As we enter into a new year, we are also readying our plans for spring field preparations. One of the first steps in this process is setting an ideal irrigation system. Here are some points to consider as your team is preparing for the spring.
One cannot complete spring irrigation alone. It is highly recommended to seek outside help with your efforts. Choosing the right contractor skilled for irrigation is crucial.
“The benefits of hiring an irrigation company is that they know the intricacies of an irrigation system and can diagnose any issues that could be starting,” says Michael Boettcher, director of grounds for the Milwaukee Brewers. “They are trained professionals and having their trained eye look at our system is always great at the start of the year. It also makes the process more efficient.”
Basically, winterization consists of draining water from the system’s pumps via compressed air.
“Removing water from any surface-water pumps is a must for the winter,” says W. Bryan Smith and Dara Park from Clemson University in their essay, “Winter Irrigation and Winterizing.” “Even a tiny amount of water left in a pump casing can freeze and crack the casing, requiring some expensive repair. As little as a quarter inch of water in the bottom of a pump casing has been known to freeze and crack a pump casing.”
Items within the system such as piping, fitting and control valves should be routinely inspected for wear during this time. “The biggest problems [at Miller Park] were physically damaged heads and isolation valves that had gotten some particles stuck in their components, resulting in a leaky valve,” Boettcher says.
Although winterization assuages any issues with an irrigation system, to ensure a successful spring season it’s best to conduct weekly scheduled inspections to address any emergencies.
“Our managers do the inspection,” Boettcher says, primarily adjusting arc or spray patterns. “The technology in spray patterns and irrigation distribution and overall quality construction of the heads has allowed for great success of our irrigation system throughout the entire site.”
One recommendation would be to develop a quick-and-easy checklist for ongoing system maintenance. This list can be laminated and re-used with a dry-erase marker on a monthly basis. The following is an example that can be customized to meet an individual’s specific needs, such as:
- Adjust heads to correct grade
- No missing heads or broken sprinklers
- No dissimilar sprinklers zoned together
- No interference to sprays by landscaping materials
- Annual equipment inspection
- Check filter screens
Having a full plan of execution from consultation and winterization to regular maintenance will ensure that your spring season is hassle-free.
- Spacing: Proper nozzles are installed; provide head-to-head coverage
- MPR: Nozzles in the sprinklers provide MPR or are zoned correctly to provide MPR
- Leakage/wear: Inspected the seals and the nozzles for chipping, cracking and breakage
- Clogs: Inspected nozzles and screens for clogs
- Adjustment: Proper orientation on landscape; no water on hardscape/building
- Nozzle size: Correct nozzle sizes are being used for the area
- Pressure: Proper for sprinkler/emitter/and valves
- Proper grade: Not too high or low
- Low head drainage: Check valve in head; in-line check valve
- Nozzle performance: Even distribution; proper distance
- Point of connection: Located and inspected
- Worn/leaking diaphragm: Inspected for proper closure
- Electrical connections/solenoid: Inspected connections and electrical components
- Proper flow control setting: If needed, adjusted flow control to improve performance
- Manual operation: Tested manual opening and closing abilities
- Automatic operation: Tested electrical opening and closing abilities
- Run times: Checked and adjusted
- Start times: Checked and adjusted
- Water days: Checked and adjusted
- Proper manual operation: Controller functioned in manual mode
- Proper automatic operation: Controller functioned in automatic mode
- Sensor operation: Inspected location and proper connections
Courtesy of Hunter Industries