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How to fix these common irrigation problems in your garden

How to fix these common irrigation problems in your garden

A healthy and thriving garden requires good irrigation. It should be a reliable system that delivers just the right volume of water to precisely where it is needed. Of course, modern gardens tend to have automated irrigation systems, but there is nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned hose pipe and sprinkler head or spray nozzle.

However, there are common problems that befall many gardens. As a professional garden maintenance service provider, IWESCO has seen all manner of issues and complications that arise from ineffective irrigation systems; from dry patches and small sprays to broken pipes and inadequate drainage. Here are some of the most common irrigation problems and how to fix them.

1. Incorrect pipe diameters

The size of the pipe (its diameter, to be more precise) is critical to delivering the right volume of water. Some gardens use pipes that are too narrow for the distance they travel, others use large pipes unnecessarily. The diameter of a pipe will affect the pressure of the water inside. A narrow pipe will help to increase pressure but it will reduce the volume of water coming out of the sprinklers. A wide pipe will allow a large volume of water to reach the sprays but there won’t be enough pressure.

The perfect diameter of the pipe will have a minimal loss of pressure and an ideal volume of water. All sprinklers have a specific pressure at which they work most efficiently and cover the largest area. Many gardens in South Africa use 20mm LDPE pipe which is often too narrow. Depending on the size of your garden, you could use any diameter between 25mm and 40mm. If you have pressure problems or your sprinklers are not working as effectively as they should, consider installing different pipes or you could find alternative sprinkler heads that work at a different pressure.

2. Poor sprinkler placement

Poor sprinkler placement can affect lawn

This is one of the most common irrigation design flaws in South African gardens. An irrigation system needs to be properly planned and laid out. Simply sticking sprays and sprinklers in random spots or corners will not result in the most efficient coverage. It will also waste a lot of water, especially when it sprays on walls and pavements, which can cause underwatering and overwatering in different areas.

The best solution is to create a head-to-head layout where sprinklers face one another. As the jet or water travels away from the sprinkler, the water droplets spread out and the coverage becomes more sparse. Having a line of sprinklers facing one another is the best way to get maximum ground coverage and it can cut down on the time needed to adequately water an area.

3. Mixing sprinklers with different precipitation rates

This stems directly from the point above. When using a head-to-head sprinkler layout, it is vital that all sprays have the same precipitation rate. Mixing different makes and types of sprinklers will cause an uneven distribution of water. When replacing a sprinkler head, try your best to use the same make and model, or at least buy a spray that has the same precipitation rate.

These rates are often labelled on the packaging, allowing you to easily find a match. Some sprinklers can vary by five times the precipitation rate, in which case the garden will be overwatered or underwatered near the new spray. The same goes for replacing nozzles on microjets.

4. Pipes damaged by roots

Tree roots can break water pipes

Trees can cause big problems in gardens when they are poorly placed. Likewise, an underground irrigation system that is placed near growing trees can be damaged by their roots. Broken or crimped pipes are a common occurrence in gardens as a result of root systems expanding over time. If you discover that your water pressure has dropped, then you should start looking for signs of damaged pipes.

This can often be seen by soggy patches of soil or vibrant green grass patches that are growing more rapidly. Luckily, repairing a damaged pipe is quite easy once the problem area has been found. If possible, try to avoid cutting the tree root and instead, reroute the pipe system around the roots. Remember to avoid planting new trees near walls, pavements and existing underground pipes.

5. Overwatering the garden

This irrigation issue is fairly common in South Africa. It is caused by a simple lack of understanding of plants’ water needs. Most indigenous plants are hardy and resilient, so they don’t require much water. Some homeowners confess to watering their gardens twice a day, every day - which is far too much. Not only is this a massive waste of water (an already precious resource), but it can easily kill plants and wash away vital minerals in the soil.

Plants that have too much water are highly susceptible to fungus and disease. The soggy soil also causes their root systems to become unstable. Lawn requires around 25mm of water per week, which is about 7mm every second day. Indigenous plants and trees only need between 10mm and 15mm of water per week in the summer; less in winter.

These are some of the most common irrigation problems that we encounter while performing our routine garden maintenance services. Homeowners should consult with irrigation experts or hardware store employees when setting up watering systems in their gardens. Do some research on best practices and the water requirements of your plants as this will prevent many of these headaches from the start. To get an obligation-free quote for gardening services, please contact us today.


IWESCO offers specialised cleaning and waste control services to industrial and commercial customers in South Africa. These services are aimed at minimising our customers’ impact on the environment. Our services also include pest control, garden maintenance, fogging and disinfecting. Our staff are highly trained to offer the most professional services. IWESCO is a Level 2 B-BBEE supplier with ISO 14001 certification for environmental management.

We are a one-stop shop for all your contract cleaning and waste control needs and have a national footprint. Our head office is located in Tshwane but we can provide services to any industrial and commercial client in the major metropolitan areas around South Africa, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Mbombela and more.

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