Whether you are growing a range of vegetables, fruits, or other plants, a proper garden sprinkler system is essential for a healthy garden. A suitable irrigation system will not only maintain the health of the plants, but it can be constructive for preventing the growth of unwanted weeds too.
Setting Up a Garden Sprinkler System
Things to Keep in Mind When Buying a Sprinkler System
Sprinkler systems can save you time and money in the long run, as well as giving your lawn a healthy glow, but there are a few key things to keep in mind when buying a sprinkler system.
Do You Really Need a Sprinkler System?
Before you start shopping for a sprinkler system and learning more about the different types of systems out there, it's wise to ask yourself if you really need one in the first place and how it might be able to change or improve your life.
Some homeowners with only small patches of grass might not need any sprinklers, but if you have a large yard or busy schedule, a system could save you a ton of time. If you deem you need one, it is essential to know what you need in a sprinkler system.
The best sprinkler systems are able to water your plants at the ideal times of day, allowing you to rest longer in bed or set off to work without having to worry about when you're going to water the lawn.
They can also adapt to changing weather conditions in order to ensure that the grass gets all the water it needs, without any unnecessary waste.
Understanding the Different Types of Sprinkler Systems
A good way to start your search for a new sprinkler system is to develop your understanding of the different types of sprinkler systems that exist, along with other irrigation options, as there are actually several varieties of landscape irrigation you can choose from.
Sprinkler systems are just one major type of landscape irrigation, perfect for watering residential lawns, farmland, golf courses, and more. If you're considering installing a sprinkler system, it's crucial to select the right sprinklers for your specific needs.
There are other options too, like drip irrigation systems that feed water slowly out across the soil, well-suited for flower beds and gardens, as well as blended systems that make use of different irrigation methods to water areas of land that might have different patches of grass and flowers that demand different forms of treatment.
Work with Professionals
When it comes to setting up your lawn sprinkler system, you'll want to make sure that you're choosing to work with a trusted, experienced company with a proven track record of success.
This isn't the sort of job you want to entrust to a casual handyman, and it's certainly not something that homeowners should attempt to do on their own.
These kinds of systems are complex and require a lot of precision and care in their installation, and the method of installation can also make a major difference when it comes to maintenance and repairs of the system too.
Make sure to find a company you can rely on in order to get your sprinkler system installed the best possible way.
Other Factors to Think About
There are many different factors to take into consideration when shopping for a sprinkler system. You'll need to think, for example, about the size of your system.
Make sure you find one that can offer the levels of coverage you need to handle the whole lawn and any garden areas you need watering, as well as thinking about its general layout and ease of use too.
There are also many different types of sprinkler heads and nozzles you can choose from, with different spray patterns and movements, as well as different materials that can be used in the construction of your sprinkler system, and some last much longer than others.
Costs of sprinkler systems can be influenced by many factors like size, materials, and type. If you're unsure about anything, talking to professional sprinkler installation specialists can help to provide the clarity you need.
Check out our guide on how long you should leave your sprinkler on.
What Do You Need in a Sprinkler System?
There is hardly a one-size-fits-all sprinkler system, which means you need to understand your options and pick your features carefully. Here’s a guide to some of the more important features of sprinkler systems, so you can be informed and make the right choice for your garden.
Sprinkler heads boast the most diversity by far of all the elements of a sprinkler system. This is because much of a sprinkler system is relatively one-size-fits-all — you can use the same valves and pipes to water either a garden or a lawn — but the heads at the end of the system determine how the water is dispersed.
The heads you choose will depend on the types of plants you need irrigated, the size of your landscape and other factors. Some of the most common sprinkler heads include:
- Spray heads. These fixed heads spray water in a fan shape. You can attach different nozzles to produce different patterns, like a full circle, a half circle, a three-quarters circle, etc.
- Rotors. These sprinkler heads rotate, spraying streams of water back and forth. There are two dominant types of rotor sprinkler heads.
- Impact rotors are the most common, largely because they are the most affordable. They make the recognizable tic-tic-tic-tooka-tooka-tooka sound.
