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Posts in the category "Seattle Irrigation Services"

Cycle and soak

July 31, 2013 @ 6:04 pm
Cycle and soak method can help prevent runoff; photo by jellaluna via Creative Commons license

Cycle and soak method can help prevent runoff; photo by jellaluna via Creative Commons license

We’ve written a lot on this blog about ways to conserve water in your landscape. One of the easiest ways is to water your lawn and plants deeply but infrequently using a water-efficient technique called cycle and soak.

In the cycle and soak method, you water in increments (or cycles) until the soil has absorbed the maximum moisture before water starts running off onto the sidewalk or streets. Instead of watering for 20 minutes straight, for example, you water for 10 minutes, wait about an hour for the water to absorb, and water for another 10 minutes. Watering two times for 10 minutes will allow your lawn or landscape to absorb more moisture than watering for a straight 20 minutes.

Watering in increments allows the soil to absorb more moisture more slowly and to avoid sprinkler runoff. Water travels deeper into the ground; and roots follow, reaching deeper and broader into the ground for that moisture, creating a healthier lawn.

Most sprinkler systems can be programmed to water your landscape using the cycle and soak method. The amount of time you run your sprinkler will depend on the type of soil and the slope of your yard. Each zone of your landscape may need different amounts of water. Clay soils may take longer to absorb water, while sandy soils may take less time. Ideally, you want to water your lawn or landscape so that the soil is moist about 6-8 inches deep; you’ll know when you can easily push a probe through the soil to those depths.

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EPA WaterSense irrigation partner

June 27, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

WaterSense Partner Seattle
We’re happy to announce that Ecoyards owner Andy Nicholls has partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program to promote water-efficient landscapes and help consumers save water outdoors. Andy is a certified landscape irrigation auditor through the Irrigation Association.

Andy has undergone testing and achieved certification for landscape irrigation auditing with an emphasis on water efficiency, through a program labeled by WaterSense. Andy is currently one of 39 irrigation professionals in Washington state who are irrigation partners of this program.

WaterSense irrigation partners certified through a WaterSense auditor program are able to identify water systems that distribute water inefficiently and determine how to improve an irrigation system’s performance. By partnering with the program, Andy has committed to promoting efficient landscape watering practices and staying up-to-date on the latest practices and technologies to save water.

The EPA estimates that more than 50 percent of commercial and residential irrigation water use can go to waste due to evaporation, runoff, or over-watering. WaterSense partners like Andy can help customers save water and money while reducing stress on water systems and maintaining a beautiful landscape.

We’ve blogged in the past about the many ways we help our customers save money and water, including installing a smart, water-efficient irrigation system, fixing water leaks inside and outside the house, upgrading inefficient sprinkler systems, and conserving water through smart landscape design.

WaterSense is a  public-private partnership program sponsored by the EPA. Visit EPA WaterSense to learn more about how to save water and money

 

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Certified landscape irrigation auditor

June 27, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

irrigation association member seattle ecoyardsAndy Nicholls, owner of Ecoyards, has become a certified landscape irrigation auditor through the Irrigation Association, the leading membership organization for irrigation professionals.

What does that mean for you as an Ecoyards customer? Irrigation Association-certified professionals like Andy are leading the way in the evolving field of irrigation technology and smart water management. Simply put, they are the best in the field. In hiring a certified professional, you can feel confident that Andy has state-of-the-art training and technical skills to audit varieties of irrigation systems. He’s trained to perform field tests on irrigation systems to determine whether they’re efficient, as well as examine plant water use, soils and local weather data to calculate accurate water schedules. As a certified landscape irrigation auditor, he’ll work with you to manage overall irrigation use on your property.

To be certified, Andy passed a written exam, demonstrated irrigation-related work experience, passed an audit of his work, agreed to follow a code of ethics and has committed to continuing education requirements.

You wouldn’t hire an electrician or a plumber who wasn’t licensed or endorsed, so why would you hire someone to install or maintain your irrigation system who is not certified? A certified irrigation professional not only provides keen technical know-how, but they also offer a higher level of specialization and service.

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Fix a leak week

March 21, 2013 @ 8:00 am

epaIt’s Fix a Leak Week, and the EPA is encouraging residents to check and replace leaky plumbing and sprinkler systems to save water and reduce utility bills. The agency says that more than 1 trillion gallons of water could leak from U.S. homes each year.

