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Increasing efficiency in landscape irrigation

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Greg Geilman
Greg Geilman is a Los Angeles native of over 40 years and owner of South Bay Residential. Website:
  • Increasing efficiency in landscape irrigation

Most lawns and gardens need water from irrigation in order to survive. Unfortunately, it's pretty easy to use an unnecessary amount of water to complete this task. Fortunately, it's becoming increasingly easier to minimize wasted water at home. Increasing efficiency in landscaping irrigation is good for the environment and the pocket book. If you're a homeowner who needs to water your lawn throughout the spring and summer, here's what you need to know about using water wisely.

How Much Water Does Your Landscaping Need?

In most cases, an inch of water (or an inch and a half) per week is enough to keep most lawns properly watered. The easiest way to measure how much water a lawn is getting each week is to install a rain gage in the path of the sprinklers. Running the sprinkler in the early morning or in the evening is a good way to ensure that the water soaks into the ground without evaporating in the sun.

Homeowners that handle their own landscaping and who are concerned that their lawn may not be getting enough water can watch their plants for signs of drought stress. Grass will turn light brown and brittle if it's not getting enough water, while flowers will droop their leaves. Under watered vegetables will wilt as well.

A homeowner who notices that their plants exhibit signs of drought stress even when watering their lawn at least one inch each week can increase their watering by degrees until their plants seem healthy.

The Efficiency of Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation systems make efficient use of water without wasting if it's set up properly. Drip irrigation systems work by delivering water to the exact location where it is needed. The water drips from a pipe and soaks directly into the ground. In some cases, drip irrigation systems are buried under the soil, so the water is delivered straight to the roots of thirsty plants.

Drip irrigation is especially desirable in areas where the ground is steeply pitched. The dripping action prevents water from pooling and also prevents runoff. Homeowners who live in hot, dry climates often turn to drip irrigation because it's the easiest way to deliver the right amount of water without wasting. Drip irrigation is also useful in gardens where plants that need a lot of water are planted close to plants that do not need a lot of water.

To properly use a drip irrigation system, the pipes or hoses that deliver water must be taken directly to the plant that needs the water. Timers help ensure that the drip irrigation system only delivers the amount of water needed, and not more. Drip irrigation systems can take a while to set up, but once in place, they are an easy tool for delivering an exact amount of water to a precise location.

Sprinkler System Efficiency Tips

Sprinkler systems are a good tool for broadcasting water over a wide area. For homeowners with large lawns, sprinkler systems are a convenient way to deliver water to a variety of plants. Sprinkler systems can be very water inefficient unless the homeowner uses smart practices to avoid making waste. For example:

  • Avoid running the sprinkler in the middle of the day.
  • Water for longer periods of time once per week, rather than watering for shorter periods of time multiple times per week.
  • Turn off the sprinkler system on weeks when rain supplements the normal need for water.

Another smart way of avoiding wasted water is by maintaining the sprinkler system. Broken sprinkler heads waste a lot of water, often by causing the water to pool in the area around the sprinkler head. Sprinkler leaks can also lead to wasted water. Maintaining the sprinkler system can help prevent these problems.

Homeowners who aren't sure how to maintain their sprinkler system can do so by having an irrigation specialist take a look at their sprinkler once annually. In areas where the ground freezes in winter, it's also helpful to empty the water out of the pipes at the end of the fall, before freezing weather arrives.

Hand Watering Tips

For homeowners who don't have a drip irrigation or sprinkler system (or have parts of their landscaping left untouched by their irrigation systems), hand watering may be the best way to get water to areas in the lawn that need it. When hand watering, homeowners can avoid wasting water by spraying directly at the plants in a targeted fashion, rather than broadcasting the water over a wide area. The closer you can get - without damaging the plant - the better.

Many hose attachments have different spray options. Some nozzles spray a mist, for example. Tiny droplets from misting water can evaporate quickly, so homeowners who want to save water will avoid using these options.

Using Technology for Increased Efficiency

Many people have heard of smart technology that can turn on/off lights and adjust thermostats. Smart technology also saves water by using smart irrigation systems to take into consideration a variety of factors including weather, air temperature, humidity and soil moisture. Sensors take measurements and tell the system when to turn on and turn off. These highly efficient irrigation systems help homeowners make the best use of water possible.

If you're a homeowner who needs more information about how to make smart use of your water, talk to an irrigation specialist or landscape artist. Working with a professional can help ensure that your irrigation system will waste as little water as possible.

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