Spring into Irrigation
Most store and facility managers are blaming a brutal, early winter for their 2003 spring clean up needs. The aftermath from excessive snow and heavy plowing, combined with leftover fall debris, create more work for all exterior maintenance staff. After the debris is cleared and the snow has melted, the ground will warm up, and plants and grass will begin to grow, bringing the landscape to life again. Unfortunately, since store and facility managers are unable to assess the damage to irrigation systems during most winter months, there is a very narrow window between winters ending and green start-up to prepare irrigations systems for the new season. Most regions begin the cutting season in April, which gives managers anywhere from five to six weeks to clean up and prepare for the growing season. Once these tasks are complete, facility managers can move forward with a repair analysis to make sure their irrigation systems are fully functional.
Irrigation is Rocket Science
Should above ground plastic tubing be 40 PVC? Does it need special sun blocking paint? What pump size is adequate for our facility and do we need a guarantee that all tubing broken during in-ground installation will be replaced and not patched? The list of questions you should be asking is long and often confusing. Unfortunately, these concerns are often ignored or given inadequate consideration due to day-to-day operations or a lack of knowledge.
Not every facility has the perfect lot, soil, or water source. As such, irrigation systems that require no maintenance rarely exist. However, irrigation systems can often be ineffectual because customers are concerned about costs and irrigation contractors perceive this concern and do not want to lose sales. Combine this “average” system with an average irrigation maintenance contractor and you will end up with a “below average” exterior. This in turn will deliver substandard curb appeal, eventually hurting sales. There are a number of national Exterior Services Management Companies that will offer a free system analysis and a program that details effective, yet cost saving, irrigation system management.
Invest in Irrigation
Did you know that the plastic tubing is sold by the pound and not by the foot? Brand names and styles may be different, but the functions and filtering capabilities are about the same. Pumps cost a lot and should be replaced rather than recycled from your last one. Adequate filters are another costly item but the rule of thumb is to use good quality and to over filter. When you look at the cost difference between the one you should have bought, against the one your budget is allowing for, add the cost of a crew of workers unplugging the emitters, or the cost of replacing multiple trees to the equation, and see which is cheaper. Pay now or pay later!
When you are managing a retail chain with multiple locations, be aware that even the slightest change in seasons and/or rainfall can have a major impact. In fact, with the addition of each variable, you create a synergistic effect. Before long, you’ll be monitoring your store’s exterior wondering why some of your sod is yellow and why some of it is damp and filled with mildew.
One of the best reasons to outsource this task is because a professional is trained for all types of situations. Whether there is a drought in Florida or a flood in Mississippi, an irrigation specialist can cater to your exterior needs. Below we will discuss a few ideas on how to keep your lawn a little greener, and discuss whether or not hiring an Exterior Services Management (ESMTM) Company is right for you and your business.
Tips of the Trade
- When to water: Surprisingly, there is only one ideal time to irrigate for the majority of climates. The best time to water your lawn is early in the morning, when the sun is rising but is not too strong. Watering at night promotes mildew and waiting until the afternoon is not ideal either because the mid-day sun can cause premature evaporation. Watering in the morning provides an opportunity for the water to reach the roots, which is the only way we can expect consistent growth. The only time you may want to alter this pattern is during seasons with frost or heavy rain, when watering at different times, or even not at all, may be more beneficial.
- Leave Mother Nature alone: A major mistake people make installing their sprinklers is buying an archaic set without all of the necessary features. Trying to save money by buying the lowest price sprinklers possible is not very wise, however, because then you may not have all of the necessary features. For example, your sprinklers must have a rain gauge with an automatic shut-off feature. Running your sprinklers during a storm not only wastes water but also increases the probability of flooding.
- Pest Control: Make sure you keep bugs at bay. Many types of beetles are drawn to moist lawns and can cause damage if too many are present. The best way to evaluate possible damage is to count the number of bugs infested in a small area of lawn. If there are only a few, you should be fine. If there are significant insect infestations (a dozen or more), you may want to consider adjusting your watering times before resorting to chemical applications.
Are you a candidate for ESM?
- Are you familiar with your local watering restrictions? Do you consistently learn about and follow new restrictions?
- Did you know there are about a dozen different types of irrigation systems?
- Do you know when you should use a center pivot sprinkler versus a linear move sprinkler?
- Do you have the latest in irrigation technology to save water and keep your plants healthy? Do you know how to use it?
- Do you have the time to map out your irrigation system, including diagnosing and measuring every square foot?
- Are you able to choose the correct piping? Are you able to dig with the knowledge that you are not hurting any pre-existing wiring and/or plumbing?
If you answered no to any of these questions, you are likely a candidate for outsourcing your irrigation needs to an ESM Company.
Irrigation, and the concept of lawn care, has been advancing with the rest of technology. An expert will be aware of these changes, and have the educational background to implement any new design or feature. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, allow an ESM to help you save time and money.
If you have decided on outsourcing irrigation, make sure that the company you choose has the latest equipment available to ensure you are receiving the most efficient and environmentally safe methods. Not only will you save money, but you will also set a standard of environmental concern and community awareness that will not go unnoticed by your customers.