Many of the most common household leaks can easily be fixed, including leaking toilet flappers, dripping faucets and leaking valves in sprinkler systems. For great step-by-step tutorials on how to find and fix leaks from outdoor faucets and toilets, check out the Saving Water Partnership website. That same group offers tips on how to conserve water outside as well.

We’ve blogged here in the past about many ways you can conserve water in your landscaping. You can start by having a well-thought out plan for your landscape that incorporates low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants. Picking the right plants for your conditions (whether shady, sunny, etc.), and you’ll have do use less water and fertilizers to keep them thriving. The Bellevue Botanical Garden’s WaterWise Garden, for example, shows you can be water-conscious and still have a garden with a wide array of attractive, colorful plants. Read more from Western Washington University about how to conserve water in landscapes.

We also encourage homeowners to check for leaks in sprinkler systems and consider upgrading to newer, water-saving technology to prevent overwatering. As we’ve noted in the past, the city of Seattle and other utilities in the region give homeowners rebates when they upgrade their sprinkler systems. Call Ecoyards for assistance if you think your in-ground sprinkler system is leaking. Our irrigation specialists can help determine whether and where your system is leaking, and come up with a plan to fix it. We also offer design, installation, and maintenance of efficient sprinkler and drip irrigation systems. Find out more about our irrigation services.

The EPA recommends easy tips both inside and outside the house to check for leak problems.

  • Check toilets for silent leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank at the bank, and watching whether color shows up in the bowl in 10 minutes (before flushing).
  • Check outdoor hoses for winter damage and tighten connections.
  • Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak.

 

 

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An inch of water per week

September 6, 2012 @ 8:14 am

1 inch per week watering

Seattle was recently on one of the driest streaks in decades. Not a drop of rain for 50 straight days, though just one day shy of the record 51 dry days set in 1951.

For gardeners and homeowners, a dry spell means plants and lawns may need a little extra TLC this summer. Even plants that are well-established and drought-tolerant still may need a bit of a drink to help them get through the extra dry spell. We earlier blogged about how to care for lawns during dry weather. When you water your lawn and landscapes, do it in the early morning to avoid losing water to evaporation. It’s better to water deeply (about one inch per week) than to water too often, too little. Deep watering is better for plant health than frequent shallow watering. Why? Light applications of water promote lush growth but shallow grass roots. Shallow-rooted turf grass undergo more stress in dry conditions.

So, how much is an inch of water a week? Experts say this amounts to roughly six gallons per square yard per week. One crude but easy way to figure out how long you need to water to get one inch a week: scatter five empty tuna cans or other containers throughout your lawn. Turn on your sprinkler system and let it run for 30 minutes. Measure the depth of water in those cans, add the amounts together and divide by 5 (or the number of cans you end up using). You’ll end up with the average amount of water you get when you have the sprinkler on for 30 minutes. Once you know the depth of wet soil, you can calculate how long you need to run your sprinkler.

Installing a smart controller on your sprinkler system is an even better way to control the amount of water your lawn or landscape beds need.

The EPA provides a good tipsheet with other tips on saving water for outdoor use, which we’ve summarized below.

1. Know how much water your landscape actually needs before you set your sprinkler. Your local utility can offer recommendations for how much water certain plants need in your region and best times to water. Generally, it’s best to water lawns and landscapes in the early morning and late evening because significant amounts of water can be lost due to evaporation during the heat of the day.

2. Look for the label: If your system uses a clock timer, consider upgrading to a WaterSense labeled controller. WaterSense labeled irrigation controllers act like a thermostat for your lawn, using local weather data to determine when and how much to water, reducing waste and improving plant health.

3. Tune up your system: Inspect irrigation systems and check for leaks and broken or clogged sprinkler heads. Fix sprinkler heads that are broken or spraying on the sidewalk, street, or driveway.

4. Play zone defense: When planting, assign areas of your landscape different hydrozones depending on sun/shade exposure, soil and plant types, and type of sprinklers, then adjust your irrigation system or watering schedule based on those zones’ specific needs. This helps you avoid overwatering some areas or underwatering others.

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Upgrade your sprinkler system

August 27, 2012 @ 8:30 am

Eco-conscious homeowners have been switching to energy-efficient dishwashers, light bulbs, and washers and dryers to save water and money. It’s now time to consider sprinkler irrigation upgrades. New sprinkler technology has made it easy to save water, and many cities including Seattle offer rebates or other incentives for those who upgrade to energy-saving water devices.

We explain some of the sprinkler upgrades you can undertake:

Rotary nozzle from Rain Bird.

