As Minnesotans, we look forward to our summers! They often feel too short — but just like you, we soak up every minute of the heat and summer sun. And when it’s really hot and dry in July and August, our lawn can take the brunt of the hot sun. This can be alleviated by investing in an irrigation sprinkler system that keeps your lawn and garden healthy. It also allows you to set-up a schedule while on vacation instead of relying on your neighbors or family members to turn on the sprinklers. Plus, you save money on your water bill and help with water conservation!
However, how do you know what sprinkler type to use? Or how long to run the water program on your sprinkler system? Below is a quick guide, but the best choice is to ask one of our Rock Solid experts. They can help you pick the right sprinklers based on your plants and soil type.
What Type of Irrigation System Should You Use?
There are three common home irrigation system types. The type or types to use in your yard depends on your soil type and slope of your yard.
1. Sprinkler Irrigation
The most common home irrigation system which has pipes buried 8-12 inches deep with pressurized sprinkler head space around your landscape. The sprinkler heads are placed in locations to optimize the amount of water reaching your lawn. Besides being the most effective, it is also the easiest to maintain and most bang-for-your-buck for covering large gardens and lawns.
2. Micro Irrigation
Micro irrigation is a low pressure and has a low flow rate of delivering water. There are different types of micro irrigation that use small sprinklers or drip tubes. The water is sprayed out through a small sprinkler device at much lower rates than conventional sprinkler heads. It is highly efficient and perfect for compact soil or around your garden bed as it prevents overwatering and water runoff. The shift toward micro irrigation systems is that they use 20 to 50 percent less water than conventional sprinkler systems.
3. Drip Irrigation
Drip or trickle irrigation systems are becoming more and more popular because of the system’s efficiency. The water is dripped through irrigation lines that supply the water directly to your plant’s roots. Due to the direct application of the water, you will also notice less weeds popping up in areas that would normally be sprayed by sprinklers. The drawback of drip irrigation is that in heavier soils water backups can occur.
What sprinkler heads should you use?
With sprinkler irrigation being the most popular, the type of sprinkler head used can vary based on your plants or soil needs.
1. Fixed spray heads are best used for small to medium sized lawns or with low water pressure.
Spray head should be placed less than 15 feet apart to ensure that water reaches your whole lawn or garden. If they are further away, you will notice dead spots in your lawn. This ability to adjust of your sprinkler heads makes sure your lawn is being watered and not your walkways.
These spray heads can be susceptible to wind drift on windy days. However, using a sprinkler system is more effective and creates less water waste than hand watering or using a traditional sprinkler.
2. Rotary heads are used for larger lawns.
These sprinkler heads can cover larger distances and can be 15 – 50 feet apart depending on your system’s pressure. Rotary heads supply water slower than spray heads, so they are ideal for slow-draining soil and preventing run-off on slopes. These sprinkler heads are more efficient than fixed spray heads as they reduce water flow up to sixty percent, and improve efficiency by up to thirty percent.
3. Bubblers are used around shrubs like rosebushes or trees, not lawns.
Bubblers deliver a lot of water fast and shouldn’t be used on soils that don’t drain such as clay soil. They are a great option if you don’t want water sprayed to unwanted areas such as on your windows. Bubblers are great for one or two locations, but if you have multiple plants, we recommend looking into a drip system versus bubblers heads as they tend to be more effective and prevent flooding.
4. Micro irrigation is effective in planter boxes and small gardens.
There are different types of drips or spray heads that you can use in micro irrigations including:
- In-line drip tubing (drip irrigation) for vegetable gardens, ground cover, hedges, and trees.
- Micro-spray, which uses spaghetti tubing on a riser, is great for large flowerbeds, or gardens with higher water needs.
- Micro-bubblers to use around larger shrubs.
Also note, that if you’re combining different sprinkler heads around the yard, each type should have its own zone. This prevents overwatering. Remember — you can also add a drip line to certain parts of your yard instead of using sprinkler heads exclusively, drip systems should also be on separate zones.
How long should I run my sprinklers?
To answer this question, zones are important. As mentioned above, different sprinkler heads provide different amount of water. Also, a flower garden zone may need to run longer than lawn zone.
When planning and designing your irrigation system, your Rock Solid expert will provide suggested timings based on your garden or lawn. However, here are few rules to go by:
- Water in the morning to prevent fungus growth.
- For your lawn, soak six inches into the soil to promote healthy grass root growth, which is around 1-1.5” of water per week.
- Water around 2-3 days per week or following your city’s watering schedule, especially when in a drought.
- If your soil is compact or on a slope, cycle and soak these areas rather than use one continuous cycle.
The Importance of Maintenance
To keep your irrigation system running effectively, you should check for leaky sprinkler heads or pipes. Also clean your sprinkler heads from dirt build-up and check that they are popping up correctly. Regular preventative maintenance will extend the lifetime of your irrigation system and help avoid costly large repairs.
You will also need to winterize your system in the fall in order to prevent freezing and expansion which causes pipes to burst. Winterizing involves blowing out all the water in your lines before the freezing temperatures arrive.
Overall, installing an irrigation system should take into account your landscaping and plant needs. It will save you time in the long run and take the guess work out of watering. Want to know more? Start a conversation with the landscape professionals at Rock Solid and get your free quote.