The days are getting shorter, and the weather is becoming bleak. It must be winter! Ensuring you decommission your irrigation system correctly will mean no nasty surprises when you come to start it up again next spring.
Following is a simple guide to precautions you can take to ensure your irrigation system doesn't get frost damage through the winter months. I know what you're thinking, "I can't think of anything worse than doing garden work this time of year", but you'll be glad you did. Take the time to do it now and you'll have fewer headaches next year.
1. Turn off the water supply
This should be pretty obvious, but we want to cover all bases to ensure nothing is missed. Turn off the water supply to the irrigation system from the main valve. This could be a garden tap for simpler systems, or a dedicated shut-off valve for more complex systems. If you're using a water butt/tank with a pump, remove the pump, dry off and store in a dry place. Drain the water tank of water and disconnect any feeds from down pipes or mains water.
2. Store Water Timers indoors
Water timers don't do very well in freezing conditions. Most manufacturers will warn you that your tap timer can't be left outside in freezing conditions. Remove your water timer from the garden tap, empty it of water and store in a dry place (preferably indoors). Unfortunately, manufacturers don't cover frost damage under their warranties, so this is really important to ensure you don't have to buy a new one at the beginning of the next watering season. For peace of mind, I put mine in a kitchen drawer because the temperature in the garage can drop below freezing.
3. Drain your Irrigation System
When water freezes, it expands. If said water is in your pipes, they'll split. Removing as much water as possible from your pipework is important to prevent major damage. Removing stop ends is a good way for allowing water to escape. For pipework buried underground, hopefully, you had the foresight to install some form of drainage valve. If not, you may need to install one. You don't need to remove every single drop, but the less water in the irrigation system, the better.
There is no need to disassemble you irrigation system and store away, it should be perfectly safe as is. There is one factor to bear in mind, however; wildlife. When you've been working in this industry as long as I have, you end up hearing it all. Typically at the start of each year, I have customers call and mention foxes (or other wildlife) have chewed through their system to try and reach the water. It's normally at the points water is released, such as micro jet heads or drip emitters. If you find wildlife love your garden, you may want to take steps to protect your irrigation system. This could mean going as far as disassembling it, or taping up emitters and outlets.
I hope this brief guide helps. If you have any questions whatsoever, you can give us a call and speak with one of our friendly staff. We hope you have a Merry Christmas, and look forwarding to seeing you all in the New Year.