When it comes to sprinkler-system problems, appearances can be deceiving.
If you walk outside and see water puddled around a sprinkler in your front lawn, your first thought might well be: “I need a new sprinkler.” But your first thought would be wrong.
So-called leaky sprinklers are indications of problematic sprinkler valves. Even though the sprinkler is surrounded by water and the valve is bone dry, the valve is invariably flawed on the inside, even if everything looks fine on the outside. When a sprinkler valve is shut off or closed, the slightest flow of water through the valve will puddle around sprinklers in the line. If the sprinklers are all at the same elevation, then water will puddle around the sprinkler(s) at the end of the line. If there is a difference in elevation among the sprinklers due to a sloping or irregular terrain, then water will puddle around the sprinkler(s) at the lowest point(s) of the line.
Remote-control sprinkler valves, the kind wired into an automatic time clock, are more prone to break down than manually operated valves. Manually operated valves (the ones you open and close with a triangle-handled, two-pronged metal key that may be 6 inches, 30 inches, or 54 inches in length) are less prone to problems than remote-control valves. Manual valves, since they open and close gradually by the operation of a human hand, are not exposed to radical and instantaneous water pressure changes – as is the case with remote-control valves. When a remote-control valve receives a signal to open or close from an automatic time clock, it does so instantaneously, overcoming a force of considerable water pressure in the process. The wear and tear on remote control valves is thus greater than the wear and tear on manual valves.
Ideally, your sprinkler system is separate from the water system going into your house; that way, you can shut off the water to your sprinkler valves without interrupting your domestic water supply. In fact, it would be a good idea to separate your irrigation from your domestic lines if this has never been done, although this task may require a plumber’s assistance.
Usually when a sprinkler breaks, it is the result of a lawn mower running over it. (Excessive water pressure is the other major cause of sprinkler breakage; in such cases, you will need to install a pressure regulator, probably with a plumber’s help.) Should this occur, it is imperative that you find a sprinkler of the same kind to replace it. When sprinklers of different types are hooked up to a single line, watering is irregular and some areas will get either too much or too little water.
When replacing a sprinkler, the hole that is dug around the broken sprinkler is the most important part of the procedure. Make sure the hole is dug deeper than the opening in the sprinkler line, from which extends a plastic riser or nipple to which the sprinkler is attached. Sometimes, removal of the sprinkler necessitates removal of the plastic nipple as well. The reason you want to dig a deep hole is to prevent dirt from getting into the sprinkler line when the sprinkler is removed. Should dirt get into the line, it can clog up sprinklers and prevent valves from closing. Unscrew the broken sprinkler with channel lock pliers.
On occasion, the plastic nipple inside the sprinkler line will break. There is a special tool, called a nipple extractor or e-z out, designed specifically for this occurrence. You should be able to find a tool of this kind at any well-stocked home and garden center. Water, mow, feed, poke
Working sprinklers is just one ingredient necessary to maintain a healthy lawn.
The experts at Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse, Briggs & Stratton, and Ace Hardware Corp. all agree on the elementary steps of lawn care. All three recommend providing your established lawn with approximately one inch of water per week and watering once deeply, instead of several times lightly. The ideal time to water is either early morning or evening to reduce evaporation.
To keep your lawn in top shape, mow once a week in different patterns to prevent ridges and remove only the top third of grass. Also make sure your mower blades are sharp.
Regular fertilization at the right time will keep your lawn lush. Early fall is an excellent time to aerate your lawn since all types are still actively growing and will make use of the increased air space to produce new and healthy roots.
Following aeration, which is achieved on large lawns with a rented hole-poking machine and on small lawns with a simple spading fork, spreading compost and fertilizer is recommended. The compost contains decomposing bacteria that will break down mineral compounds and assist roots in absorbing mineral elements present either in the ground or in fertilizer.
For more lawn and sprinkler care tips, check your local garden supply store for advice and guidebooks such as Ortho’s basic ones: “All About Sprinklers and Drip Systems” and “All About Lawns” (Meredith; $11.95 each). – Daily News