- Gear-driven rotors are rapidly replacing impact rotors. Driven by a turbine, these sprinklers are nearly silent and require less maintenance than impact rotors. Plus, you can get multi-stream gear-driven rotors, which look like a ballet in your yard.
Below the head is the body of the sprinkler, which also has an impact on how the sprinkler system functions. In almost all cases, in-ground, pop-up sprinklers should be your first choice.
These sprinklers use the force of the water in the system to rise out of the ground to irrigate, and when turned off, the sprinklers disappear. This allows you to create a landscape free of unsightly irrigation equipment, but more importantly, it eliminates tripping hazards around your garden.
When I moved into my current residence, my landscape had more than a few outdated shrub sprinklers, which are installed above the ground on a tall, thin pipe.
These were once thought to be beneficial to larger plants, so water could sprinkle down through the plant body, but modern gardeners know that this isn’t necessary with most plants.
I immediately acquired handyman services near me to replace the shrub sprinklers with pop-up versions. When choosing a pop-up sprinkler, you need to consider what height your sprinkler should rise to, which will depend on the plant you are watering.
There are pop-up sprinklers anywhere from 2 inches to 12 inches, and the sweet spot for most gardeners is 4 inches or 6 inches. This ensures that the sprinkler’s spray will not get caught by ground cover and will provide thorough irrigation.
Laterals, which are the pipes or tube that carry water between the zone control vales and sprinkler heads, are typically made from one of two materials: polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyethylene (poly).
Both materials are a form of plastic, but each has unique properties and thus should be used only in specific circumstances. PVC is semi-rigid; it’s the white or gray, hard-plastic pipe you see used in school projects or in some plumbing.
Generally, PVC is used only in environments that enjoy warm winters. This is because PVC has a tendency to crack or shatter in extreme cold, which means if the ground freezes in your area, you would need to repair your sprinkler system every spring.
However, PVC also doesn’t do well in sunlight, so it must be fully buried to survive for years on end. Poly tube is black and extremely flexible; it is the primary choice for gardens that experience harsh winters as well as those with exceedingly rocky soil.
A few recent developments in poly technology, including universal fittings and high-pressure ratings, have made poly a more attractive option across the board, but it’s worth noting that poly can get expensive fast.
Each sprinkler system should be unique to the landscape, meaning you can’t copy your neighbor’s irrigation strategy and expect your garden to thrive.
By educating yourself on the elements of sprinkler systems, you can design a system that fits your needs perfectly and will keep your garden alive and flourishing.
6 Things to Consider Before Setting up a Sprinkler System for Your Garden
You can be a proud gardener with an area full of beautiful plants by considering the following items:
1. Know Your Plants' Water Requirements
All plants have different requirements. Some need more water, more sunlight, higher pH, higher temperature, and so forth. You need to figure out what the optimum conditions are for each one of them. Only then can you come up with the best place to sow the respective plant seed.
It would be best to keep all of the vegetables and fruits that have similar water requirements in the same location. Otherwise, you may need to put timers in every little area of the lawn irrigation system, and the process can be hectic and inefficient.
In case you are only planning to grow one type of plant, it might still be a good idea to consider the species might be the same, some of them may be under the shade while others in open sunlight. Not to mention, but the acidity of the soil might also slightly vary along with the moisture.
2. Figure Out the Approximate Installation Costs
You might want to consider coming up with an approximate budget. You will have to hire plumbers and pay for any tools they require. You might also need the assistance of a landscaper that can help design the area.
Other than these two, you may also require the services of other professionals along the way. Start with the basics, which would be your preferred seeds and gardening tools.
Pipes, sprinklers, emitters, and other equipment required for a water system are also needed, which your plumber can guide you on.
Once you are through with the desired necessities, consider some ideas your landscaper suggests. These can include a large variety of things depending upon how you wish to set up your garden.
3. Install Drip or Line Emitters
Although there are many ways to have an efficient water system, you might want to consider installing a drip or line emitters. These provide water directly to the soil, which is beneficial to protect the plants as direct water might hurt their growth.
All the plants will be able to get their required amount of water with the proper time pressure, even if the tank is low on water. Lawn irrigation systems might add another digit to your water bill, and these can be used to save water too.
