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How to Start Up an Irrigation System

Begin spring on the right foot by re-charging the sprinkler system properly

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How to Start Up an Irrigation System
photo © Kelly Burke

Watering is one of the main elements of maintaining a lawn. For lawns maintained at a moderate to high level, or lawns where water is at a premium, an automatic sprinkler system is the best way to deliver precise amounts of water to specific areas.

Recharging an irrigation system can begin as soon as the frost is no longer in the ground or when you can get a shovel easily down a full 12 inches .


    Every irrigation system is different but they are all installed with the same basic principles. Here are some simple tips for starting up the system for the first time in the spring.

  • Visually inspect all valve boxes for rodent nests and debris

  • Re-attach any fittings removed in the fall, secure with new teflon tape if necessary
  • Ensure all valves and/or drains are open and water source is connected
  • Crack the water source valve and slowly begin filling up the system.
  • When water starts coming out of the drain, close the drain valve.
  • Close any other valves to the outside (including sprinklers) and begin pressurizing the system.
  • Once the system is pressurized, run through the stations one by one, letting each station operate for two minutes. Inspect for proper coverage, leaks, clogged nozzles, and any other irregularities.
  • Make adjustments and repairs as necessary.
  • Review the sprinkler times on the controller. Supplement rainwater to provide the lawn with just enough water to survive.

Most people tend to over water in the spring out of excitement, spring fever or ignorance. An irrigation system should only act as a supplement to rain, there might not be a need to use sprinklers until June, depending on the rain fall. Grass is healthiest and most resilient when it is thirsty, constantly seeking water and establishing a deep root system. Frequent watering stops the roots from seeking out moisture and causes shallow rooting which is ill prepared for summer stress.

If recharging the irrigation system sounds intimidating or confusing, please do not hesitate to call in a professional. Irrigation systems are somewhat complex and lawn sprinkler installers are becoming licensed irrigation technicians in many states. Most irrigation companies would be happy to start up your system and winterize it too.

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