Save water and your lawn with smart irrigation

Drought, temperature shifts, and unpredictable rainfall, have made it increasingly challenging to accurately predict the amount of irrigation needed for turf.  To stay on top of these erratic weather shifts, irrigation systems either need to be manually reprogrammed or adaptive.  Thankfully, advances in technology have resulted in irrigation products that can do so much more then get water down to the roots.

With climate change and increasing energy costs, companies should be looking at investing in adaptive irrigation systems.  At Earth Elements, we believe that education and research are the two tools that will ensure that maintaining flourishing, green lawns can be done sustainably. This begins with the right irrigation equipment.  When we evaluate irrigation equipment, we are actively looking for the equipment and technology that will respond to the evolving needs of the environment and our customer.

As part as our continued move to increasingly sustainable solutions, Earth Elements recently expanded the irrigation line up to include a variety of smart systems including wi-fi based controllers that pair irrigation to a smart phone application. The integration of this type of system allows us to make changes remotely, easily adjusting the watering schedule to accommodate for temperature and weather variations. 

Drought has continued to create a problem for turf with months with little to no rain.  This extreme dryness has also resulted in municipal water restrictions, making it seem also impossible to keep a lawn green and thriving. Thankfully, smart irrigation technology has helped pave the way to water efficiency. These systems ensure the turf gets the water it needs, bringing it right to the roots, while remaining within water restrictions.  While, features like weather based scheduling can accurately predict the amount of water needed through the data provided by its own weather station. In fact, the integration of these systems can reduce the amount of water used by 30-70 percent, increasing efficiencies and reducing costs.

One system that we are really excited about is the Rain Bird® ESP-SMTe smart control system.  Using an unique onsite weather sensor, this controller can provide irrigation for up to 22 unique zones.  All that is required is a few simple inputs including postal code, permitted watering days (if water restrictions are in place), plant, sun exposure, degree of landscape slope and soil type. The system then uses this information to accurately determine the amount of water needed for each zone.  On rainy days, the ESP-SMTe system automatically stops the irrigation system.  But that’s not all, once the rain has stopped, the system measures instantaneous rainfall, determines the amount of water is usable and adjusts the amount of water required. This helps the system both adjust the watering schedule to prevent over and under-watering.  This advanced system is ideal for large properties with varied terrain and vegetation to irrigate, helping meet sustainability goals while saving money and energy.  At the same time, it eliminates the needs of manually adjusting controllers to adjust for weather conditions. 

For those consumers looking for a simpler solution, drip irrigation can help reduce water waste.  Currently popular in drought prone areas, like California, these systems are installed prior to the sod or seeding is done.  Drip irrigation is extremely efficient, minimizing water waste by adding it directly to the root zone.  One of the new in-ground drip line that we’ve added to Earth Elements product offerings uses copper at each emitter. The advantage of the copper emitter is that it prevents root intrusion ensuring that the water gets exactly where it is needed. 

Earth Elements landscape irrigation systems are designed and built for the rugged Muskoka & Northern Ontario terrain.  We design all our systems with water conservation in mind, using smart controllers, including weather based scheduling, drip irrigation installation, rain sensors and the newest sprinkler technologies from irrigation industry leaders including Rain Bird, Toro and Hunter. 

It's time for a spring check up!

A long snowy winter can not only impact the turf but the irrigation system underneath it.  Snow removal, freezing temperatures, and even rodents can cause damage to the piping, wiring and sprinkler heads.  Don’t worry!  Regular maintenance and upkeep can help prevent any minor problem from becoming a major one.

Your sprinkler system has remained dormant for the past few months leaving it prone to debris, damage and wear and tear. Turning on the system without a proper inspection may result in additional damage. This is why Earth Elements recommends that all parts- including valves, controller, sprinkler heads, and wiring, should be fully inspected, cleaned and repaired each spring. 

Here are some problems to watch out for:

Common Winter Troubles

Frozen Pipes

One of the most common winter problems occurs from water freezing within the pipes.  This frozen water can cause the pipes to crack and leak creating havoc for your irrigation system. Leaks, water pooling and low pressure can all be signs of a damaged or burst pipe.  Don’t wait until the system is turned on, to see if the pipes need repair.  Instead, book a spring start up for a full inspection and to advise of any needed repairs.

Sprinkler Heads

Winter not only takes its toll on the pipes in an irrigation system but also on the individual sprinkler heads. Debris can cause the heads to become clogged. While snow removal, ice, and aging parts can create cracks and other damage.   A detailed spring inspection should include the removal of all sprinkler heads. Once removed, the heads should be cleaned of debris and then inspected for any worn or damaged areas.  As part of Earth Elements spring start up, all sprinkler heads will be inspected to ensure that they are functioning at the optimal level.

