Have You Saved Any Water During Smart Irrigation Month?

Posted by Ryan Moore on Jul 28, 2016 2:06:06 PM

If you’re a green industry veteran, you’re probably familiar with smart irrigation practices and know that July is Smart Irrigation Month. Now in its 12th year, Smart Irrigation Month is an Irrigation Association initiative that exists to increase the awareness of the value of water and grow demand for water-saving products, practices, and services.

Did you remember to talk to your customers about water-saving smart irrigation practices this month? If not, it’s never too late.

As an EPA WaterSense Distribution partner, Horizon recognizes that water is a scarce resource and we have developed a catalog of resources to help you educate your organization and your customers about smart water practices. In this article, we’ll look at 5 tips to get you started.

 

Tip #1 – Use this Method to Quickly Check for Leaks

Checking every system component for leaks can be time-consuming. A quick way to see if there is a leak somewhere in your customer’s system is by checking your customer’s water meter.

The method is simple and takes less than a minute. When the irrigation system is shut off, go to the water meter and check the low flow indicator. If that flow indicator is moving, you have a leak somewhere in the system and you’ll need to do some additional troubleshooting to find the leak.

 

Tip #2 – Got Mulch?

Mulch can be a godsend to trees, bushes, flower, and shrubs. It stabilizes soil temperature, prevents weeds, adds nutrients to the soil, and conserves water. Richard Restuccia of Jain USA recommends using 2 to 4 inches of mulch around plants, bushes, and trees.

 

Tip #3 – Utilize Smart Watering Practices

When it comes to watering, less is more. The biggest problem with traditional irrigation systems and watering practices is that while they are largely effective at delivering water to lawns and landscapes, they are not designed to conserve water. Best practices for watering dictate that a system should be set up to:

  1. Water in the early to mid-morning. Watering in the middle of the day is less efficient because of evaporation. Watering in the evenings can lead to turf and plant disease because the water doesn't have time to dry and ends up sitting on the plants all night.
  2. Water in short cycles. Some plants and lawns need time for the water to soak in. Instead of watering for one long continuous session, split the watering time into shorter periods and allow a 15-30 minute break in between. You'll end up watering less, but the plant will receive more.
  3. Water in zones. Different types of plants require different amounts of water. Newer trees and shrubs require more water less frequently than grasses and shallow-rooted plants and may not require any water at all once established.

Dealing with a system that wasn’t hydrozoned correctly during installation? Check out this video.

 

Tip #4 – Upgrade to the Right Smart Water Controller for the Property

A smart water controller is the backbone of any smart irrigation system, but choosing the right one can be challenging. To identify the right controller for your business and your customer’s property, start with these questions:

  1. What parameters does the controller take into account? There’s a ton of data that can go into a controller and the right controller will take the needs of the property and the region into account. Does the controller allow you to input sun exposure, slope, soil type, plant material etc.?
  2. How often does the controller adjust? Hourly, daily, monthly?
  3. Where does the controller get its data? A sensor on-premises? Satellite communication?
  4. Are there recurring charges for the data?
  5. Does the controller have access to historical data? Especially important when the controller loses communication with the satellite.
  6. Will the manufacturer support you? When something goes wrong and you need help troubleshooting, does the manufacturer have a local representative that is willing to come to the job site and help you?

 

Tip #5 - Know When to Switch to Drip Irrigation

Smart water sprays are a great way to irrigate large open areas, but there are situations where drip irrigation is a better solution.

Drip irrigation is ideal in zones where plants, shrubs, and trees are spaced far away from one another. As plants grow, the plant itself can get in the way of the spray head, deflecting water onto buildings, driveways, and sidewalks. This not only wastes water, it also causes damage to the hardscapes and presents a liability risk to you as the homeowner.

Drip irrigation is also a great solution when watering small or oddly shaped areas where it can be a challenge to properly adjust the spray pattern to the dimensions of the zone. Dealing with a small zone that needs to be converted to drip? Check out this video.

 

 

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Topics: Water Conservation

4 Ways to Improve Spray Head Performance

Posted by Bob Franchetto on Mar 3, 2015 5:09:00 PM

rain_bird_1800_series_spray_nozzleA smart water controller is an essential part of an water efficient irrigation system, but its impact is limited when the rest of the system isn't operating efficiently. When you're installing a new system, it's easier to incorporate complementary water saving techologies and create an efficient system. But when you're working with an existing system, the idea is to make simple adjustments that can have an immediate impact on your customer's water bill.