4. Automate the Watering System
Before technology, everything had to be carried out manually. Meaning you would have to water the plants yourself every single time and make sure it is the appropriate amount.
Luckily, you can quickly get a professional to set up an automatic water system for the garden. It will be extremely beneficial, as the amount of water can be controlled and therefore vegetation can benefit it. Too much or too little can damage crops.
It might be a good idea to consult your plumbers before buying an automation system because they can guide you on the best one.
5. Learn Your Local Area Regulations
Many legal issues can arise if renovations are not correctly carried out. It would be best to check government websites, or visit their local office, before starting the project.
Further, it can delay the project for a few days, but it will help avoid spending more money on any legal concerns.
6. Always Consider How to Conserve Water
Watering the entire garden might rack up a hefty water bill. Which doesn’t necessarily have to be a burden. You can ask the plumber who is helping with the project, or any friends, for a few hacks on how to save water inside the house.
How to Setup a Garden Irrigation System
Garden irrigation, or reticulation as some refer to it, is a system that involves moving water from one point to multiple others via a network of solenoids, PVA pipe, sprinklers and an automatic controller.
The whole system can be programmed automatically to turn on whenever you want – even while you’re asleep. So how do you go about setting up a garden irrigation system. Well let’s start with the basics and breakdown each step to make it easy.
Garden Irrigation System Source
From the very beginning, there needs to be a source of water to tap into. This may be; a well, a soak, a drilled bore into artesian water, a large rainwater tank or directly into scheme water – with the last option being the least preferred.
With the four preceding options they will all require some type of pump. (they all differ depending on the size and complexity of your irrigation system.)
To move water around your property it’s going to take a network of PVA pipes. Obviously, it’s much easier to install before you add your lawn, plants and other landscaping features but it can still be done after all these have grown to maturity.
The most important pipe is the mainline. This runs the perimeter of your garden and will eventually house all the other pipes coming off it. With the mainline, bigger is better and you should use a size of at least 40-50mm (1.5-2in) pipe.
Using pipe that’s too small will bottleneck the reticulation system causing a trickle instead of a flow that is less than ideal.
TIP: When installing irrigation pipe always go down in size – never up. Increasing the size means serious drops in pressure and your garden irrigation system will fail you.
When planning a garden irrigation system for your property you need to calculate how many stations you want. The first step is calculating the flow-rate from your water source.
Once you know this you can begin to divide your garden into a number of sections; Lawn 1, Lawn 2, Garden Bed 1, Garden Bed 2 etc according to the number of sprinklers you can fit onto each station.
Once you’ve divided your garden into these lots you can begin to add your solenoids directly from the mainline. One solenoid per station.
The solenoid acts as the gateway between watering each station or not and can be connected via 12v wiring to come on automatically. From the solenoids comes the stations main pipe which is usually 25mm (1inch).
As you branch off this main pipe you can degrade the sizes and even change the pipe material from PVA to polypropelene (poly-pipe) depending on the requirements of each station.
If the station is just to water a lawn then you will need to keep the pipe at least at 20mm PVA. Shrubs, trees and garden beds are best irrigated with poly-pipe that can be weaved, and altered, throughout the garden and makes connection of tricklers very simple.
Choosing the Right Sprinklers
You’re almost on the home straight now as one of the final items come into view – the sprinklers. There are so many types; shrub sprays, misters, bubblers, tricklers, pop-ups that it can become a little overwhelming.
However, the reality of the situation is that choosing the right sprinklers isn’t the most final decision that it appears to be – most sprinklers can be changed later if you get it wrong.
As a rule of thumb pop-ups are for lawns only. This allows the garden irrigation system to function when it needs to water the lawn but pops back down to below ground-level so that the lawn can be enjoyed without tripping on them.
If you have a larger lawn than normal you may need to consider gear-driven sprinklers that offer better efficiencies.
Once you move into the garden beds it becomes a question of ‘what do I actually want to water?’ If it’s the whole garden bed then shrub sprays are your best option.
If you want to conserve water and can afford to deliver it to each plant individually then bubblers or tricklers are the right fit.
