Irrigation: Practices and Perspective

Rainbird Rotary NozzlesAt Billings Landscaping, we care about your lawn. Our general practices are tailored specifically to optimize your lawns success.  A successful lawn requires an underground sprinkler system that is reliable and effective.

Here are a few points about our underground sprinkler systems and what to look for when choosing an irrigation specialist.

Irrigation Components

The components used in your underground sprinkler system can save you money in the long run.  Choosing the best components for your job can mean savings on both your water bill and on future maintenance of the sprinkler system.

The right combination of components can mean a greener, healthy, longer lasting lawn. This is true for many reasons. For example, sometimes manufacturers stop making a product. Usually this happens because they have improved the product.

Nobody wants an outdated or mismatched sprinkler system. Yet, some components haven’t changed design for decades because their design has stood the test of time.  One such example is Rainbird valves. We like to use them because they last and we can feel confident that the replacement solenoids and diaphragms will always be available.

Another example is with valve manifolds and boxes. It is very common for one valve to break and require a whole new manifold, box, and set of valves. You really don’t want a custom built manifold unless it is being done by a real pro.  It takes some skills to make a manifold that allows for easy repairs and maintenance. We like to use Rainbird valve manifolds with o-rings and swivel threads for easy valve replacement and durability.  We also choose sturdy boxes with punch outs made to fit our valves and manifolds.  This helps to avoid all kinds of problems like boxes filling with dirt or collapsing, etc.

You want quality popup heads.  Some use rubber seals that break down faster with age. Cheap pumps can burn up quickly require more maintenance; cheap fittings can break or split; timers can be unreliable or difficult to use; emitters can clog or be faulty; nozzles can pop off, and filters can clog.  They all have pros and cons but one thing is certain, you want a brand that you can trust. Knowing your products results in a better sprinkler system.  The end result is more love to your lawn!

Sprinkler pipe: Poly versus PVC.

We use poly pipe as much as possible because it will expand when water freezes thus preventing a pipe rupture. PVC pipe will most likely rupture during freezing temperatures. The variable is how deep you lay the pipe, however, deep means expensive to service. The extra cost of poly pipe is justified through peace of mind and maintenance savings down the road.

Irrigation Design.

We believe that quality means using a system that is efficiently designed to meet your needs. We work closely with our suppliers to coop solutions that are customized to you, and we use design standards that are proven successful here in Montana.

Irrigation Installation.

Quality also means a professional installation. You want a team of installers that care about your lawn and know how to create the best coverage. This means properly locating, setting, and tuning individual sprinkler heads. Whether you have a well or are on city water, we can design and install a system that is ideal for you.

How the sprinkler lines are installed can make a large impact. In new construction, a vibratory plow will prevent the need to fill and compact trenches. Settlement of trenches is a common problem and challenge for landscapers here in Billings.

A number a problems can arise from trenching and most are completely avoided by using a pipe puller.

Vibratory PlowAt Billings Landscaping we prefer a vibratory plow or pipe puller in lieu of a trencher for many residential and small commercial projects.

What can happen is after the sprinklers are installed, the disturbed ground in the trenches will settle.  Soil taken from the trench has been pulverized by the trencher. Pulverized soil is more permeable and typically has more voids.
Now the installer will need to obtain proper soil compaction to avoid telegraphing of the trench in the lawn.

Another challenge with trenching is that there never seems to be enough dirt left to finish filling the trenches. Why? The dirt spreads out, it rains, muddy feet carry it off, or rocks get raked up.  Sometime what comes out of a trench is large cobble that might not be great to put on sprinkler pipe. Whatever the reason, dirt seems to always disappear. While there are solutions for all of these issues, we typically prefer to avoid them entirely whenever possible. That is why we prefer to pull pipe whenever plausible.

Soil Compaction and settling trenches

The goal is to match the compression of the existing soil outside the trench. Obtaining proper soil compaction can be challenging when soil has either too much or too little water content. The soil classification is another variable. Techniques for compaction often change based on both factors.

When clay is present as in many locations around Billings, the undisturbed, naturally consolidated soil can get hard packed like brick. This can makes compaction a challenge because the less permeable clumps need to soften which takes time. Water settling trenches is an effective method but it requires diligence, hard work, and technique in order to do it efficiently.

If workers fail to get proper compaction then settlement will often occur after the sod is laid and the sprinklers have been running for awhile. The resulting settlement is then translated to the finished lawn. These longitudinal depressions and low spots can be unsightly and expensive to repair.

Our Perspective on Equipment.

At Billings Landscaping we like to use the best equipment for the job to insure that you get top quality and top performance from your underground sprinkler system. We prefer to work smart.

One key to quality is good equipment.

One example is the Vermeer LM42 pipe puller and trencher. Our LM42 has a specially made, hardened steel, serrated cutting blade and cutting wheel for slicing through the ground, tree roots, buried debris, and/or existing sod. It gives us the ability to pull pipe through some of the toughest sub-terrain.

Efficient and precise pipe pulling results in better underground sprinkler systems and faster schedules.

The main benefits of pipe pulling are:

  1. Repeatable results.  Why important?  Quality imply’s that we can duplicate our results in a variety of different terrains.
  2. Schedule.  Pipe pulling is the fastest!
  3. Quality.  Minimal repairs to grounds both lawn and dirt.
  4. Predictability. Pulls at consistent, ideal depths.
  5. Resource Conservation. Requires less topsoil.

Benefits of the Vermeer LM42

  • It makes the job easier. A sprinkler installers job is difficult enough. When you simplify the hard stuff everything gets better!
  • It provides more consistent results. Having to fight a piece of equipment isn’t fun. This is especially rough in Billing Heights where the ground is cobble and around trees where roots flourish.
  • There is less down time. The LM42 is a bigger, more reliable machine with more power and better mobility.
  • It saves time which means higher quality. Now workers can pay more attention to perfecting the installation.