Due to the current state of the economy, the landscaping industry is being forced to step back from typical business practices and start to think about new options. How can you make your business more profitable in a relatively stagnant market and increase sales? Both potential and existing customers are just as affected in this market and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to offer new services to induce them to part with their hard-earned money.
An important factor to consider is that water restrictions are becoming increasingly prevalent nationwide and more focus needs to be directed towards water efficiency and conservation practices.
Drought ordinances are being adopted in many regions as a response to the insufficient amount of water supply together with restricted watering schedules, and in some cases irrigation is restricted entirely. Along with water restrictions, the cost of water is going to increase signficantly, if it hasn’t gone up already in your area. Being proactive by educating and offering your clients valid solutions to these predicaments can easily be translated into profit. Installing a drip irrigation system in all non-turf areas is a great place to start.
Drip irrigation (i.e. low volume/micro irrigation) when installed correctly can save up to 60% or more water compared with conventional sprinkler systems.
Many other benefits are associated with drip irrigation, such as eliminating overspray (no more watering of the sidewalks), no loss of water from run-off (due to the slow application of water), less weed growth (water is concentrated on a plant’s root zone unlike typical overhead sprays). All of these factors result in healthier plants. Furthermore, water restriction laws do not apply when drip irrigation is used, thus allowing customers to irrigate even on non-watering days. This opens up a great opportunity for increasing sales.
When first looking into drip irrigation it can tend to be a little overwhelming since there are many options available to achieve a functioning drip system. Once you understand the basic and necessary components, you’ll find that assembly and installation are fairly simple.
There are many ways of installing an efficient, water-conserving drip system. For first time installations, and even for retrofitting existing systems, it is important to start the system correctly with a proper head assembly. A drip zone head assembly will typically include a valve followed by a filter then a pressure regulator. The most important part of a correctly operating drip system is probably the pressure regulator.
Drip systems must have a low pressure range (25-35 psi) or they will not function properly. A correct pressure range can ensure that each drip emitter is producing a good flow rate (GPH). Therefore, the installation of a pressure regulator prior to installation of a drip system is essential. Systems installed without a pressure regulator will result in flow rate inconsistencies and emitters popping off the mainline.
Starting at the water source, poly tubing is run throughout the areas that will be irrigated by drip. Poly tubing, available in ½ in., ¾ in. and 1 in. diameters, is considered your primary lateral line with drip irrigation. Drip emitters can be inserted directly into the poly tubing with a small hand held punch or they can branch off to the plants using ¼in. microtubing.
oly tubing can be buried or left on the surface, depending on your aesthetic preference, and can be cut with scissors or pruning shears. If left in the sun for a few minutes the poly tubing becomes more pliable and easy to work with. UV inhibitors within the poly tubing materials protect it from direct exposure to sunlight, guaranteeing its durability, whether or not you decide to bury it. After laying out the desired length of poly tubing, close off the end of the line using end closure or a compression end cap, leaving the end of the poly tubing above ground. This will enable periodic flushing to remove debris from the installed drippers.
Point source emitters are most commonly used in a drip irrigation system. There are many different types of drip emitters available with multiple flow rates, though the most popular are the pressure compensating (PC) type. PC emitters contain internal diaphragms that are self-cleaning and regulate the specific flow rate.
Installing PC emitters can be beneficial for long runs and uneven landscapes because they will consistently provide an accurate flow rate.
Soil type should be considered when installing a drip irrigation system. Emitter flow rates should be chosen on the basis of how well the soil absorbs water. Select the dripper flow rates accofrding to the soil type. With heavier clay soils, use ½ or 1 GPH emitters, with lighter, sandy soils, go with 2 or 4 GPH emitters.
Existing sprinkler systems can easily be converted into multi-outlet drip systems. Drip manifolds can be mounted directly onto 1?2 in. risers, in place of existing sprinkler heads, and are available in 4 to 12 outlets. Drip manifolds come with pre-set and adjustable flow rates (1?2-20 GPH) and do not require an inline pressure regulator if the existing pressure is at or below 60 PSI. Poly or vinyl microtubing (1?4”) is used to run from to the drip manifold to the plant in lengths of up to 25 ft. Also used for first time installations, drip manifolds are typically set within plant groupings and placed below the surface inside 6 in. valve boxes.
Emitter lines (i.e. driplines) represent another method of installing a drip irrigation system. Drip emitters come pre-installed within the poly tubing and are easily rolled out along the area to be irrigated.
With different flow rates and dripper spacing, installing the dripline is an uncomplicated procedure that is perfect for plants in rows and densely planted areas. The pre-installed drip emitters are self flushing and typically contain two outlets per dripper in order to minimize clogging. Furthermore, the dripline is available with pressure compensating drip emitters to ensure consistent flow rates.
Drip irrigation systems use compression fittings that require no glue. A hand punch tool for installing drip emitters is the only drip specific tool necessary. This makes it easy to carry out the repairs and modifications required because of changes in the layout of your landscape. To change the location of a drip emitter, simply pull out the emitter, insert a good plug in its place and use a punch to install it in a new location.
Drip irrigation is not simply an option to save water, making it a “greener” option, but rather it has the potential to save your clients money as well. This method of irrigation can become a valuable sales tool that could allow you to promote your business. All of the incentives offered by drip irrigation can generate fantastic sales opportunities in addition to creating a new strategy for expanding and relaunching your busines