It’s time to turn off the irrigation controllers
California has welcomed the recent rain showers with open arms and we will continue to look forward to a rainy season throughout the winter. As we celebrate the much needed precipitation, this is also the time to be consciously conservative.
Water management is a phrase you will hear a lot as we pull together our efforts as a community in every water saving pipeline. One of the easiest ways to do this is to adjust and / or turn off your irrigation controllers at this time of year.
A controller is the device, or electronic “clock” that operates an irrigation system with the frequency, duration, and scheduled start times. It plugs into a 120 volt outlet outside your home or in your garage.
Most systems usually have 12-14 gauge wires that run from the controller to each of the valves. It sends a low voltage (between 12 and 14 volts) to operate a solenoid which actuates and then opens the solenoid valve.
Water pressure builds up in the valve at all times, so once this signal is received the solenoid opens and pressurizes the sprinkler or drip system. Once the electronic current stops, the solenoid closes, which in turn closes your irrigation valve and stops the flow. This device is the key to saving water. If the timer is off, your irrigation system will not work; if the clock is on, irrigation will run according to the preprogrammed watering times and frequency.
It can be tricky at that time of year when we have a heavy rain early on and then the weather starts to heat up; you may not know what to do with programming your controller.
There are some great components available that will help you with this process and one is a rain sensor. This appliance will interrupt the programmed program if it detects rain or humidity. This can help prevent sprinklers from going off during or right after a rain. They cost less than $ 100 in most cases and I recommend every landscape to have one.
A lot of people ask me, “When is it time to turn off my controller completely for the season?” The simple answer is that after the first rains it is generally safe to turn off your controller for the winter.
There are exceptions to this, but I always encourage people to keep their controllers turned off. The obvious reason being to help save water and money, but generally your plant material is ready for scarcer watering during the winter, and they like natural patterns of rain. Many of us have switched to native planting, so this is also a time to let native plants be native plants and keep your controller turned off.
It is also an opportunity to invest in a more efficient system for next season. Many homeowners wait until it rains to take care of their drainage, and they wait until it is warm to work on their irrigation. They end up not being able to find the availability of contractors or face higher prices due to the demand for services. Face the trend and beef up your irrigation system this winter to save water next year!
Justin White is the CEO of K&D Landscaping, headquartered in Watsonville. White is also the current president of the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) local on the Central Coast. He is involved in several non-profit organizations in the community.