Setting up the proper irrigation system for your landscape is crucial if you want to promote healthy, successful plant growth and protect your landscape investment. Even the most basic irrigation system design must start with a landscape plan that details plants suitable for the climate, soil condition, and topography. Once your design is created the next step is to decide the type of irrigation system that will be best suited for your design.
There are two types of residential irrigation systems; sprinkler and drip. Sprinkler systems are commonly used for turf. Variations of the sprinkler system include rotating sprinklers, fixed spray sprinklers, and drip & micro sprinklers. The types of heads utilized on a specific project will be determined by the dimensions of the area being covered, the water pressure available for operation, and a variety of other factors. Drip irrigation applies water to the soil and directly to your plants roots. Drip irrigation is commonly used on individual plants or groupings of plants.
Your Irrigation Options
Rotating sprinklers – commonly used on golf courses, parks, or large residential areas with uninterrupted space, these sprinkler heads can spray in full circles or part circles. Because of the lower application rate this type of system works well on slopes. The spacing is between 35 to 115 feet, and operating pressure from 40 to 100 PSI. If you have large areas of lawn sprinkler systems with rotor heads is the logical choice. To operate efficiently, rotors need to be supplied with more water pressure than spray heads. The PSI level should approximately equal the space between each installed unit. There are two types of rotary heads categorized by the mechanism that causes the sprinkler to rotate. These types are impact rotors and gear driven rotors.
Impact Rotors move in a circular or part-circular pattern and water the entire area within that circle. The impact rotor is typically cheaper than a gear driven rotor and may provide the most uniform coverage of all sprinklers. The downside to impact rotors is their high maintenance requirement. When the sprinkler is in operation it rises out of its assembly to approximately 4 inches above the ground leaving an open cavity in the sprinkler case to collect debris, mud, clippings and insects. Periodic maintenance is required to keep the canisters clean and to keep dirt from causing damage to the mechanism.
Gear Driven Rotors work like this: water turn a small turbine in the base of the unit which drives a series of gears that cause the head to rotate. The gear drive mechanism is sealed from the dirt and debris and operates without the clatter of impact sprinklers. The gear driven design is the most popular in the industry in both residential and commercial use. Though the individual gear drive rotor unit is several times more costly than a spray head its wider spacing capabilities means fewer heads are needed to cover a given area.
Fixed & Pop-UP Spray Sprinklers – fixed spray sprinklers are great for shrubs and high reaching plants. They are installed above the ground on a riser and are sometimes cheaper than pop-ups. Pop-ups are the most common design selected by home owners. They are installed below the ground and the sprinkler head remains out of sight when inactive. This sprinkler solution will keep your yard aesthetically beautiful because there won’t be any pipes sticking out of the yard. The spray pattern can be full, half, and quarter circle, or rectangular with radiuses from 4 to 22 feet. Spray sprinklers offer several angles of spray trajectory with application rates ranging from less than one to over two inches per hour. Spacing between sprinklers varies depending upon the specific nozzle that is installed in the head. To operate efficiently, the units should rarely be spaced further than 15 feet apart and should be supplied with 20 to 30 PSI water pressure. Because these types of spray heads discharge a large volume of water in a short amount of time (these heads discharge 2 to 3 times the water of a rotor) this system is not suitable for slopes due to the wasteful run-off.
Drip and Micro sprinklers – Micro sprinklers are perfect for ornamental plantings as well as trees and shrubs. This type of sprinkler system has a low flow rate, low application rate, small radius of 4 to 12 feet and operate with low pressures. The micro sprinkler spike usually sits around 8 inches above the ground. Drip irrigation includes emitter, bubbler, trickle and ooze. This system applies water at point locations directly to the soil using low controlled flow rates and drip emitters that discharge at a rate of .5 to 2 gallons per hour. Drip tubing includes a series of tubes that have holes opened along them at intervals. The location of the holes is tailored to irrigate efficiently in specific garden beds in which the drip irrigation systems will be buried thus
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