
- A Cup Test can find problem areas. Place similar cups (tuna cans, rain cups) in an even pattern across the lawn, including next to sprinklers and in between sprinklers. Turn on the system for 10 minutes. Each cup should collect the same amount of water.
- Sprinklers should have head-to-head coverage and the spray from one sprinkler should reach all the way to the other sprinkler head (not just meet in the middle).
- Check that sprinklers in a single zone are the same, with the same reach, same pressure and same style. Different sprinklers apply water at different rates, so it’s important not to mix equipment.
- Sprinklers should be popping up above the turf. Replace heads with a taller one, if necessary.
- Angled sprinklers should be dug up and straightened at the line. Do not prop with rocks as this can crack the line.
- Over-spraying or misaligned sprinklers can often be ratcheted by hand or adjusted with the top screw.
- Trim / prune any plant material that is interfering with sprinkler spray, or relocate the sprinklers.
- Sprinkler heads that are dribbling may be broken or need the filter cleaned.
- Sprinklers with fine spray may have too much pressure. Excessive pressure can cause undue wear on the system and is inefficient due to increasing wind drift and the rate of evaporation.
Winterize by mid-October
- Blow out the irrigation system by using an air compressor to rid the irrigation system of water. Most systems do not have a gravity drain and this method is ineffective. Winterizing the irrigation system can help prevent costly damage. CSU Extension Winterizing Instructions (PDF).