Vail Landscape Logic column: Set in place smart irrigation practicies
July 12, 2015
How many times during recent downpours did you pass a yard and see the sprinklers running in the rain?
It's hard to believe we're into July, right? We expect temps to be their hottest and to see sprinklers running to keep lawns cool and grass green. This year, however, persistent rains are saturating soils and creating bog-like conditions in some yards. Mother Nature has delivered more water than we need.
And July is also Smart Irrigation Month. Hats off to Gov. Hickenlooper for again making this proclamation. Right now, it appears the smartest irrigation move we can make is to turn our sprinkler systems off.
Turn off Sprinklers
Another smart move is to make sure our sprinklers don't run in the rain once the system has been turned back on again. That's most helpful when we're away and can't run out to turn the sprinklers off during a downpour.
Installing one of two relatively simple devices can keep the system from watering during rainy periods or when soils are sufficiently moist. It's wasteful to pay for or use water we don't need. And it is not healthy for plants to have prolonged periods of sitting in saturated soils. That's what these devices prevent.
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Install a Sensor
Installing either a rain sensor or a soil moisture sensor can help ensure that sprinklers don't run during periods of heavy rain or when the soil already has enough moisture to sustain plants. Both devices are simple to install even on an existing sprinkler system — and they are not expensive upgrades.
These devices collect data on either precipitation received or moisture in the soil and send it to the sprinkler timer. When the measurement hits a predetermined level, that information will override the timer's scheduled watering. The rain sensor, which measures rainfall, will override the system when a pre-set amount of precipitation is reached. The soil moisture sensor, which monitors water in the soil, will halt watering when sufficient moisture exists in the root zone of the plants.
Here's an example. Suppose during our last string of hot days, you had set your sprinkler system to water on a regular basis so that your lawn and plants would get regular water while you were away on vacation. Without one of these devices, your sprinkler system would be watering to keep plants alive on 90-degree days and would have continued to run during the recent downpours on very cool days.
On the other hand, if a rain sensor or soil moisture monitor was in place, then watering would have stopped. You would have conserved water, saved utility fees and avoided even more over-saturation of your lawn and other plants.
Colorado has tough and always-changing weather conditions. With smart irrigation practices, we can be better at managing whatever Mother Nature hands us.
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.