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A spring wakeup call for successful irrigation maintenance this season

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(Photo: bozhdb/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

As spring arrives, professional landscape contractors with irrigation expertise transition into high gear. Experts provide some essential steps to ensure your irrigation maintenance and service operations are ready to flourish.

Prep yourself

John Castanoli
John Castanoli

Before embarking on spring duties, irrigation pros recommend performing preventive maintenance on all service vehicles and equipment, including backflow testers, pressure gauges and leak detection tools.

Strip down each crew vehicle and conduct a thorough inventory of tools and parts, says John Castanoli, owner of Central Lawn Sprinklers, an irrigation engineering, installation and maintenance firm based in Elk Grove, Ill.

“Screwdrivers and channel locks are the tools we find are misplaced at some point and often need replacing,” Castanoli says. “Review your client and service histories to learn what parts are used most frequently and equip your crews so they leave fully equipped and don’t waste time having to return or head to (an irrigation supply) store during the day to restock.”

In addition to parts, Castanoli’s detailed client histories reflect how long it takes to get a client’s irrigation system out of hibernation and functioning.

“You want to avoid overburdening your techs,” he says. “So, just like outfitting (crews) with the right parts and tools, you need to get them the information and data they need to make the right decisions effectively and efficiently.”

Training

Steve Smith
Steve Smith

While irrigation pros say training should be an ongoing task, they recommend spring as the ideal time to ensure certifications are current and crews are briefed on new technology and best practices.

“Get crews up to date on current trends and topics as they relate to troubleshooting (system issues), wiring and hydraulics,” says Steve Smith, owner of Smitty’s Sprinklers, an irrigation retail, service and installation company based in Centennial, Colo. “Anything we can do to prepare our guys and make their jobs easier, we’ll line up for them.”

Pros encourage contractors to prioritize safety training, including reviewing the protocols for working with water and electricity and procedures for properly managing handheld tools and operating heavy equipment.

Communication

Daniel Martinez
Daniel Martinez

Scheduling spring service can often be the initial communication irrigation contractors have with clients in the new year. Smith suggests structuring your calendars to optimize the amount of stops made within a particular geographic market or neighborhood.

“We give clients two or three dates for when we’ll be in the area and have them schedule our visit around those dates,” he says.

Spring service is an opportune time to check for system leaks and clogs and to identify broken heads and malfunctioning valves. It’s also advisable to learn what a client’s wishes or expectations are for their irrigation system this year, says Daniel Martinez, a technical service and training manager at Rivulis North America, owned by Temasek and Jain Irrigation.

“The property owner may only be concerned with their landscape getting watered, and that’s fine,” Martinez says. “But you also might find out that it’s important for them to lower their water bills this year and are open to retrofits that will (accomplish) this.”

In addition to making appointments and gauging expectations, it’s essential to alert clients that crews will be on the property to service systems.

Adding Services

Smith prefers not to spring additional service offerings on clients during his preseason communications. Instead, during the winter, he takes comprehensive notes about potential system failures, as well as areas for upgrades that will improve functionality and includes the pricing.

“When we connect to schedule spring services, we go over those options again and (inquire) if the clients also want to schedule those repairs or upgrades,” Smith says.

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