Your Guide To Turning on Sprinklers in Spring
Updated: Apr 26
As soon as the weather starts to warm up and early signs of spring begin to emerge, it is only natural to get excited and want to start watering your landscaping. However, turning on your sprinkler system prematurely can lead to a damaged irrigation system that can be costly to repair. Today we are going to discuss how to avoid damaging your system and other things that are good to know when turning on sprinklers in spring.
When To Turn on Sprinklers in Spring
While it is so tempting to want to turn on your sprinkler system as soon as the weather begins to warm up, resist this urge. In general, it is best to wait to turn on your irrigation system, whether that be your overhead sprinkler system for your lawn, drip irrigation for landscape beds, or your garden's irrigation system, until after the last average frost date. This date marks the approximate time of year when freezing cold temperatures are unlikely to occur. This date usually falls near mid-May and is often marked by Mother's Day. At this point in the spring, extended freezing temperatures that could potentially cause water to freeze in the pipes of your irrigation, resulting in cracked or burst pipes, is unlikely to occur. So, if you are wondering when to turn sprinklers on in spring, the answer is any time after the last average frost date.
Can I Turn My Sprinkler System on Early?
Turning irrigation systems on early or before the chance of freezing temperatures has passed is dangerous. Colorado weather is sporadic and unpredictable, and the likelihood of freezing temperatures in early spring is still very high. Even just one night of below-freezing temperatures is all it takes to burst pipes, crack seams, and rupture important components of your irrigation system. The amount of damage that can be caused by water freezing in your irrigation system is simply not worth turning it on a few weeks early. If you are itching to water your lawn or plants, we would recommend manually watering instead of turning on your irrigation system.
How Often Should You Run Your Sprinklers in the Spring?
When it comes to watering your lawn and landscaping in the spring and summer, it is best to stick to a consistent watering schedule. You do not want to water your lawn and landscaping every single day, as this does not allow the soil to dry out and promotes shallow root growth rather than deep and strong roots. It is also best to avoid watering when there has been any natural precipitation so that you do not risk overwatering your lawn, trees, shrubs, or perennials. It is difficult to say exactly how often you should run your sprinklers in the spring, as the watering frequency and length of time you water will somewhat depend on where and what you are watering. For example, a lawn area in a south-facing yard may need to be watered more than a lawn space that is north-facing, as the sun will affect a south-facing yard much more than a north-facing yard. Whether you water every other day, every two days, or pick specific days of the week to water, it is best to remember that consistency is key. Also, be aware of how your lawn and landscaping are doing. You can check the soil, assess the plants, and be aware of how things are growing to help you know if you need to cut back on watering, water more frequently, or maintain your current watering regime. To learn more about how and when to use your irrigation system, check out our Irrigation System Guide!
How To Turn Sprinklers on in Spring
If you are looking for some guidance on how to turn sprinklers on in spring, here is a general outline of the steps you will need to take to get your irrigation system going for the season.
STEP 1: Locate Your System's Main Shutoff Valve
The first step is to locate your shutoff valve. Where this is located can vary, though it can often be found in your irrigation valve box or somewhere in your basement or crawl space. This shutoff valve is usually a metal lever-type handle with blue rubber on the handle. Be careful not to confuse the shutoff valve for your home's main water supply with the shutoff valve for your irrigation system.
STEP 2: Locate the Vacuum Breaker
The vacuum breaker is a type of backflow preventer that is located above ground and usually near the exterior of your home. There will be a copper or plastic valve that connects two pipes, each of which should have a shutoff valve. You will want to close the two test valves by using a flathead screwdriver to turn the slotted valve tops 45 degrees so that they sit perpendicular to the pipe they are attached to. You will then want to open each of the shutoff valves located on the two connected pipes. These will again look like a lever and sometimes may have blue rubber coating the handle. Your vacuum breaker may also have small metal caps that are meant to cover the bleeder nipples. The bleeder nipples are meant to drain residual water from your system when you winterize it at the end of the summer. If you do have caps for these, you will want to put the cap in place and make sure it is screwed on tightly.
STEP 3: Open Your System's Main Valve
Return to your system's main valve and very slowly open the shutoff valve. It is important to do this very slowly as allowing water back into your system all at once can cause a shock of water to your irrigation system that can blow off the heads of your sprinklers. So, turn the shutoff valve part of the way and wait several minutes while the pipes fill slowly, then open it the rest of the way so that the valve is parallel to the pipe.
STEP 4: Manually Test Your Irrigation System
Now it is time to run a manual test of your irrigation system. Run each zone for 3-5 minutes and watch the sprinkler heads to make sure everything is working properly. It is completely normal for your sprinkler heads to blow out air and sputter water for a minute or two until the water fully works its way through your system. Keep an eye out for damaged or broken sprinkler heads, pooling water, water coming up from under the ground, or anything else that appears out of the ordinary.
STEP 5: Recheck Your Shutoff Valve and Vacuum Breaker
Now it is time to recheck your shutoff valve and vacuum breaker to make sure there are no leaks. You should also check your valve box and tighten any caps that appear to be leaking.
STEP 6: Fix Any Damaged Components
If there was any visible damage to your irrigation system, you will want to fix that before using your irrigation system for any extended amount of time. Head to your local garden center to pick up irrigation parts and speak with an irrigation specialist about how to repair your sprinkler system.
STEP 7: Set Your Watering Schedule
Now it is time to adjust your spray patterns and set your watering schedule. It is always a good idea to schedule your system to run for the first time during a time when you can watch it and make sure everything is still functioning properly. After that, you can set your schedule to run at night when water usage will be most efficient.
How To Use a Sprinkler System
If you would like to learn more about how to use irrigation systems, different types of irrigation systems, and the like, check out our Irrigation System Guide. You can also stop into Bath Garden Center for help with picking out replacement parts and general help or advice regarding your irrigation system. If you need to entirely replace an old sprinkler system or require a new sprinkler system design and installation, you can learn more about the irrigation services provided by Bath Landscape & Irrigation on our Irrigation Services Page.