Practical Aspects of Garden Irrigation System Installation

Garden irrigation system installation is not complex, and can be successfully done if a few practical aspects are kept in mind. Better irrigation will be achieved if these aspects are noted during the garden irrigation design phase.

I found that taking shortcuts often results in additional work or repair. I have had nasty experiences after picking into swimming pool pipes. It puts you back a couple of hours to buy the materials and to repair the leaks. Some of what follows is common sense for the practical minded, but could easily be overlooked. Nothing beats a job well done, so look at the detail!

Practical Irrigation Design Aspects

It all starts with a proper garden and lawn irrigation system design. It is essential to determine the pressure and flow characteristics of the water supply before designing the irrigation system. More of this on our lawn irrigation tips page.

Practical aspects of a good irrigation and garden design would ensure that sprinklers spray away from buildings so that walls do not become wet. The capillary action of water in masonry will lead to damp inner walls. Some spray against garden walls is not serious. Where the garden is fenced, take care to avoid overspray into the neighbor’s garden. Keep the water lines as short as possible keeping in mind that labor costs far outweigh the cost of irrigation pipes.


Carefully plan the route of the trenches in which the irrigation pipes will be buried before digging starts. A large number of pipes can be accommodated in a single trench, so try and route pipes together to reduce trenching. The most practical route is to dig the trench just inside flowerbeds and right next to the edge of the lawn. This way only annual border plants are affected by the digging and the lawns remain unaffected.

Minimize damage to plants and roots of large shrubs and trees by taking the shortest route to the sprinkler position inside flower beds. Try and keep a good distance between the trench and the tree trunks. A sprinkler’s spray pattern will be affected by any tree trunks close to it. Move the sprinkler to a better position in case it is close to a tree, even if the rest of the spray pattern is negatively affected. Try and find a good compromise, always remembering that in a good garden irrigation system, sprays should be positioned to spray head to head.

Learn more about trenching through lawns on our lawn irrigation tips page.

Preserving Plants

Existing plant positions should be carefully noted when digging inside a flower bed. Try and trench around plants to minimize the number that has to be removed. If plants have to be removed, they should be removed carefully with sufficient soil attached to their root balls. Place removed plants on plastic sheeting preferably in the shade. Try to walk in the trenches to prevent undue damage to plants while digging and installing the garden irrigation system.

Place plants back in their original positions after the pipes have been installed and the trenches filled. It is a good idea to provide some compost and other essential fertilizers to the soil at this stage. Remember to water the plants well after replanting especially if it will take a few days more to complete the installation. It is tempting to wait until the garden irrigation system can do that for you, but please consider the plants!

Protecting an Irrigation System against Freezing

A few simple rules will to protect your garden irrigation system against freezing. Take care to ensure that the trench bottoms are graded correctly and sufficiently for the lines to drain out after each irrigation cycle. This will prevent the water freezing in the pipes. Depressions will remain filled, and if a pipe bursts at that point, it will be extremely difficult to find the leak. Construct a suitable drainage sump at the position of the flush valve to allow water to flow or drain away freely.

Your Garden Irrigation System and Pets

I have seen many garden system installations ruined by dogs, and by garden forks while digging in the garden after installation. To minimize this from occurring, trenches should be dug to a depth of 400mm (1and 1/2 foot) plus the diameter of the pipe. A good idea is to use popup sprays that are not easily accessible to pets. Dogs just love chewing on leaking sprinklers! This is another good reason to drain your system immediately after each irrigation cycle.

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