Turf Magazine - October, 2012

FEATURES

Plan Irrigation Winterizations Now

By Ron Hall


Most sprinkler components are well below ground and are insulated by the soil. The first few freezes in the fall or early winter generally won't freeze them so you still have time to complete your fall cleanups and late mowings.
PHOTO COURTESY OF HUNTER.
Start your plan to winterize irrigation systems now - weeks before the ground freezes. Many factors will determine exactly when you begin blowing out irrigation systems, including the weather, your workload and, also, what remains to be done on customers' properties. Everybody in this business is pretty darn busy in the fall.

For example, you may doing a lot of reseeding and landscape renovations caused by the damage done this past summer by drought, insects, diseases or other factors. In those cases, obviously, you will need irrigation on those properties to get turfgrass and other plants established before winter arrives. You may have scheduled winterizations on those properties later in your fall schedule.

Regardless, you want to get them all done before the ground freezes. You don't want to start next season's spring fielding calls to replace pipes and other components damaged by a long freeze.

Even tiny amounts of water left in landscape pipes, pumps and other components can freeze, expand and result in expensive, time-consuming repairs before the system can be activated again months later.

Your goal in scheduling system winterizations is to do each one efficiently, correctly and in a single stop. Time is money. You don't want to have to stop in the middle of a job because you forgot something or because you found an unexpected problem and you don't have a spare part on-hand.


By using a regulator you will be able to blow out an irrigation system with less chance of blowing it up.
PHOTO COURTESY OF TORO.

Winterization, of course, is essentially a step-by-step process that requires an air compressor and simple hand tools, such as wrenches, channel locks and screwdrivers. It's always a good idea to have extra irrigation components in your service vehicle, as well. You may find damaged sprinkler heads or other things that need to be fixed when you start shutting down systems.

Since customers' systems are generally as different as their properties, make notes of what you (or your irrigation tech) find at each property that may require a fix, adjustment or closer inspection. Winterizing is a cookie-cutter type task - but only to a point. These notes may be a real time-saver when it's time to restart the system months later. Or the following autumn when it's time to shut down the system again.

The information presented here is, admittedly, a general overview of the process and is merely meant to point out some of the broader issues involved in winterizing systems.

For more detailed instructions on system winterizations, visit the Irrigation Tutorial website at http://bit.ly/RSruFy and the Hunter Industries website at http://bit.ly/QOvGEc.

Ron Hall is editor-in-chief of Turf and LHDB magazines. He has been an active participant and editor in the green industry since 1984. Contact him at rhall@mooserivermedia.com.