“Out of sight, out of mind,” is mistake some in the Calgary community make in regards to their underground irrigation…to their unfortunate detriment. Whether your sprinkler system belongs to your business or residence, it’s important to remember to have regular maintenance performed each spring – long before someone decides to turn on the taps to give the lawn a quick spritz.
If you didn’t prepare your underground sprinkler system properly for winter last autumn, you may encounter problems this year unless prior care is taken.
Irrigation Maintenance 101
Every fall those with underground sprinklers must completely drain their lines. If this task is neglected, you could have major problems come spring. Water can freeze inside lines over winter, expand, and then “burst” the pipe, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. When you “recharge” your system in the spring, pipes that are compromised can simply cause the malfunction of one of your pop-ups or instigate a blow out resulting in major damage to your landscaping.
Never use your underground sprinkler system until you are fairly confident that the Calgary area hard freezes are over for the spring months.
Not only could you damage your system or landscaping, you’ll be calling for repairs at the busiest time of year for those with the expertise to fix your emergency.
Underground Sprinkler Dos and Don’ts
When the long nights of winter have finally given way to the longer days of spring, it’s time to inspect your irrigation system once again.
DO NOT simply turn on the main water supply valve and “see what happens.” Your system has been down for months. Although you may have done everything right in the fall and mothballed correctly, you still might not have removed every last bit of water. Proceed carefully in order to not make any possible damage worse.
DO keep a detailed diagram with the locations of each sprinkler head, where that sprinkler head’s particular zone’s line lies, and how that line feeds into its irrigation box. From there, you can decipher where your problems may have started, and how you can fix them.
DO use a very long screwdriver (about 9 to 12 inches) to probe the ground to ensure it is thawed to that depth before you “turn on” your system.
DO keep spares for repairs. If you have extra pop-ups, connectors and more pipe, you can take care of your immediate needs on your own.
Time to Test
After you are certain that nothing should be frozen, it is time for testing.
First, open the system’s air relief or drain valves to relieve pressure. Without doing so, the water that follows will force out the air very quickly, causing it to escape through your sprinkler heads, zone by zone. The air pressure can easily exceed the capacity of the sprinkler hardware and damage the head.
If you are not certain as to whether your system has air relief ability, remove the sprinkler head at the highest elevation in each zone to allow the air to escape the system without harm.
DO NOT simply open the main valve and let the water surge into the system at full blast. Ease the valve open to minimize any air pressure effects, ones that could have enough force to blow sprinkler heads right off of their risers.
DO NOT allow your timer to handle the initial spring charging and then stand back and watch. It’s a timer, not artificial intelligence. Only you can eyeball the system zone by zone, looking for problems. It’s time to crack open the operating instructions to use your automatic system manually. Be patient and slowly fill all of the zones until they gurgle out water and no more air hissing is heard.
DO work the system up to the pressure level it will normally operate and check whether any parts need replacing. Odds are there will be nozzles clogged with soil, risers that don’t rise, and sprinkler heads that no longer water where they were originally set.
If this sounds like a complicated and detail-oriented job, that’s because it is. If your sprinkler system is extensive, and deals with numerous zones to water scores of plants, you will want professional help in a pinch. At Mirage Landscaping in Calgary we are well versed in the installation, troubleshooting, and repair of these complex underground systems. By hiring us to maintain your Calgary area irrigation system , you could be saving yourself thousands of dollars in replacement and landscape repair costs.