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Irrigation 101

If your backyard was a recipe, then irrigation is undoubtedly a key ingredient. Without it, especially in Greater Prescott, your plants, trees, flowers, gardens, etc. won’t grow; it’s that simple. Having a well-designed & constructed irrigation system, along with a well-working system, is paramount to your landscape flourishing. In this article, we’re going to cover irrigation 101, which will provide you general lay of the land. Please grab a cup of water (not coffee because we’re talking water), and as we explain different irrigation components, you’ll be able to follow along in your own yard. 

“Where does my landscape water come from?”

The first order of business is, “Where does my landscape water come from?” Generally speaking, the two most common sources are 1) the city or 2) a well. If you live in the city, then it enters through a water meter located in your front yard (find it while you’re reading this article). If you live on a well, then it comes up from aquafers below. Once water is on your property, where does it go next?  


The next place water goes is into your house through an underground pipe. Your home (faucets, toilets, showers, hose spigots, water heater, etc.) receives water from this pipe. In order to get water for the landscape, a line is spliced into the main line shortly after the water meter, providing a dedicated line for the landscape. One common question we get is, “what type of pipe do you use for irrigation?” The two most common pipe options are 1) Schedule 40 PVC (the white stuff) or 2) Polyurethane (“Poly”) tubing (the black stuff).   

When it comes to choosing pipe, at Guardian Landscape we use PVC for lawns (sprinkler heads) and we use Poly for everything else. Since most homeowners inherited their landscape, they didn’t have the choice on what type of pipe was used, so what you have is what you have. 

Backflow Preventers

It’s at this point that we need to talk about a backflow preventer (hereafter referred to as backflow) because it’s an important component of your irrigation. A backflow is exactly what it says; it prevents water from flowing backwards. The purpose of a backflow is to block irrigation water from flowing into the house, and even the city water supply, potentially causing contamination.   

In addition to preventing backwards flowing water, another important & convenient benefit is being able to turn off the water to your irrigation. Let’s say that you’re having your morning cup of water (not coffee) and you see Old Faithful spraying a mile high. The quickest way to stop Old Faithful is to turn your irrigation timer to the “off” position. You could also turn off the irrigation valve (I’ll cover this next), but it’s confusing if you don’t know where it’s located. You could also turn off the main water meter, but that turns off the water to your home. Now that Old Faithful is under control, you can turn the water off at your backflow so that you can make repairs to your system.   


Let’s move down the pipe, after the backflow, and that leads to the next part of the system, which is a valve. A valve is a device that opens and closes the flow of water. They can be operated manually or electronically, and for our conversation, we’ll concentrate on electronic valves. Electronic solenoid valves are wired into the irrigation timer and programmed to open & close on specified days & times. Let me remind you that there’s landscape wire running underground in your yard. Before you go-a-digging, learn where the valve wires are so you don’t cut them. An average size property will have between 1 & 4 valves. In some cases there’s one valve for the front yard and one (or more) for the backyard. In other cases one valve is used for the front AND back yard. Do some investigating so that you can diagram the layout of your irrigation valves.   


I trust you’re learning some things, so flow with us as there’s more to cover. Let’s continue down the line, and after the valve opens, it flows into any number of emitters, with the most common being 1) drip emitters, 2) grass sprinklers, 3) micro sprinklers, 4) misters, 5) porous drip irrigation pipe, etc. Water exits those emitters in the manner they were designed.  As we talk about emitters, we need to talk about the interaction of emitters, timer, plant type, and weather.   

Emitters are designed to emit water in a specified direction in a specified amount. Drip emitters typically run for 60 to 90 minutes. Lawn sprinklers typically run for 8 to 15 minutes. Micro sprinklers typically run for 15-30 minutes. What needs to be watered, as well as how it should be watered (plants, trees, lawn, flowers, etc.), will dictate what type of emitter you need to use.   

Irrigation Timers

An irrigation timer allows people to tailor their watering needs to near perfection. Irrigation timers control 1) what number valve, 2) turns on for how many minutes, 3) at what time of day, 4) on which day of the week.  

For example, in Greater Prescott, lawns require various amounts of water throughout the year. Simply adjust the timer for the optimal watering schedule. Plants also require various amounts of water as the seasons change. Go into the timer and adjust the watering schedule accordingly. 

What Type of Plant?

The type of plant or tree or lawn or flower etc. is the next important thing. It won’t surprise you that plant A may have different water watering needs than plant B. The same can be said for trees, lawns, flowers, etc. Having basic knowledge of the watering requirements for your various landscape plants will help you greatly.  


The last piece to discuss is the weather. Our temperatures vary throughout the year, as well as the rain & snow we receive. Because every month is different than the previous, it’s important to adjust your irrigation according to the weather.  

Any time you have issues with your irrigation system, you can refer to one of these four and most likely be able to diagnose the problem. And this will conclude our Irrigation 101 article. We appreciate you reading until the end and we trust that you learned a lot. Happy Watering!