Peter Longman, Rain Bird’s northern Europe landscape area manager talks to Pro Landscaper about considerations for landscape irrigation.
Irrigation technology is likely to play an increasingly important role in ensuring that water is used to maximum effect in the commercial landscaping, sports turf , residential and golf markets. With efficient irrigation products and practices, it is possible to reduce water consumption by 25% or more without having to give up the plants, trees and gardens that add so much to the landscape.
A fundamental requirement is to know the soil type involved as this is a factor in determining how fast and how often irrigation is needed. Different types of soils have differing rates of water intake and hold moisture for varying amounts of time. These factors influence the precipitation rate and type of sprinkler or other form of irrigation that is chosen.
One way of conserving water and promoting plant health is to spread mulch in beds, helping drainage, encouraging root development and improving the soil. Different types of plants will need differing amounts of water. One tip is to divide a property into separate zones so that groundcover, shrubs and trees can be watered separately and less frequently.
With existing installations, an important task is to evaluate irrigation performance. Small leaks can go unnoticed, potentially causing costly water wastage. Technology is available that can detect and fix these leaks, before they become expensive. A central irrigation controller that continuously monitors an installed system can use real-time alerts to indicate problems.
With new technologies, adjusting irrigation schedules in accordance with real-time and predicted weather conditions is possible. Starting with a weather station based system, a smart controller automatically adjusts the watering schedule taking into account current and predicted weather. This helps prevent over watering, excess run-off and unhealthy landscapes.
Wind drift interference is just one phenomenon that should influence the selection of irrigation products. Even small amounts of wind can cause water used for irrigation to drift, evaporate and be wasted. Pressure regulating sprays and rotors combined with thick streamed nozzles, such as R-VAN, can help reduce the effects, keeping water in the target zone.
Different types of emitters apply water at different rates, so it is important to make sure water is being applied evenly and not overwatering some portions of the landscape. The use of sprays and rotors with matched precipitation rates are available and are designed to be used together in the same zone.
Dripline systems irrigate plants directly and ensure that virtually no water is lost through evaporation and that water run off is minimised. Converting flower beds and shrubs to a drip irrigation system can on average save 50% compared with over watering using traditional sprays.
Commercial landscape designs continue to become more sophisticated, making effective irrigation increasingly important. Proper maintenance and specification of the most appropriate irrigation products will make a major contribution to the preservation of a commercial landscape.