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Irrigation planning and maintenance brings all round benefits

Using an automated irrigation system is one of the best ways to keep new lawns and landscapes healthy whilst minimising water waste, keeping utility bills low and helping to protect the environment. In combination with up-front planning and professional advice, automated irrigation will help to ensure long-term satisfaction with any new residential or commercial landscape.

At the landscape and irrigation planning stage, working with a local qualified designer or contractor with knowledge of soil types and climate conditions will help greatly in the selection of appropriate turf and plant species. Grouping plants with similar watering needs close together and separating grassed areas from shrubs will assist in effective irrigation planning.

Irrigation zoning is a process to be undertaken carefully, whilst also ensuring that the irrigation system will have enough capacity for now and the future. The more zones that are planned, the more irrigation can be customised to the installation, even if the landscaping is modified or extended at a later date. Installing extra connections at the outset makes it easier and less expensive to expand the irrigation system later.

Irrigation zones are areas that are watered by the same irrigation valve and delivery system, with irrigation scheduling taking into consideration sun, shade and wind exposure. However, the best system design will not perform as well as it should if inferior components are selected or installed incorrectly. Checking on-site water pressure and the selection of the most appropriate sprinklers is essential as low or high water pressure can seriously affect their performance.

Something as simple as selecting the correct type of pipe can also mean the difference between a system that lasts and one that requires constant attention.  Where surface or sub-surface dripline irrigation is installed, lines should be installed carefully to protect them from damage from aeration or other garden tools as well as other lawn or landscape maintenance procedures.

The inclusion of smart controls as part of an irrigation system will automatically adjust watering based on rain, soil moisture, evaporation and plant water use. Rain sensors will stop the system from operating when it does rain whilst a soil sensor measures moisture at the root zone and turns off the system when no additional water is needed.

In operation, water wastage can be avoided by setting sprinklers accurately to reach plants but not to soak an adjacent driveway, path or patio. Run-off can be reduced by watering each zone more often for shorter periods. For example, setting a system to run for three five-minute intervals lets the soil absorb more water than watering for 15 minutes at one time.

Watering at the right time of day is also important and the best times are late afternoon, evening, and just before sunrise. When the sun is low  there is less wind and temperatures are lower, reducing evaporation by as much as 30 percent. Adjusting the watering schedule regularly to account for seasonal weather conditions and other factors will help to keep plants healthy without overwatering.

Irrigation systems need regular inspection and maintenance to keep them working efficiently year after year. Damage from lawn equipment or the effects of winter weather can cause leaks and other problems. Checking water pressure, examining for leaks, inspection of sprinkler heads and other components for damage should be routine, along with ensuring sprinkler heads remain set high enough to clear plants that may have grown taller since the system was installed.

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