Starting Your Sprinklers in the Spring – What You Need to Know

For lawn and garden enthusiasts, spring is the most beautiful time of the year. It’s the season of flowers, trees, and grass coming alive with color, as long as they get the water and sunshine they need to thrive. As spring arrives and the freezing temperature ceases, it’s time to turn on your irrigation systems and start watering your lawn again. However, in doing so, you should take a few critical steps to make sure you don’t damage pipes or other irrigation components. Below we’ve provided a spring start-up guide to ensure your system is up and running with ease and efficiency.   

Check Your Lawn for Frozen Ground  

Before taking the first step toward starting up your sprinklers, be sure your lawn agrees that winter is over. Use a shovel to dig at least one foot into the soil, and if you come to find frozen ground, you’re too early and should wait another week or two before conducting another dig. This is significant because starting your sprinkler system while in the frozen ground can result in broken equipment or broken water lines, which could become costly to replace.   

Turn on Your Control Panel  

Spring startup begins with the main irrigation control panel, which is typically installed outdoors. Turn on the control panel and review the current settings rim, date, and irrigation zones. If your system has a battery backup and the batteries are over six months old, we suggest using this time now to replace them. All panel controls are slightly different, so if you don’t have your system’s original documentation, you can find a copy of it online by searching your panel’s model number.   

Clean Your Sprinkler Heads 

One of the most time-consuming yet crucial steps is inspecting and cleaning each sprinkler head and valve. Start by checking the sprinkler head assembly for damage. If the nozzle is damaged, simply unscrew the head and buy a replacement. This will help ensure each part of your lawn is getting equally watered. After inspecting, begin cleaning the nozzles thoroughly, as any obstruction could result in some areas getting too little water, while some get too much, causing your lawn to be patchy.    

Slowly Open the Main Valve  

The next step is to open the main valve. It’s important to be cautious, as this is where many first timers tend to make an expensive mistake. Opening the valve too quickly sends a rush of water and air through the system, creating an effect called a “water hammer.” This surge of pressure can crack pipes, break vales, and even send your sprinkler heads flying into the air.  

Start by slowly opening the main valve until you hear some of the water begin to flow, then wait several minutes as the water feeds into the mainline. When you’re ready to continue, open the valve just a few degrees wider every few minutes until fully extended. Once the valve is open, it’s time to check the faraway sprinkler valves that were left open earlier. With the sprinkler heads removed, check for any dirt or debris that may be trapped inside and should be flushing out. Once the water is flowing out and looks clear, close the valve and the nozzle back into place.   

Check Your Irrigation Zones 

After your sprinkler system is primed for its first watering of spring, it’s time to check your irrigation zones. From here, you should consider testing the irrigation of each zone in your lawn, one at a time, to ensure that your spray patterns are getting water where it’s needed. Use your control panel to start the irrigation program for a single zone, then watch your sprinklers at work. If you have any malfunctioning sprinkler heads, this is when you’ll notice them. If you notice your sprinklers have unusually low pressure, this is typically a sign of a water line break, which should be taken care of as soon as possible to refrain from gallons of water leaking out.   

After working through each zone individually, go ahead, and activate your full irrigation program for one final walk-through. If you like what you see, then your work is all done, that is until it’s time for winterization!