Consider replacing old sprinkler heads, especially those 10 years or older. New sprinkler heads are much more efficient at delivering water where it’s needed. These heads have built-in pressure regulators to minimize water loss through misting or fogging from excess pressure.  Heads can also be fitted with check valves to eliminate low-head drainage. The city of Seattle and other utilities participating in the Saving Water Conservation offers a $10 rebate per sprinkler head with pressure regulation and/or check valves on heads with drainage problems.

Convert to high-efficiency rotating nozzles.These multi-stream nozzles save up to 20 percent less water than traditional spray nozzles. They distribute water more slowly and uniformly. The water is less likely to mist and reduces runoff into sidewalks and streets. The city of Seattle and other utilities participating in the Saving Water Conservation offers a $3 rebate per nozzle.

Drip system conversions. Convert certain areas of your landscapes, such as a plant beds and vegetable gardens to a drip irrigation system. These system slowly drip water directly into the soil, preventing evaporation and diseases that could result from allowing too much moisture to get on foliage and fruit. The city of Seattle and other utilities participating in the Saving Water Conservation offers a $0.30 rebate per square foot of landscape bed irrigation with drip.

Rain Bird Smart Irrigation Controller.

Install a smart irrigation controller. These weather-based smart controllers allow you to set how often and how much you water certain areas of your lawn or landscape. Smart irrigation technology senses weather changes and adjusts the irrigation accordingly. If it rains, it stops watering. If it’s hotter or the soil is drier than usual, the controller will increase watering. The controllers do all the work, and they are a much more efficient and sophisticated way to reduce outdoor water use. Studies show that weather-based irrigation technology help reduce outdoor water use anywhere from 15 to 30 percent, depending on the type of controller and where it was used.

Tune up and maintain your existing sprinkler system every year. Cap sprinkler heads that you no longer need (i.e. in an area where a patio was installed). Regularly check your system to make sure none of the sprinkler heads are broken or leaking. Fix areas where you have sprinkler overspray; where water is getting to areas that don’t need to be watered like your sidewalk!

Contact us at (206)-770-7879 or email us for a consultation if you are interested in upgrading your sprinkler system.

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Sprinkler repair and tune-up

August 24, 2012 @ 7:15 am

Regular tune-ups and cleaning can extend the life of your sprinkler heads. Photo by Ecoyards.

Does your sprinkler system need a tune-up? Does it leak, spray water where it shouldn’t, spit out air, or has simply stopped working? Just like a water heater, furnace or other appliance in your home, sprinkler systems need regular tune-ups to keep them working properly. If you inspect your system regularly, you can catch problems early. Ecoyards can help you with Seattle irrigation repairs.

Clogged sprinklers. Dirt and debris can clog sprinklers and may affect your sprinkler’s performance.

Leaky sprinklers. Sprinklers can leak when a head or valve is cracked, damaged or not working properly. Seals also wear out over time and need to be replaced. Leaks can lead to loss of pressure of your overall sprinkler system, and this can result in overly dry or over-saturated spots in your lawn or landscape. Plants and grass, over time, can also grow and cover a sprinkler head, blocking it from functioning properly.

Sprinklers that overspray. This is a common problem we see: sprinklers that spray water properly but not in the right area. You may be spraying a sidewalk, driveway or path rather than grass or plants. If your sprinkler isn’t spraying water where it needs to, it’s time to check it. You may need to reposition it, adjust the arc and radius of your sprinkler, or make some other sprinkler repair. Sometimes though, the initial sprinkler design may be what’s causing the problem, and you may deuced to replace your system.

Pipe leaks. One sign of possible pipe leaks underground is when you have water ponding in certain areas, or if you’re experiencing low pressure in the system. It may take a little detective work to figure where the leak is, but start by looking for areas that are much greener than others. Large leaks below ground will require some digging. You’ll need to dig up the area and repair or replace the pipe.

Reference: Basic repairs and Maintenance for Home Landscape Systems.

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Seattle greening its landscape

August 17, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

Oregon grape, native Pacific Northwest plant. Photo courtesy of heystax via Creative Commons License.

Green Seattle has always been on the forefront of promoting native plants and encouraging the removal of invasive weeds to support a healthier environment. But now, the city is taking it one step further. It is proposing to write such requirements into the city’s building code. Planning officials are in the process of getting public input on potential green code provisions which they say will address climate change.