Watch out for Moles

Rodents can damage both your lawn and its underground irrigation system. When these animals burrow underground, they can accidently damage, bend pipes or even move parts.  These instinctive chewers may also see the irrigation wiring as their next chew toy, resulting in areas without water and other electrical concerns.  A full spring inspection should review all wiring, piping, and valves to ensure that a system isn’t being run with any damaged parts.

A detailed spring inspection, will ensure that your irrigation system is off to the best start. Before turning your system on, make sure that the soil has fully thawed. If you turn the system on to early, it can damage the pipes. Choose a shady area, and dig to see if the soil is frost free for at least 12 inches.  If you’re uncertain if the ground is fully thawed, call Earth Elements and book a Spring Start Up.

When turning on the water, open the valve slowly, allowing the pipes to be gradually filled with water.  Take your time, as an accidental pressure surge can result in damaged valves and even burst pipes.

Starting your system off right takes time, which is why Earth Element’s offers a Spring Start Up Package.   When customers book this system, they can be confident that their irrigation system will run smoothly and efficiently. For the best protection, we offer Earth Element’s Full Season Maintenance package.  These monthly check-ins will help prevent any minor problem from becoming a major one, saving time, money, and water.

Spring lawns: addressing winter damage

Last year was the winter for heavy snowfall and dramatic temperatures changes, including freezing and melting snow.  Snow may look like a nice warm blanket, but its prolonged stay can damage your spring lawn. That’s not all, shifts in temperatures and precipitation throughout the winter season can result in damaged roots, nutrient deprived areas, and even dead patches. 

Problem No 1: Fungus Growth

Snow can be a great insulator for our lawn helping protect turf from the biting chill of winter.  Shifting temperatures, like we experienced this winter, causes snow to melt, and when the temperature drops, the left-over water freezes. This creates patches of ice, which may then be covered with another layer of snow.  The ice suffocates turf leaving dead and damaged areas.

But that’s not all, brief warm spells, like the one we had this past February, creates a perfect environment for snow mold to thrive.  There are two types of snow mold to watch out for pink snow mold (Fusarium patch) that effects the crown of the turf and the less devastating grey snow mold (Typula blight) that infects the leaf tissue.  A tell-tale sign that your lawn has been infested with snow mold are dead circular patches of grass that appear when the snow has melted. 

Solution:  Repair your disease damaged lawn with Earth Element’s regiment of lawn cultural practices combined with a nutrient and over-seeding programs to help bring those damaged patches back to life.

Problem 2: Pest Infestation

Lots of snow coverage can create the perfect environment for voles, moles and mice to hide.  During the cold winter months, these rodents will feed on the roots of turf and bulbs burrowing deep into the lawn for warmth. If you find, S-shaped paths, tunnels, and holes throughout your lawn it most likely means that your lawn has become a rodent habitat.

Solution:  Dethatching and aerating the lawn is the first step to repairing your infested lawn. This will help to disturb the rodent’s habitat, so that they do not create future harm.  Now that the rodents are gone, it is time to repair the damaged pieces.  This begins with over-seeding the bare areas, adding in additional nutrients and top dressing so that the new turf is off to great start.   Earth Elements Spring Lawn Renewal Program including dethatching, aerating and over seeding is the perfect program to get your damaged lawn back on track.  Our over seeding program includes a blend of seeds, including Kentucky Blue Grass, Fescue, Rye Grass and native Poa Annua’s, providing the perfect combination for Muskoka lawns. 

Problem 2: Perimeter Damage

Heavy and frequent snow falls can cause perimeter damage to your lawn which was inadvertently created by snow-blowers, salt application, and plows.  These damaged edges can detract from the beauty of a lush, flourishing spring lawn. 

Solution:  Earth Element’s Premium Spring Lawn Package, including aeration, dethatching, over seeding and fertilizer application, will bring those damaged areas back to life.  For a quick jump start, boost the lawn with compost using our Eco-Lawn topdresser for a perfect spread of compost. 

Beautiful, thriving lawns requires both time and understanding.  This begins with diagnosing the cause of the damaged turf, and then providing the best solution to respond to it.  At Earth Elements, we invest the time to understand the root of  your turf challenge ensuring that we provide the program that is specifically developed to respond to the needs of your lawn.  Our goal is to provide the tools and expertise that will keep your lawn looking full and green throughout the summer season.