Picking the Right Automatic Controller
The final step in creating this whole garden irrigation system is picking an automatic controller. This is the ‘engine room’ of the whole system and automatically controls when each station turns on, or off.
To use an automatic controller you will need to have run 12v cable to each of the solenoids. Each solenoid has two wires that require attaching: one goes to a colour (ie. red, green, blue etc) while the second becomes the common (black). It doesn’t matter which of the two is the common or the coloured line.
In order to do this you will need to run a 12v line from the water source pump (usually brown) to the controller. The pump will also need the common black line running from it as well.
You need to think of the common line as though it has to go from the water source, touch each solenoid and then back to the controller as a continuous length.
The black common line then fits into the controller – it’s usually designated ‘common’ so you can’t stuff it up. Then each colour represents each of the solenoids that they’re attached to. Line 1 = station 1 etc.
Choosing the right controller is making sure that it has enough stations to handle your irrigation system. Plus it should have different schedules so that you have a little more control as to when a station comes on.
For example, you may want to water your lawn every two days but your garden beds every three. Having extra schedules allows this without making your life too complicated.
How to Water Your Lawn with a Sprinkler System
Take Note of Different Sprinkler Systems
Depending on your lawn type, there will be a corresponding sprinkler system. Generally, a sprinkler waters a large section of land. A manual sprinkler is, as the name implies, a sprinkler you have to open yourself by opening the valve.
The manual aspect of this also means you’re the one who has to set the timer and turn off the water flow. On the other hand, automatic sprinkler systems keep you relaxed with its controllers programmed according to your preferences. With such a system, you only have to make adjustments once in awhile.
Learn How to Use an In-Ground Sprinkler
One of the best ways to water your lawn is by utilizing this type of sprinkler. Specifically, it would be great if you use sprinkler heads that have a low angle and only release a small volume of water.
Of course, efficiency is achieved through the adjustment of these heads since this prevents unnecessary evaporation. Likewise, you have to change the settings upon observation of the results. If you can detect fog or mist appearing from the sprinkler heads, this is an indication of high pressure.
Experiment with a hose-end sprinkler
A lawn that is small or medium in size can be irrigated properly with a hose-end sprinkler. This is a pretty conventional, manual sprinkler type that requires you turn it off yourself.
Furthermore, this waters your lawn in a rectangular pattern. If you have this, the ideal method is deep yet only occasional instances of watering. Upon following this, your grass will develop deeper roots, which in turn will lessen the need for lawn maintenance.
Know the Needs of a Shady Lawn
Obviously, a section usually covered by shade does not require as much sprinkling as lawn areas that are always exposed to sunlight. This alone saves you water – but there’s a catch.
If your grass is right under a tree, you need to increase the output of your lawn sprinkler. This is because the grass and the tree roots are sharing the same source of moisture.
Thus, remember to differentiate between grass shaded by trees and those that are shaded by other structures.
Check the Soil Type in Your Lawn
The way you use your lawn sprinkler can is also dependent on the kind of soil you have. Generally, clay soil keeps water longer than other types.
However, the same kind of soil is also unable to absorb water immediately. This is why you will see some puddles after using your sprinkler.
For soil with a great amount of clay content, you should apply a short watering schedule. In contrast, sandy soil needs more irrigation since it does not retain water as well as clay soil.
Take Advantage of Irrigation Timers
There are many ways to appropriately schedule your sprinklers. One of the most popular choices is to buy programmable timers that do more than just count the minutes.
See, these are also known as smart timers since they also observe various factors that help shape the ideal watering schedule. These factors include rainfall frequency, usual temperatures, and the growth of grass according to the amount of water provided.
Ideally, you should use your lawn sprinklers just before dawn since the conditions help lessen the amount of evaporation. Additionally, you shouldn’t use your sprinklers at night since this can lead to disease popping up in your lawn.
Set Up Your Own Garden Sprinkler System
With these suggestions, we hope that you find the right sprinkler for your lawn. The amount of water and the irrigation schedule will always change due to several factors ranging from temperature to soil type, but the best thing is that you’ll be informed enough to adapt well.