Apparently nothing is set in stone yet, and the city is taking public input until Aug. 27, 2012. These proposed code revisions could bring major changes in residential and commercial landscapes across the city. The code deals with a number of construction issues, including encouraging building materials to be salvaged and so on. Several provisions in the draft code attempt to create healthier landscapes and encourage water conservation by mandating certain high-efficient irrigation practices and requiring mostly native Western Washington plants be used for new landscapes or those that are replaced. What are your thoughts on these proposed changes?

Specifically, the draft provisions say when you create new vegetated landscapes (or replace an old one), you must submit a plan showing that you’ll remove existing invasive species and “that 75% of all new plantings will be native to Western Washington.” It’s not clear from the draft documents online whether this provision would apply to very large properties or small single-family homes as well. Plants native to this region are better adapted to the local conditions and require less maintenance, water and fertilizers; the city says it wants to create healthier landscapes by removing invasive species and encouraging native plants.

The draft provisions also call for smart irrigation systems that can sense how much rain has fallen, and after about 1/4 inch, have the ability to stop the sprinkler system. It also would  require the systems to use certain technology to conserve water, including low precipitation rotary nozzles, sprinkler heads with internal check valves. Landscapes that are greater than 30,000 also have other restrictions, including having a system labeled WaterSense.

 

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Rain barrel questions

August 17, 2012 @ 10:30 am

Rain barrel. Photo by Ecoyards.

We’ve been enjoying unusually warm, dry and sunny weather in Seattle lately. The lack of rain means it’s a great time to tap your rain barrels to water your plants. Most of you know that rain barrels are used to catch rain water and store it for later use. We get a lot of questions about rain barrels from customers, so we’ve tackled a couple of them here.

Can I use my rain barrel water for vegetables? Unless you get your water tested, there’s really no way to know for certain whether the water that runs off your rooftop and into gutters and then your rain barrel is completely safe for edible plants. The water could contain heavy metals (depending on what’s in those roof shingles), or fecal coliform and other bacteria from bird or other wildlife droppings. The safest bet is to use the water for non-edible plants only. If you must use the water on vegetables (depending on your personal comfort level), here are some tips: water close to the ground through a drip system; keep the water in the soil and away from fruits, veggies or foliage; avoid watering lettuce or other plants that are grow close to the ground; and always thoroughly wash your produce with drinkable water before eating. The city of Seattle’s Rain Barrel Guide recommends not using rainwater for plants if your roof is made of copper, or if it has wooden shingles treated with any chemical such as chromated copper arsenate to make them resistant to algae, moss or lichen.

How do I prevent overflows during storms? Install an overflow hose adapter, which allows water to flow through a small hose and drain to a nearby lawn or landscape bed. Make sure you direct it away from a basement or your foundation.

How much water can I actually collect from my roof? A general rule of thumb says that you can catch about 600 gallons of water for every 1 inch of rainfall on a 1,000 square foot roof. If you want to do your own math, the city of Seattle has a good formula in its rain barrel guide to help you out.

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Water conservation

August 14, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

August is a good month to review ways to conserve water in the Seattle landscape. Despite our reputation for rain, summers in Seattle can be extremely dry. During summer months, the city of Seattle (and others in growing populations) tiers its water rates, which means the more you use, the more it costs. So there’s incentive to save money by saving water. Here are some ways to conserve water in your landscape:

Evergreen huckleberry. Photo by Ecoyards.

Pick drought-tolerant or low-maintenance plants. Rosemary, oregano, lavender, sage and other herbs are some obvious choices, but they’re certainly not the only ones. Consider beautiful woody shrubs such as viburnum or the strawberry tree, which has glossy green foliage, white flowers and red berries; flowering perennials such as astilbe and penstemon; or edible fruiting plants like the native evergreen huckleberry. Take a tour of the Waterwise Garden at the Bellevue Botanical Garden to check out more ideas. You’ll be amazed at how lush and beautiful a garden can be while still conserving water and reducing the need for fertilizers and chemicals. Now is a good time to start thinking about what you might want to plant in the fall.

Install an efficient sprinkler system. We’ve written before about how a smart sprinkler system can save you time and money. It can prevent sprinkler overspray and other water problems, such watering too much or too little. Ecoyards has been working with customers get water rebates from the city of Seattle by installing smart, water-saving sprinkler systems. Read more about how we helped one customer get $480 in irrigation rebates earlier this year. If you’re not ready for a sprinkler system, or you have a much smaller area that needs watering, consider a drip irrigation system. A drip system saves water because by slowly applying it directly to a plant roots. If you do water by traditional garden hose, try to do so early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid water evaporation. The city of Seattle has a lot of great resources to help you save water.

 

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