Water conservation is a huge trend in our industry, but it wasn't always that way. There are currently millions of irrigation systems in use across the US that were designed to keep turf and plants green and healthy, but they weren't designed to conserve water. Retrofitting these systems is a huge opportunity and many manufacturers offer smart water components that can be used alongside their older technology.

In this article, we're going to look at 4 different ways to immediately improve the water efficiency of a system that already has a smart water controller and uses Rain Bird 1800 Series sprays for distribution. Rain Bird 1800s have been a leading industry solution for 3 decades and can be found in a variety of residential and commercial settings. If you're having problems with dry spots, run-off, or need to improve water efficiency, there are a number of changes you can make without pulling out the shovel.

 

#1 Pressure Regulation

second-sprinkler-close-upYou can have the right controller and the right spray body, but if the system pressure is too high for your spray nozzle, you'll end up wasting a lot of water. Usually you'll see this in the form of fogging or misting, which atomizes the water and blows it onto sidewalks and hardscapes, greatly reducing the distribution uniformity of the nozzle. When the distribution uniformity of your sprays drops, you have to run the system longer to avoid dry spots.

The optimal psi for most fixed arc spray nozzles is 30 psi. For rotary nozzles, it's generally 45 psi. Check the manufacturer's specs to find the optimum pressure for the type of nozzle you're using and then check the pressure of the system. When the pressure is too high for your nozzle, you need to pressure regulate.

According to Bernouli's equation, every 5-psi reduction in pressure reduces water usage by 6-8%. This means a 70 psi system reduced to the recommended 30 psi can result in more than 50% in water savings. There are 4 main ways to regulate pressure in a system utilizing Rain Bird components:

  1. Get a pressure regulator for the entire system.
  2. Build a pressure regulator into the control valve.
  3. Install a Rain Bird PRS-Dial at the valve.
  4. Retrofit the existing Rain Bird 1800 spray bodies with P30 (for fixed arc nozzles) or P45 (for rotary nozzles) Pressure Regulating Spray Heads.

 

#2 Stop Low Head Drainage

low_head_drainageIf you're working on a property that has sloped surfaces and you see water seeping out some of the heads, you likely have low head drainage. With low head drainage, every bit of water from the valve to the low head will be wasted every time the water is shut off, which is even more problematic if you're cycle and soaking.

There's two quick fixes for stopping low head drainage in Rain Bird 1800s:

  1. Put an under-the-head check valve in the spray body.
  2. Retrofit the spray with a head that has a built-in Seal-A-Matic (SAM) check valve. You'll want to use 1800 SAM heads when the system is already operating at optimum pressure and 1800 SAM-PRS when you need both a check valve and pressure regulation.

 

#3 Use High Efficiency Nozzles

Getting higher distribution uniformity (DU) is very important if you want to reduce run times and the amount of water you're using. You want the entire area to receive the amount of water it needs to maintain green lawns and colorful plants. No more, no less. The more uniform the water distribution, the shorter the run time will be for the driest spot.

If you're having trouble with wind conditions, run-off, dry spots, or just want to save your customer water, you can retrofit 1800 sprays with a high efficiency nozzle like Rain Bird's HE-VAN and R-VAN Nozzles.

HE-VANs are Rain Bird's high efficiency variable arc nozzles. Because they adjust from 0˚ to 360˚, you can simplify the inventory you carry in your truck and HE-VAN's lower trajectory and larger droplets resist wind so the water lands exactly where you want it. He-Vans have a DU of over 70%, which allows you to save water and deliver healthier turf, while shortening run times by up to 35% compared to traditional VANs.

 

R-VANs are Rain Bird's high efficiency rotary nozzles. Reaching a distance of 13-24', R-VANs are a great retrofit for poorly designed sprinkler systems where spray heads were spaced too far apart or the pipes are too small. Compared to spray arc nozzles, they can achieve a greater radius while using less water. Retrofitting standard spray nozzles with R-VANs can reduce flow by up to 60% and improve water efficiency by up to 30%. Nozzle spray pattern and distance can easily adjusted by hand. No tools required.

