A typical homeowner is often unaware of what is involved in the construction of a sprinkler or micro-irrigation system. Often, it is thought that in buying an irrigation system one is buying complete freedom from future watering problems. However, even with a well-designed system this may not be true. A well-designed, good quality system will significantly simplify watering, but it must be managed properly. Proper management includes proper operation as well as regular maintenance.

A good irrigation system may be expensive, but the investment should be repaid in time savings and landscape maintenance. An irrigation system should water a lawn and garden adequately and efficiently. This can be accomplished with proper design, properly selected good quality equipment, and good management, regardless of the size and complexity of the area being irrigated.

Major reasons for unsuccessful irrigation systems include:
• Poor spacing of sprinklers/emitters
• Undersized pipes
• Poor management.

Many home systems are not designed at all. A design should begin with a scaled map of the area which includes existing buildings, trees, shrubs, and sidewalks. The areas where water should not be applied (examples: walls, sidewalks) must be considered as well as areas where irrigation is desired.

An existing water supply system must be examined to determine flow and pressure limitations. The number of sprinklers which can be operated at the same time should be calculated. Frequently, a system must be divided into zones. Each zone is designed to fit the water supply system by determining the most efficient way to connect sprinklers into groups. The pipes must be sized based on the water flow rate.

The contractor should provide a detailed plan of the irrigation system and specifications of all necessary parts. The plan, including operational and maintenance procedures should be discussed with the future owner.

For more information and charts go to:
Irrigation of Lawns and Gardens. Dorota Z. Haman, Gary A. Clark, Allen G. Smajstrla. Florida Cooperative Extension Service,
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date: May 1989.