When talking about sprinkler systems, the word sprinkle itself may be misleading. Rather than spritzing aimlessly, a sprinkler system is actually carefully designed to direct water to different parts of a lawn in an exact, controlled way. To do this properly, sprinkler heads must be arranged to provide good coverage, and the entire system must be calculated to avoid exceeding a home’s water pressure and maximum flow rate.

Professionals who understand the complexity of these systems often refer to sprinklers as landscape irrigation systems. They know that the key to efficiently and effectively irrigating a lawn is to divide a property into zones—discrete areas that have unique water needs and should therefore be watered differently. Zones can’t be laid out haphazardly; it takes careful planning and measurement. The extra effort of zoning pays off, however, with a beautiful, healthy landscape.

Plants Have Needs, Too

Unless you live in the middle of a treeless prairie, the irrigation requirements of your property are probably far from uniform. In fact, the water needs of each part of your yard vary greatly depending on the variety of plants, topography, and level of shade and sun. By dividing a sprinkler system into zones, you can fine-tune the water supply to each part of the landscape. To begin the process of laying out zones, consider the contrasting water needs of the following areas:

  • Grass vs. trees and shrubs: Most trees and shrubs require little more than Mother Nature provides, while grass benefits from regular irrigation. Check out our blog on the best grass watering tips to help you identify and research your particular type of grass and find out how much and how frequently you should water it.
  • Sloping areas vs. flat areas: Sloping areas must be watered with care to prevent excess runoff that can erode soil, flood your lawn, or wash away nutrients and fertilizers.
  • Shady areas vs. sunny areas: Shaded grass retains moisture and requires significantly less watering than grass that gets plenty of sunshine.

Each of these areas should be its own zone or, if the area is too large, a cluster of zones. Each zone will be supplied by its own valve, enabling you to irrigate the zones that need water while leaving others nice and dry.

Don’t Forget the Flowers and Veggies

Keep in mind that flowers and vegetables won’t benefit from the heavy, widely broadcast spray of traditional sprinkler heads suited to many other zones. Drip irrigation is a far better setup because it delivers water directly to the roots of fruiting or flowering plants. However, sprinkler heads and drip irrigation should not be mixed in the same zone, so if your landscape includes a garden of vegetables or flowers, give the garden its own zone and use drip irrigation lines.

Once you note the different areas of your yard and the types of plants throughout, you can begin the ever-important task of selecting and plotting your sprinkler heads, which is described in more detail in Part 2 of this blog.