 

4. Plan for Overlap

Are you seeing brown spots around your spray heads? That's an indication that you're not getting good head-to-head coverage.

While it's important to know the manufacturer's catalog numbers, you shouldn't rely on them 100%. The important thing to remember is that those numbers were created in a laboratory under perfect conditions. Things change when you get out in the field.

Give yourself some overlap. The IA recommends a foot overlap, but that might still be a little close. If you're working with a system with 12' spacing, use 15' nozzles and then adjust the distance down.

 

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Topics: Maintenance, Water Conservation

What to Say When Your Customer Wants to Remove Their Turf

Posted by Christina Burton on Feb 10, 2015 2:46:00 PM

man_removing_turfWith drought becoming a common topic in the news, water restrictions becoming more commonplace, and cash for grass programs paying property owners to pull up their lawns, it's important to be prepared when customers ask you to remove their turf.

If your company specializes in maintenance services, make no mistake that turf removal is a huge threat to your company's longevity. While the short-term money from turf removal jobs will pay your bills now, what will happen to your business a few years from now when there are fewer lawns to mow and fertilize? How will you stay in business when the customers that needed you on-site once a week only have you come out once a month or once a quarter?

As an EPA WaterSense Distribution Partner, Horizon Distributors is devoted to keeping you at the forefront of the water conservation movement. We recognize that water is a scarce resource and there is no doubt that water and fertility requirements will drive significant change in the way you're able to maintain your customers' landscapes in years to come. But these changes can be viewed as either an obstacle or an opportunity.

Within the next 5 years, it's estimated that basic chemical manufacturers will spend nearly $3 billion acquiring companies that focus on smart water and soil health solutions. New technologies are making it possible to maintain landscapes with less water and fewer fertilizer inputs – The big question is whether you are prepared to adapt to these changing industry conditions.

Horizon has developed a number of resources to help you take advantage of smart water and smart soil technologies. In this article, we're going to focus on how to talk to your customer about their concerns and the environmental benefits of having turf.

 

What Does Your Customer Really Want?

The first step in properly addressing your customer's concern is to find the real reason why they want the turf pulled. It's one thing if they aren't enjoying or actively using their lawn and want to do something else with their yard. But more often than not, when a customer asks you about turf removal, they are doing so because of environmental concerns.

Maybe they saw a story on the news or had a chat with a misinformed neighbor and now they are concerned that their lawn is "bad for the environment." When you take the time to dig a bit deeper, you'll probably find that they really just want to do their part in reducing water consumption, but they may also be concerned about other environmental issues like fertilizer runoff.

Whatever their true concern is, you can either fight it or work with it. For example, if your customer genuinely wants to reduce their environmental impact and avoid runoff and you've been using synthetic fertilizer on the property for years, it's a good time to switch them over to a program that actively builds healthy soil. The true cost of a program that takes advantage of slow release fertilizer is usually less expensive when you consider the cost of labor, gas, and additional maintenance.

And while it is your responsibility to help your customers comply with local water restrictions, it's important to note that turf removal alone won't make a dent in water consumption when you look at usage from a broader perspective. According to the USDA, agriculture accounts for approximately 80% of our nation's consumptive water use and over 90% in many western states. To compare, landscape irrigation is only about half (roughly 3.5%) of Domestic & Commercial use, which accounts for about 7% of consumptive water use.

ws_infographics_outdoorNaturally, it's our responsibility as water managers to do our part in conserving water. The EPA reports that as much as 50% of landscape water use goes to waste due to evaporation, wind, and overwatering. Waste associated with irrigation systems can in most cases be attributed to poor design, inadequate maintenance, or improper use. With proper education and successfully integrating water saving technologies, we can help the customer keep their lawn and save a significant amount of water.

 

6 Environmental Benefits of Turf

There is a growing perception that turf is bad for the environment, but in reality the benefits of turf far outweigh the negatives. As green industry professionals, it's our responsibility to share the benefits of turf with our customers and to build programs that deliver those benefits.

