You’ve spent countless hours watering by hand and are getting tired of dealing with dragging hoses around and all the time it takes to do so. But… you don’t want to have an automatic watering system installed because you’re afraid of damaging or disrupting the turf.
Pro Tip: There are several steps and precautions that can be taken to avoid excessive damage.
1. Time of Year
Consider the time of year when installing your underground irrigation system. Early spring and fall are good times to install for several reasons. Generally speaking, there is already a high moisture content in the soil which makes the digging easier and the restoration quicker.
As a contractor or installer, one of the hardest things to do is install a system in the middle of summer when the ground is bone dry. It’s hard on the equipment and the installers, not to mention very stressful on the lawn and landscape.
2. Type of Equipment
Every contractor does things a little different from the next. But, there are generally two type of machines that are used to install the piping for your irrigation system: trencher and plow (or vibratory plow).
A trencher physically digs an open trench, then the pipe is laid into the trench and covered up afterwards. This is messy, very labor intensive and the buried trenches usually have a tendency to settle over the years requiring more work down the road to level the soil and reseed.
A vibratory plow or sometimes called a pipe puller is less intrusive and destructive to the surface. It lowers a blade into the ground with the sprinkler pipe attached to it. Then the blade shakes or vibrates as the machine drives forward and installs the pipe as it moves. The only thing that is visible afterwards is a slit or cut in the grass. This slit can be gently tamped down or soaked with water and very quickly almost disappears. This way no settling will occur and there is no reseeding needed.
3. Hand Digging
Every installation will require some digging no matter what. Each sprinkler location or pipe connection will require some digging to allow enough space to install the sprinkler heads or connectors.
Before digging, the established grass or sod should be carefully stripped away and set aside. While the dirt is being excavated from the hole it should be set on a tarp or piece of plywood (Shown in the picture below). This will make the burial process quicker and cleaner because the dirt and rock that is excavated won’t mix into the rest of the established grass. If there is some dirt left over after the hole is buried, it can easily be carried away and disposed of after the sod that was set aside is gently placed back where it came from.
After the sprinkler system has been completely installed, it’s a good idea to thoroughly water in all of the areas where work was performed for several days. This will minimize any additional stress to the lawn and help things settle in.
5. Specialized Contractor
Be sure to choose a contractor that has experience working around sensitive areas like landscaping, hardscaping and established turf. They will be a little more patient and tolerant of special circumstances. If it’s done properly, you should hardly be able to tell that someone was in your yard, let alone installing an extensive system of underground piping and irrigation heads!