By Rich Wilbert, Landscape Project Manager
Do you need one?
Many consumers inquire about irrigation systems when they are looking to updating or renovating their landscape. An irrigation system is certainly a time saver, can provide supplemental moisture during times of drought, and definitely adds an element of convenience for a homeowner; however, like many time saving devices, an irrigation system can be both helpful and harmful to your landscape. Let’s discuss some important considerations of an irrigation system.
Irrigation systems prove to be very beneficial during the first year of plant installation, when plants are in the establishment phase. New plantings need frequent and consistent waterings during this time, but once plants are established and acclimated to their new environment they typically will not require as much moisture as they did initially. After the establishment phase is complete, homeowners typically over water their landscape because their irrigation system remains set for the initial planting’s needs and not modified over time to accommodate for the plants acclimation. An irrigation system must be regulated, monitored and adjusted seasonally to deliver optimal results.
Many home owners do not understand that over watering, like under watering, can be harmful to plants and more often than not we see problems caused by over watering verses under watering. Since most experts recommend running your irrigation early in the morning, to allow plants to dry during the day to aid in the prevention of fungus and other diseases, homeowners typically won’t observe the system operating. This makes it even less likely that the homeowner will be reminded to check that their systems setting are appropriate.
The need for an irrigation system is also dependent on the plantings selected for your landscape. The more “native” plants you select, the less irrigation you will need. A lot of people like to stretch the plant palette in their landscaping, selecting plants that are not hardy in their particular zone, in order to achieve a more impressive planting selection. A helpful tool is a Zone Chart that will measure whether a plant is able to survive and prosper in a given area. This chart is based on climate factors such as temperature rainfall amounts. If you select plants that are most suitable to grow in your area, the more likely the average moisture received is sufficient in your area to maintain that plant without an irrigation system.
An irrigation system is also a complicated system depending on the water flow and pressure. The amount of water a particular plant needs can be regulated by the water output at each irrigation head. This also affects the watering times each zone runs. Performing these variables can be complicated for a home owner. Depending on their level of expertise, comfort in performing the adjustments, and patience, this may warrant professional assistance.
Irrigation systems are just one of many tools in a landscaper’s tool box. I suggest, as a homeowner, you seek the advice of your landscape professional as to whether or not an irrigation system is appropriate for your landscape’s needs and your life style. An irrigation system requires a start up in the spring, monitoring throughout the season (based on weather conditions, the types of plant you install, and to insure proper functionality of the system) and winterization before the cold months hit. This is an investment of time and money and a decision best made after careful consideration.
If you are interested in discussing this or any other landscape related topic with one of our highly qualified Landscape Professionals, please contact us now or call our offices at 703-339-0600.