#1 Turf Helps Reduce the Greenhouse Effect

Like all plants, turfgrasses capture atmospheric carbon dioxide and use it to create energy via photosynthesis. According to the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at The Ohio State University, an average sized healthy lawn can capture as much as 300 lbs of carbon per year and a golf course fairway can capture 1,500 lbs of carbon per year.

Critics of turf often point out that emissions from mowers and other maintenance equipment minimize this benefit, but it has been shown that properly managed turf areas can capture anywhere from 4 to 7 times the carbon emitted from equipment.

#2 Turf Creates Oxygen

Even elementary school children know that plants release oxygen during photosynthesis, but the question is how much?  A 50' x 50' turf area can be expected to produce enough oxygen to meet the annual needs of a family of 4 and an acre of grass can produce enough oxygen for 64 people.

#3 Turf Combats the "Heat Island" Effect

Because of the materials used in the construction of roads and buildings, urban areas usually have notably higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas, which is known as the "heat island" effect. The EPA notes that "heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water quality."

Turf can help minimize the heat island because it is much cooler than other common surfaces. A study from BYU found turf temperatures to be 20 degrees cooler than bare soils and 40 degrees cooler than synthetic turf.

hot_spots_graphic

#4 Turf Traps Dust

Hundreds of millions of tons of dust circles the earth annually and dust particles have been associated with premature mortality and negative health effects. It's estimated that lawns in the U.S. alone are able to trap an estimated 12 million tons, which keeps our air cleaner and fresher.

#5 Turf Minimizes Soil Erosion

Turf can play an important role in soil erosion, a pressing environmental problem that costs between $6 and $16 billion a year. Nearly 6 billion tons of soil is washed or blown away each year. Because of its dense root system, turf is an ideal and cost-effective way to absorb water and stabilize soil.

#6 Turf Protects the Local Water Supply

Critics of turf are often justifiably concerned about pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers entering the local water supply, but leaching can be minimized through effective management practices that build healthy turf and soil.

In fact, healthy turf can actually protect the local water supply because it's able to purify water as it moves through the root zone, which is a reason why turf is often installed next to roads and parking lots. Soil microbes in the root zone can help break down chemicals coming off hardscapes into harmless materials.

 

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Topics: Maintenance, Water Conservation, Drought Solutions

Building a Better Soil Structure with Turface

Posted by Bob Franchetto on Nov 25, 2014 2:16:00 PM

Are you aerating your turf then filling the holes with sand? Then you're missing an opportunity to greatly improve the water holding capacity of your soil.

In part 18 of our Drought Solutions video series, you'll see why many green industry professionals are moving from sand to Turface, a calcined clay product that allows you to hold more water in the root zone.

Video Transcript

So how do we get from a collapse of soil plates that are all stacked and stuck on each other and we can't get any water and nutrients into it? How do we get from here to a soil now that has microbes in it, that has some enzymes, has some beneficials, has some organics in there?

What's our one way, especially in turf, that we can incorporate into that profile without digging out all that turf, tilling the soil, putting all of our stuff in and putting turf down? How would we go about doing that?

Hopefully we do it at least once a year. Aerate. You're absolutely right. So we're going to aerate. After we aerate, what do we do for the existing holes that are left there?

Traditionally everybody filled them with sand. Sand's cheap. Put sand in those holes. You see putting greens? They sand em. Fairways. They sand em. Sports turf, now landscape turf is not sanding anymore.

How Turface Works

turface_particles

They're putting in a product called Turface. That's a calcined clay product and we're going to talk about it because the reason we use it is because it holds moisture.

Sand has no nutrient value. This has no nutrient value. Sand has zero water holding capacity. How much water does the beach hold? None. The beach won't hold water. Sand has no water holding capacity.

This is a calcined clay. They bake it. That's what makes it into a ceramic. It's a real durable product that doesn't break down. This is the beauty of it. 74% of it is porous. It'll absorb 90% of its weight in water and release it slowly back to the soil profile.

That's why I like this product a lot. Cause now it's gonna take all that nutrient, it's gonna take all that water, and it's gonna hold it in the root zone. Now we got massive amounts of roots, we've got water held in the root zone, our soil is working for us. Our drought tolerance on that turf really grows.

