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Quenching Lawns' Thirst

As the weather warms in some parts of the country and stays warm or hot in others, your lawn will get or stay thirsty. Instead of tugging a garden hose around this year, why not water the grass in a more productive way?

Danny Lipford, host of "Today's Homeowner," suggests two sprinkler options for the do-it-yourself set on The Early Show Tuesday: sprinkler and drip irrigation systems.

Lipford says you should check your local codes and needed permits before starting a do-it-yourself home irrigation installation.


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Sprinkler systems consist of a network of buried pipes interspersed with sprinkler heads that spray water aboveground over lawns, plants, tree, and shrubs. There are a number of different sprinkler heads that enable you to spray water over the desired area. Some examples are impact, surface, pop-up head, bubbler head, and many more that can be selected, depending on the situation.

Components of Sprinkler System

PVC or "poly" pipe lays out the main lines of your sprinkler system and connects to the water supply line. Backflow preventers and anti-siphon valves prevent sprinkler water from flowing back into the drinking water. Connectors and fittings are also used. Valves control water flow to the sprinklers. A timer turns the sprinkler system on and off at pre-set times.

Preparing For Your Sprinkler System

Many companies now offer do-it-yourself home irrigation kits that contain all the appropriate materials for creating an irrigation system for your lawn or garden.

First, you should create a drawing of your property from a bird's-eye view. This should be drawn to scale, which can be done easily with graph paper. Many irrigation companies supply it for you. The drawing should contain the location of your water meter and main line. Also, identity any slopes, trees, shrub, sidewalks, driveways, your home, or any other objects in the yard. Provide as much information as possible in your drawing, such as sun exposure and ground cover material, including grass and shrubs.

Next, measure your water pressure, using a water pressure gauge. It's important to have an accurate reading to prevent water hammer and costly damage to your piping system.

Now you should plan where your sprinkler heads should be placed. They should be spaced head-to-head with their water spray overlapping to make sure there are no dry spots. In windy areas, the spray head should be closer together, to account for blow-off. Use a compass to aid in drawing your sprinkler placement, to ensure that every area of your lawn is covered. Then, divide your sprinkler plan into zones. A zone is a group of sprinklers that operate together using a common valve. Dividing your lawn into zones will determine how many valves you'll need for your do-it-yourself sprinkler system.

The best place to install your timer is inside your garage, to shield it from the elements.

Installing your system

Make sure you've checked your local codes and under ground utilities before you dig.

Using flags and paint, outline where your sprinkler heads and pipes will be installed. Then, tap into your service line to connect your sprinkler system to the water supply, without soldering, by slipping on a compression tee. At that point, you can install a shutoff valve to enable you to completely turn off your irrigation system in case you need to make repairs.

Then, either trench your lawn by hand or with a trencher. Trenching with the trencher is much faster. Trenchers can be rented from a local supplier. To trench by hand, you must soften the soil and dig 8-12 inches, placing sod on one side and dirt on the other.

After trenching, cut your PVP pipe with pipe-cutters, following your drawing. Slip the pipes into their appropriate fitting, and install the valves and sprinkler heads zone-by-zone where they were preciously marked.

After all the valves and sprinkler heads are in place, flush water through the system to make sure it's free of debris. Then, program and connect your timer.


Drip irrigation is the frequent, slow application of water to the soil through mechanical devices called emitters. Water flows from the head of the system to the emitter through plastic pipes or a hose. Most drip irrigation systems are aboveground, but there are some that are underground. The underground hoses are more prone to clog and be chewed up by outside critters.

With a drip irrigation system, the water goes right to the roots of the plants, which provides a deeper level of watering than surface water. This form of irrigation eliminates wet foliage, and that cuts down on plant diseases.

Components of Drip Irrigation

Polyethylene hose or tubing, usually one-half-inch, makes up the main lines of your system. Hose connectors or fittings join several lines of tubing. Anti-siphon control valves prevent the irrigation water from flowing back into your home. Pressure regulators keep the water pressure from the faucet at around 30 pounds-per-square-inch. Filters keep debris from clogging the emitters. Polyethylene micro-tubing takes water from the main lines to the plants. Emitters deliver water to the plants. An automatic timer turns the drip action on and off.

Installing Your System

To start the process of installing a drip irrigation system, you should create a drawing of your yard to scale as described for sprinkler systems.

Then, map out where the emitters for your drip line should be placed. A good rule of thumb is they should be 18 inches apart and, if on a plant, they should be under 80 percent of the leaf canopy. For larger plants, there should be two emitters.

Once you've mapped your hose, start installing the system. You should arrange the tubing in your lawn. Then, stake the tubing down with the appropriate stakes, which should be included in any drip irrigation kit. Once the hose is staked, take the emitter punch tool that should be provided in the drip irrigation kit and create the holes throughout your drip system.

Then, with you've created your hosing, you should run water through the tubing to ensure that it's free of debris, before installing your emitters. Then, use fittings to attach the emitters.

Advantages of Drip Irrigation Over Sprinkler Systems

Drip irrigation uses water more efficiently. A smaller water source can be used, because it may require less than half the water needed for sprinkler irrigation. Drip irrigation requires lower operating pressures, which require less pumping and incur lower energy costs. Drip irrigation applies water directly to roots, so there's less water lost to blow-off, runoff, and puddling. Drip irrigation has fewer water quality hazards. Drip systems are more precise. Drip has greater water application uniformity. And drip irrigation creates less disease, because there in no wet foliage.

Sprinkler Systems are quicker methods of irrigation.

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