Wishful thinking

Since I have had my wonderful new irrigation system installed in my garden, late last year > you can read about it here <, I have had the pleasure and privilege of using it in a full weekly cycle a sum total of once!  And then the rains came and didn’t stop.  So, I didn’t need to use it at all – which was very frustrating as you can imagine.  It is like giving a kid the latest must-have toy and then not letting them play with it, or going to your favourite restaurant and not being able to eat anything.

Irrigation computer
Firstly, open up the water computer and evict any unlawful residents and replace the battery.  It is best to bring these indoors in the autumn to protect them from the frosty conditions of winter.

But I declare the new season starts now and this irrigation system will be used every day throughout this growing season.   This rain can’t go on forever and I am going to prepare for drier days so I’m ready and waiting and my plants will get the best moisture support I can give them all summer long.  Rain you can stop now…  I’ve got this.

Plug in the hose to the irrigation
With the tap turned on gently with the pressure as low as you can, connect to the irrigation system

Before I race out there and pop all the dripper spikes where I want the plants to be and where they will be well positioned to distribute the water best throughout the bed, there are a few things I need to do.   It isn’t quite that simple.

Prime the system
Remove the top from the dripper the furthest from the hose and allow the water to slowly refill the pipes.

The system has sat there all winter, with empty pipes, waiting for a chance to be used.  However, to just turn on the tap to full, can actually do a bit of damage.  As the water rushes in to fill the void it can create a water hammer effect that can be a tad violent and can cause valves to burst, connectors to pop, break seals and damage the working mechanisms of the drippers.   Add to that, some of the dripper holes may be blocked due to a season of inaction and so this all adds to the pressure build up within the pipe as the water rushes to find a way out.

Check each dripper
Check each dripper to make sure the water is flowing freely out of each hole.

The key is to remove the top of the dripper on the farthest end of the system and then slowly and gently turn the tap.  Watch the open dripper for the water to come out and let it run until it is clear and free from air bubbles.  This is a good sign the water way is free of blockages and the system has been primed.

Clean blocked holes
Clear any blockages so the water flows freely from all of the holes

Then it is important to check all the drippers to make sure all the little holes are not blocked and are free flowing, so it can distribute the water across the garden bed as intended.  As there was period during the winter where my beds were actually underwater due to the worst flooding in a decade of gardening here, it is especially important for me to double check each one.  Ordinarily the risk is bugs, webs and dust that can cause blockages, but for me there is the possibility that silt could have washed into the sprinkler head!   Each of my sprinkler heads has 8 holes, and each bed has on average 16 sprinklers, so this may take a while.  But it is a job worth doing.

Loose connections
Check all the joints for loose connections and make any necessary repairs so you don’t waste water.

While the tap is running through the system is it also a great time to look for damage, water pooling in places it shouldn’t and check for leaks.  Having a system out in the elements all winter long, can make it susceptible to damage – it is just the nature of things.  I’m not sure I’d fare very well if I had to stay outside all winter in the wind, rain and freezing conditions.  It could be a matter of just unpopping a 4mm tube, trimming the end and resetting it on the connector against the 13mm pipe so it sits flush.  In some situations, the freeze thaw process may have actually broken something, and it will need replacing.   Taking the time to check the system will ensure a trouble-free irrigation season.

A garden ready for some plants
And with a well working irrigation system the garden is now ready for some plants.

So, while I wait for the weather to settle down, I’m going to grab an umbrella and play with the water!

Come again soon – I’m believing for a drier season ahead.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

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