So where they want to take out turf on your properties, you say wait a minute. Let's start working the soil, let's start working your irrigation system, let's save you water by having better, healthier soil. So not only is it going to hold water, but it's gonna help get that water into the soil profile. So everything we talked about, about getting water to the turf surface, getting water to the turf surface.

Now we're doing it at the right rates. Now we can get it to where it needs to go. It needs to be able to get into the soil. Now your water moisture distribution is better and it will improve your drainage because now your soil has the ability to let some water go.

It looks sort of like this. You've got your soil particle, you've got air, you've got water in there. Your Turface is totally part of that soil profile now. You almost build that ideal crummy soil because the product is getting in there and it's holding the nutrients. It's holding all of the airspace. It's increasing the porosity of that soil. All things that we need to have.

An Example of Turface at Work

bermudagrass_amended_with_turface

Here's an example. Here's bermudagrass on native soil, no amendment. All planted the same time. All cared for the same time. Here it is on 50% sand on native soil. Here's your root structure. Here it is with 20% Turface added to that soil. Holding the nutrients in the soil profile. Look at how much deeper you can water. How much deeper it's pulling those roots down in.

 

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Topics: Maintenance, Water Conservation, Drought Solutions

The Role of Microbes in Soil Fertility

Posted by Bob Franchetto on Oct 2, 2014 4:35:00 PM

Microbes help build turf that can withstand weeds and drought conditions. In Part 16 of our Drought Solutions video series, we'll cover 6 microbial benefits and how those benefits directly contribute to both soil and plant health.

Video Transcript

Microbial benefits in that soil profile. They stimulate existing soil microbes. Once you're established, you improve that bio-energy foundation.

That just means that now the inputs that we're putting into the soil are working for us at all times and the more organics that you're going through, the more energy, the more food sources that are there, the better it is for that soil to stay alive. It becomes stronger.

Microbes


Your nutrient and water efficiencies, your holding capacity of that soil is much better. You reduce your disease and stress problems. Cause what's the first thing that comes in when you have a stressed area of turf?

Weeds. With healthy turf, you combat the weeds. So now you don't have any weeds. No weeds, a lot less stress on the plant, and your disease problem goes away.

Most diseases that you have in your turf plots were introduced by a foreign like a weed, something else. The turf varities that we have today are pretty disease-resistant. Back in the old days, you'd have real problems with disease. Today we've bred most of those out of our turf. So if there's a disease or a stress problem in there, it's usually brought in by a weed.

Improve your soil aggregation. Along with that, now you get a bio-diversity in your soil. So soil aggregation, you got your clay soil over here that's pretty bound up. You got my soil over here in Phoenix that's just this granite gravelly looking stuff. We like to have that soil sorta right in the middle and we call that a crummy soil. It's good, but it's crummy.

And a crummy soil is that soil that when you go and you grab a handful of it - if you go to a farm, if you go to a guy's agriculture field, the farmers they work their soil cause they understand this completely. The yield on their crop is directly based on how well their soil is prepared. And you go grab that soil and it's real nice, it falls apart in your hand. It's got some structure. It's got a little bit of moisture in it, but it falls apart. That's a real good soil.

With that soil aeration and aggregation, you get really, really enhanced rooting. And that's what we're all about, we need to get that root mass down into that soil profile. The bigger the root system in your soil profile, the better water holding capacity you have, the more drought resistant that plant is going to become.

 

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Topics: Maintenance, Water Conservation, Drought Solutions

Why is the Nitrogen Cycle Important in Your Soil?

Posted by Bob Franchetto on Sep 26, 2014 3:35:48 PM

If you're using synthetic fertilizers on your customers' turf, you're slowly killing the beneficial bacteria that build the soil. In part 15 of our Drought Solution video series, you'll learn how the nutrient and nitrogen cycles work and how they directly contribute to soil and plant health.

Video Transcript

Does everybody know what nutrient cycling in the soil is? Has anybody ever heard of the nitrogen cycle?

Almost exactly the same concept. You'll hear it as nutrient cycling or nitrogen cycle and here's how it works.

Nitrogen_Cycle_Graphic

You have plant material up top. You have us as humans and the atmosphere up here putting inputs into the soil.

But let's start right here at the natural level. Plant material, organic matter, mulching mowing, and all of those plants that you put back into the soil.

