When readying your irrigation system for spring and summer use, it is important to follow a few simple steps. This will ensure the proper function of your system, preventing headaches during the heat of summer, saving your plants from drought stress and conserving water.
First of all, make sure you have some spare parts on hand, just in case. For a pop up system, these include irrigation heads, fittings, risers, nozzles, PVC piping and glue. For a drip irrigation system, these include emitters, fittings, spaghetti tubing and ‘goof plugs’.
Use the following checklist to make this annual chore a bit easier:
Open and visually inspect all valve boxes for debris and/or broken pipes
Close the outgoing valve and all test connectors on your backflow device. Close all manual drain valves throughout your system.
Make sure the inlet valve on the backflow device is completely open.
Partially open the outgoing valve on the backflow device and allow water to slowly fill your pipes. This will take some time, so be patient.
Once water has filled your pipes, open the last zone valve on your system, either manually or from the controller. When water starts flowing from the last zone, open the outgoing valve on the backflow all the way. Let the water flow for several minutes to ensure all the air has left your system, and then shut off the zone valve. Now your system is ready to be tested.
Turn on each zone, one at a time, and let it run for at least 3 minutes – this will flush any remaining air out of the system and allow you to test your controller at the same time.
Inspect each zone for proper function and make any adjustments or repairs as needed:
If a pop up system, are the heads all visible?
Are the pop up heads all emitting water properly or do they need to be cleaned?
Do the pop up heads all have plenty of clearance?
Are the pop up heads covering the areas correctly?
For a drip system, are all the emitters expelling water? If not, the tubing may need to be flushed of debris.
Are all the plants on the drip system receiving adequate water? If not, additional emitters may need to be added.
Install fresh batteries in your controller and set the timer. You may find you do not need to run your system yet, if spring showers are still abundant, but you will be ready to go once the warm weather hits.
Note: If you live within city limits, you are required to have your backflow inspected annually. Contact a licensed backflow inspector for this service.