Are you Water Wise?

Water deserves our respect. Without this limited, precious resource, life on earth wouldn’t survive. In Ontario, we are surrounded my freshwater, making it easy to take this resource for granted. In 2015, the average Canadian was reported to use 320 L of water a day, a large percentage of which is wasted.

Overwatering our landscapes including gardens, lawns, and planters is one of the main ways that we waste water, especially during the spring and summer season. Irrigation systems are a practical solution that reduces water waste and helps ensure that plants receive the amount of water that they need.

Responding to the Needs of our Outdoor Landscapes

Our gardens, landscapes, and lawns require water to survive. Natural precipitation, especially if it was a summer like last year’s, is not enough to sustain them. But, how much water do our properties need?

The truth is not as much as we think. Overwatering our planters, grass, and gardens can result in plants with damaged, or even worse, rotting root systems. The challenge is that we often can’t tell how much water our plants need merely by looking at them. This is further complicated by the fact that landscapes that are overwatered often have a similar appearance to gardens that are dry-including wilting plants and yellowing (or even brown) leaves.

To minimize the amount of water that is used in the long term-we need to develop a strong, healthy root system. Healthy roots help to build the overall plant’s resiliency including being able to sustain daily stressors, including periods of drought. This process begins by making sure that water travels from the surface of the soil into the roots of the plant. However; to grow the root system, the plants need to experience periods of dryness.

Smart monitoring systems ensure that your plant’s roots receive the proper amount of water when it needs it.

Here are a few of our favourite tools that help keep our properties Waterwise:

Hunter Industries ProHC Controller with Hydrawise

Durable and reliable, Hunter HC Controllers are ideal for cottages, residential and commercial properties. While the Wi-Fi (Cloud-based) enabled system makes it easy to track and make schedule adjustments via computer or smartphone.

We love this system because we can customize it to exactly what our customers need. This includes:

· Optional soil and rain sensors help us make sure that our client’s properties receive precisely the amount of water that they need.

· Hydrawise flow meter to systems that are on the municipal water supply. This option will alert our Earth Elements Irrigation Technician to any changes in water flow so that we can remotely detect and stop leaks directly from our smart phones.

· Smart phone and remote tracking capabilities which enables us to be able to fully support our client, including tracking and adjusting their customer systems for a very low cost.

But, it’s the cloud-based Hydrawise software that makes this app-based controller one of our favourites for water conservation. This smart software uses a variety of data including weather predictions, wind, humidity and even the probability of rain, eliminating needless overwatering, and in turn, saving money and water.

MP Rotator Nozzles

What do nozzles have to do with water conservation? A lot. At Earth Elements, we believe that the key to a successful irrigation system is making sure all the pieces work seamlessly together. The MP Rotator Nozzle rotates streams of water, at a lower application rate, 4/10 of an inch per hour. This helps ensure that the water gets into the soil and directly into the roots of the plants or turf.

The slower application rate helps prevent water and soil runoff, making them the ideal nozzles for sloped areas and larger properties. These nozzles help ensure that the water gets exactly where it needs to be, into the roots of the plant. In fact, we have found that by incorporating the MP Rotator Nozzles into an irrigation system the average client is able to reduce their water use by approximately 30%.

Rain Sensors

We think that there is nothing more wasteful and frustrating than having an irrigation system running during rain. However; despite all the best smart monitoring equipment and weather predictions available, the unexpected can still happen. This is why we highly recommend and design every irrigation system with a wireless rain sensor. These sensors will automatically monitor the amount of rainfall on a property and stop the sprinkler system from operating. When the rain sensor dries out, the system will automatically start up again.

ET Sensors

Sunlight, wind, humidity, soil composition, and even the landscape grading can all impact the moisture level within a property. This is one of the reasons that we recommend installing ET sensors onto an irrigation system. These sensors use solar radiation, wind, air temperature, and relative humidity to help determine the irrigation requirements of micro zones in a yard. In a large property, these sensors are particularly beneficial as they provide a more accurate picture of which areas require watering and which, do not.

Drip and Micro Irrigation

Irrigation systems are not only for lawns. Micro or drip irrigation is a slow release method that sends water directly to the roots of the plant- providing better water control and in turn saving you money. These systems help maintain the right moisture levels for trees, small or narrow gardens, shrub gardens, planters, raised beds, and other unique landscape needs.

One of the benefits of micro-irrigation is that it allows us to customize the watering amounts to meet the specific needs of each plant. For example, boathouse planters typically require multiple daily watering during the summer months, due to the high amounts of sunlight, heat, wind and reflection off the water.

At Earth Elements, we work with our clients to save time and help reduce overall water waste. Our customized approach with responsive tools helps ensure that we respond to the specific needs of the plants and property.

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.