What happens is these little jellybean looking characters here, that are all around here in the soil, in a healthy soil. These are the beneficial bacteria, the fungi, the mycorrhizae. All of these little decomposers that take this organic material and they convert it.

As they're feeding on that organic, all these little guys use that as their food source, their energy source. As they feed on that, what do we produce?

Ammonium nitrate in a non-synthetic form. This is how Mother Nature keeps the forest green.

We're producing it naturally as we continue to build that soil. If we decide that we're going to put a synthetic in here, what it does is it starts killing all these guys. Cause these guys don't react to salt at all. These guys do not like salt. So we start killing them off and then this whole cycle is disrupted and you get a collapse of soil.

If we add in organic inputs here, now we're making these guys stronger. And the stronger they get, the more they multiply. The better they're working for us in our soil profile, the more ammonium nitrates they're making. The more nutrients we have in our soil, the better our plants look.

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Topics: Maintenance, Water Conservation, Drought Solutions

The Long-Term Benefits of Organic Fertilizers

Posted by Bob Franchetto on Sep 23, 2014 4:57:00 PM

In Part 14 of our Drought Solutions video series, you’ll learn how organic fertilizers are able to boost the microbial activity and bio-reserves in your soil's profile.

Video Transcript

When you're talking about an organic, we're totally talking about nutrient management, keeping your microbial activity alive, and then having the carbon or bio-reserves in that soil so that those microbes can regenerate and regenerate and keep going.

We've got a study going on in Phoenix right now on bermudagrass, where for the past 6 years, we've done organic inputs. It got mowed with a mulching mower. So we're mulching that back in and it got organic inputs for a full 6 years and then just standard irrigation.

In the past 2 years, the only thing they stopped was the organic inputs. For 2 years now, that turf plot has been mowed, mulched, mulch mowed and irrigated and that turf plot still looks phenomenal.

I gave it 6 months. Ah yeah, 6 months you'll need more nutrients. What's going on now is that the microbial activity is taking that mulch mowing and starting that whole regeneration process. So what happens with organics vs. synthetics is as time goes on, your soil gets better and better and it starts working for you so now you have to have less inputs and less inputs.

The Key Benefits of Organic Fertilizer

Organic_Nutrional_Values

Organic benefits. Obviously, it provides energy for the microbial buildup. We've talked about that. It increases the organic content to enhance the soil structure, water and nutrient retention.

As the soil gets better, it holds more water and nutrients. As that soil profile holds more water and nutrients, it's not just running off across the curb cause we can't get any water in it. It's not just straight leaching all the way through.

It's holding that water. Now the soil is acting as your reservoir and you've got a much, much longer cycle in between your irrigations and less water. You saved it. Less nutrient input, saving money.

That water holding, that reservoir. Healthy plants use less water. Healthy soils hold more water for those plants.

5 Ways Carbon Based Products Improve Soil Health

Natural_Products

Carbon based products. As you get that carbon and that organic in the soil profile working, it doesn't want to leach out. It won't leach out because the soil is now working for you and it stays there.
 
Adds energy. Rich diet to tired soils. So as you're putting carbon based products in there, now those collapsed soils are getting a little reserve to come back. They're getting stronger.

Builds up that microbe. Stabilizes the root zone. We'll talk about why that happens here in a minute. It improves the nutrient and water retention in that soil and promotes rooting and lateral growth.

Now that we have air space. Now that we have water space. Now that we have pour space built into that soil, now your roots can go deeper. Deep infrequent watering, healthier plants, better root structure. And we're going to talk about how to build some root structure.

 

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Topics: Maintenance, Water Conservation, Fertilizer, Drought Solutions

Choosing a Fertilizer Based on Soil Test Results

Posted by Bob Franchetto on Aug 28, 2014 5:04:00 PM

Soil tests help you identify which nutrients your customers' soil actually needs to produce healthy turf. In Part 12 of our Drought Solutions video series, you'll learn the reason why many seasonal fertilizer blends won't work for your soil and why you should integrate soil tests into your annual program.

Video Transcript

Who's doing soil tests on a regular basis?

Every single site should be at least soil tested once a year.

Here's why: When you go to the doctor and you've got something wrong or you don't feel good, what's the first thing the doctor says to you?

