10 Sprinkler System Maintenance Tips to Keep Your Sprinklers On Point

Alison Kasch
Written by Alison Kasch
Updated March 24, 2022
Backyard sprinkler water child
Photo: Cavan Social / Adobe Stock

A sprinkle of care can help keep your irrigation system at its best

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Whether it’s creating a play fountain for your kids, adding ambience to your slow-motion runs, or keeping your yard and flowers flourishing, your sprinkler system does a lot. To keep it working efficiently and effectively, proper maintenance is key. Here are the best tips to care for your sprinklers.   

1. Develop a Sprinkler System Maintenance Schedule

An irrigation system has lots of small moving parts, which means there are multiple ways it could clog up or malfunction. You should check on your system at least once per season as the weather changes.

It’s also a good idea to get yearly or biannual professional sprinkler checkups and maintenance, ideally when turning on or shutting off your irrigation system for the season. That way, you can invest in the cost of sprinkler repairs before they become bigger problems. If you spot any issues, call a local irrigation professional for a more in-depth analysis.

2. Clean Your Sprinkler Heads

Dirt and other debris from the ground can easily clog up your sprinklers over time. If there are any blockages, areas of your lawn or garden could get missed and turn into dead or brown patches. It’s important to clean your sprinkler heads at least once per year to keep the system running efficiently. This typically entails removing the heads and soaking them in a cleaning solution—consult your manufacturer’s instructions to find out which cleaners to use.

3. Address Leaks ASAP

Small leaks are a slippery slope that can lead to larger problems with your irrigation system. This can cause certain areas to get too much water, while others don’t get enough. Be sure to regularly check that water pressure stays consistent and that all areas are getting watered evenly.

4. Install a Rain Sensor on Your Sprinkler System

Having your irrigation sprinklers running during a rainstorm isn’t just wasteful—it might also overwhelm your yard. If you don’t already have one, install a sensor that can shut programmed irrigators off based on soil moisture levels. Adjusting your system throughout the year based on weather and plant needs can also reduce water consumption.

5. Monitor Water Pressure

Sprinkler watering grass
Photo: Mint Images / Adobe Stock

If you notice more of a mist rather than a spray coming out of your sprinkler heads, this can compromise efficiency. The wind can carry water droplets from a mist and prevent them from reaching your plants. You can fix this issue with a water pressure regulator or booster pump.

6. Manage Weeds and Lawn Disease

Weeds, fungus, and disease can suck up more water than a healthy yard, so it’s important to stay on top of weed control. On top of that, they negatively plant health, often making your sprinkler system’s hard work be in vain. You can control weeds naturally with mulch or cardboard. Nab individual weeds by pulling them up by the root or spraying vinegar directly on the weed. 

7. Vary Watering by Plant Type

Grass and plants in landscaped beds typically require different amounts of water. Work with your trained irrigator, landscape professional, or university extension office to designate separate watering zones based on plant needs for your area and the time of year.

8. Measure Output

Once you know how much water your plants need, measure the output of your sprinkler to determine how long to run them. Set out tuna cans, measuring cups, or a flat cupcake pan and turn on your irrigation system or sprinkler. Water for 30 minutes and use a ruler to measure how much water got collected. Then, use this information to calculate how much time it takes to get the correct output from your sprinklers.

9. Use Mulch to Help Conserve Water

Adding 2 to 4 inches of mulch to beds keeps moisture in the ground, reducing the strain on your sprinkler system. The right type of mulch reduces evaporation, lessens temperature changes, and helps control weeds.

10. Water Early or Late

Whether you’re using an irrigation system, watering can, or garden hose, it’s always best to water early in the morning or late at night. Watering in the afternoon when the sun is at its hottest can lead to your soil drying out before the evening when lower temperatures and wind speeds reduce evaporation.

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