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Winterizing Sprinklers

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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

We have all enjoyed the spectacular fall weather and some have procrastinated getting ready for winter. Warm fall days and many nights where the temperatures remained above freezing gave most of us a false sense of security and some tasks have remained undone.

A couple of weeks ago, Tim asked, "When is it safe to turn off my sprinklers?"

Fortunately, the recent storms provided water for our fall planted flowers, such as pansies. If we continue to get storms on a regular basis, you can stow the hoses and forget about winter watering.

Run your checklist on which plants might need additional irrigation. Established turfgrass and deciduous trees and perennials have gone dormant have little need of additional watering.

Winterizing the sprinkler system is a vital task. If it is not done, you might be facing some very expensive, time-consuming and difficult task next spring.

Start by turning off the water to the system. A properly designed system has a stop and waste valve installed as a part of the system. This is usually buried several feet below the soil surface and you need a long key or wrench to turn off the valve.

Stop and waste means the valve turns of the water and then drains itself so it will not freeze. After you turn off that valve, it is time to purge the lines. Some large sprinkler supply houses have an adapter that they sell to go from a one half inch pipe thread to a valve stem similar to the stem on your car or bike tire.

If you want to construct such a device, check out your local hardware or plumbing store. Get a brass valve stem fitting that has threads on the end. Then adapt that thread using appropriate fittings to the half inch thread on a sprinkler riser.

Remove a head and screw in your adapter. Then you can easily hook your compressor hose or your bicycle pump to the valve stem. Pressurize the line and let the other sprinkler heads blow out until no more water comes out of the heads.

Be certain to move around and do each line separately. If you are in doubt as to how many you have, every valve runs a separate line. If you have six valves, you need to repeat the process six different times.

After blowing out the lines, then open and close the station valves several times to make certain no water remains in those.

If you have a mechanical clock, turn it off for the winter to prevent unnecessary wear. With electronic clocks set the clock to standby for the winter.

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