Where's your blood work? They want blood work. That's your soil test. The doctor is not going to prescribe anything for you until they know what's going on in the inside of you.

How do we prescribe - hey, I'm going to put that fertilizer on - when we don't know what we need? Or we don't know what's going on? A lot of the fertilizers you're putting on don't work because it's either not needed or the soil is bound up enough to where it can't get it.

Without a soil test, we don't know what the soil needs, whether we're using synthetic fertilizers or we're using organic fertilizers. It still doesn't know what it needs. So that's important.

What's the very first thing customers ask you about fertilizer? What do they want?

Color. I want green. I don't care what you give me. I want it to green up.

Well, the right answer is: I don't know how to green up your site. I don't know what the heck's going on on it. Because we haven't done a soil sample. That's the right answer.

But traditionally the answer you get - see that right over there, that's our winter fertilizer. That's the one you should use. That's gonna green it up. That's our summer fertilizer. That's what you should use. That's what's gonna green it up.

That's my job to start training my guys. To get better at it. To say, well wait a minute. What's going on on your site? How do we know what you're supposed to be using? Are you using organics? Are you using synthetics? Start asking the questions to make us get better, and that's what we want to get to.

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Topics: Maintenance, Water Conservation, Fertilizer, Drought Solutions

What Happens to Water After It Leaves the Irrigation System?

Posted by Ken Mauser on Aug 26, 2014 3:02:03 PM

rvan_spray_headMuch has been written about how to conserve water in a turf and landscape situation. And well it should. Water is our most precious resource. We can’t live without it, and we need to do all that we can to conserve it and preserve it, quantity and quality wise.

So far however, most of the attention has been directed towards the irrigation system. Many improvements have been made, and more can be made, to improve efficiencies and thus conserve water.

But what happens to that water once it leaves the control of the irrigation system?

Mother Nature takes over. That’s what happens.

And Mother Nature has some cruel and inefficient ways of allowing water to interact with the soil.

There are 4 primary ways that water interacts with the soil.
1. It penetrates the soil and the plants use it.  This is good.
2. The water penetrates but it channels thru the soil.  Not Good.
3. The water doesn’t penetrate and it runs off.  Not Good.
4. The water doesn’t penetrate & it forms puddles.  Not Good.

These 4 situations can cause a well designed and well operated irrigation system with a high percentage distribution uniformity (DU) to lose that high efficiency. High surface DU’s are compromised because the water can’t get into the soil profile and/or can’t uniformly move around within the soil profile.

Total DU, which includes surface DU and subsurface DU, is then much lower. And this drop in total DU forces increased run times on the irrigation system to make up for the water lost to the inefficiencies of how water interacts with the soil.

So what do we do? Or what can we do?

These inefficiencies are caused by four conditions.
1. Physical Problems with the Soil.
2. Chemical Problems with the Soil.
3. Water Repellency Problems with the Soil.
4. The Natural Behavior of Water.

There are many possible solutions or control methods.  But in general, any physical problem is going to be mitigated by some kind of a physical control method.  Aerification, de-thatching, deep tining, venting, HydroJet, and PlanetAire, are just some of the possible solution methods. 

As for the chemical problems, these are mitigated by some kind of chemical means.  Soil sulfur, sulfuric acid, gypsum and limestone, are just some of the possible correction methods. 

Cohesion-and-Adhesion

The last two, water repellency and the natural behavior of water, are much easier to deal with since there is only one control method. Soil wetting amendments are the only solution to these two problem conditions. Soil wetting amendments reduce water repellency and they lower the adhesive and cohesive tensions of water to reduce the natural behavior of water to cling to something. These two tensions cause water to behave in a very erratic fashion as it interacts with the soil and organic matter. 

So when water leaves the irrigation system and it lands on the soil or organic layer, we need to be sure that it can get into the soil profile and move around within the soil profile in a very efficient manner. Just letting it fall on the soil and letting Mother Nature take control and possibly destroying the high level of efficiency designed into the irrigation system isn’t Water Smart.

Therefore, the next step in Water Conservation is to find these efficiency robbing conditions and correct them so water can carry out its two given responsibilities, survival and distribution, to the highest degree possible.

The irrigation system is designed to get water from point A to point B and then surface distribute that water as efficiently and uniformly as possible. But after the water leaves the control of the irrigation system we need to ensure that the water isn’t lost and is utilized effectively.

About the Author:

Ken Mauser is a Consulting Agronomist who has served as Aquatrols' Territory Manager in the Western United States for more than 20 years.

Aquatrols is the world leader in the development of soil surfactants, wetting agents, and other technologies that optimize soil-water-plant interactions. - See more at: http://blog.aquatrols.com/about/#sthash.JQV3LeLD.dpuf
Aquatrols is the world leader in the development of soil surfactants, wetting agents, and other technologies that optimize soil-water-plant interactions. - See more at: http://blog.aquatrols.com/about/#sthash.JQV3LeLD.dpuf

 

is an agronomist who has served as Aquatrols’ Territory Manager in the Western United States for more than 20 years. - See more at: http://blog.aquatrols.com/what-happens-to-water-after-it-leaves-the-irrigation-system/#sthash.8Q74X6tj.dpuf
is an agronomist who has served as Aquatrols’ Territory Manager in the Western United States for more than 20 years. - See more at: http://blog.aquatrols.com/what-happens-to-water-after-it-leaves-the-irrigation-system/#sthash.8Q74X6tj.dpuf
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Topics: Water Conservation

How to Convert a Spray Valve to Subsurface Drip Irrigation

Posted by Bob Franchetto on Aug 15, 2014 2:25:00 PM

Drip irrigation can be a great way to minimize evaporation and deliver the perfect amount of water to plantings, but installing it in some soils can be challenging.

After watching Part 11 of our Drought Solutions video series, you'll know how to quickly convert a spray valve to a drip valve and how to avoid common problems contractors experience when moving to subsurface irrigation.

 

Video Transcript

Here's a cool little product for converting that little weird area. You know that little weird area. It's hard to spray. It's just like, why are we growing turf there?

Cool product that Agrifim has. Rain bird has one. Hunter has one. Toro has one. This one I like the best so far.

agrifim drip irrigation conversion

You take out your spray body. The whole thing. You screw in their body right here. This is a screen and a pressure regulator all installed in one. Screw that on. Hook up your drip tubing.

You just converted that spray valve to a drip valve without digging up anything. Without digging up the valve to put a pressure regulator and a filter on it. It's all right there. 

And then what you do with the extra heads that are on the system, you just go and put a plug in for the male or female and you plug off all the other heads.

So you just took that little weird system that's not doing anything and you converted that one system that was a problem over to drip.

Low Volume and Subsurface Irrigation

low volume and subsurface irrigation

Points source emitters. I know you guys use quite a bit of this.

How much subsurface do you use? A lot? Where do you use it? Turf or flower beds? Beds. Yeah, we struggle with this under turf. We struggle with this under everything because our soil is so crappy. Our soil just leaches water like crazy. It's so porous. In clay soils you can have some issues too where the water doesn't move enough and it just makes this glob.

So what I end up having to use especially in my flower beds that we're doing subsurface in, I gotta use this Eco-Mat.

You basically put the Eco-Mat down in the bed. You put the grid pattern on top of it. And then now that mat holds the moisture and it's a capillary mat like we used to use in the nursery benches. Pretty cool stuff.

If it's in turf, deeper than your aerator. If it's in your flower beds, I go just below a 1 gallon root ball. Depends on what you're planting in that flower bed all the time.

Your guys gotta know, your crews gotta know that it's down there cause you'll stick a shovel through it. Doesn't matter if you stick a shovel through the mat as much as it does the subsurface.

Subsurface, originally when it came out a lot of guys jumped on it in Phoenix for obvious reasons. No evaporation. That's what they painted it as. No evaporation, no evaporation. Yeah, it's a great deal.

Man, our soils are so rough that we get great looking checkerboard pattern turf. You get this green stripe, green stripe, green stripe, green stripe and all of these little brown spots in between. Because it's really hard to get that tear dropped shape out of that emitter that's coming out of that emitter of water.

The water just naturally wants to get that tear drop to go up and these are relying on soils that can wick a little bit of water back up and you gotta add a ton of organic matter and we're going to talk about that this afternoon. None of this is any good if your soils aren't working for you.

 

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Topics: Water Conservation, Construction, Drought Solutions