Is Your Property’s Irrigation System Wasting Money?

It’s HOT!  Don’t send money down the drain! Your landscape provider can help you maintain and monitor your property’s automated irrigation system to ensure this is the most efficient way of watering your landscape. Having a properly maintained irrigation system is also one of the best ways to minimize water waste and lower overall watering costs.

Smart scheduling saves water

An irrigation controller can help monitor your system’s watering schedule to fit \ the watering needs of your property.  Here is what your landscape provider is looking to do:

  • Setting the timer for early in the morning or in the evening can minimize water evaporation by up to 30%.
  • A rain or soil moisture sensor controller to monitor and adjust your watering schedule regularly and based on seasonal weather conditions and other factors. Weather-based controllers automatically adjust the irrigation schedule as weather conditions change.
  • Consider the amount of sun, shade, and wind exposure on the plants and schedule individual zones to be most efficient. The type of soil will also affect how much water can be absorbed without runoff. The landscape provider will evaluate the setting to the irrigation system to run for three or four short intervals, allowing time between each for the water to soak more deeply into the soil.
  • Checking often on the sprinkler heads to ensure they are set properly to avoid watering driveways, sidewalks, or buildings.

 

Regular irrigation system maintenance saves water.

Like any other mechanical system, the irrigation system also needs regular maintenance to keep it working efficiently. Parts will break or wear out and must be replaced. An older system may not be able to handle the needs of a new landscape design or other changes to your property.

Retrofit the system with a rain or soil moisture sensor to prevent over watering. Rain sensors stop the system from operating when it rains; soil moisture sensors use long metal probes to measure moisture at the root zone and turn the system off when no additional water is needed, this is highly encouraged for water conservation practices.

At Terracare Associates, we recommend performing a regular irrigation system audit. Your irrigation systems should be regularly inspected for leaks, broken sprinkler heads, or other damaged components. During our regular inspections, we evaluate pressure and adjust it as needed so your sprinklers work optimally to distribute the water.

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Free Irrigation Audit

How to Improve Your Property’s Irrigation System on any Budget

Today, commercial property managers aim to have sustainable landscapes that enhance the look of their property without overusing precious resources, such as water.. Time and budget constraints can often limit plans to completely overhaul your landscape irrigation system. However, you might be able to make some of the needed improvements in incremental steps.

Implementing just a few of these suggestions each year can make a significant impact on your irrigation system, watering costs and your landscape’s appearance. Our staff at Terracare recommends the following solutions and best practices:

Step 1 – Simple and low cost solutions

  • Use mowers with mulching blades on turf areas– do not bag grass clippings or leaves.Coneflower
  • Implement an integrated pest management program
  • Mulch beds with 2-3 inches of organic material to prevent weeds and hold moisture near the root zone of the plants.
  • Use water-wise perennial and native plants
  • Perform turf aeration – pull plugs out of the soil throughout the turf to get more oxygen and water to the root system.
  • Install rain and freeze sensors on your irrigation system to avoid unwanted or unsafe watering.
  • Perform regular irrigation system check-ups, looking broken sprinkler heads, clogged lines and other problem areas.

Step 2 –Moderate cost solutions

  • Sub-metering your irrigation system will allow you to better track water usage and remove water waste costs from your irrigation bill.
  • Shred and reuse all organic materials and landscape trimmings as mulch or compost.
  • Conduct an irrigation audit to determine your water usage.
  • Replace rotor spray nozzles with stream spray nozzles to reduce water runoff.

 

Step 3 – High impact solutions

Some solutions cost more, however, the long-term gains in efficiencies, water conservation and significant reductions in water costs is well worth the investment.

  • Install a drip irrigation system throughout the property 
  • Consider an irrigation supply system that uses captured rainwater, gray water or onsite treated waste water.
  • Install an ET controller, equipped with weather station monitoring – this better controls when and how much the irrigation system operates.

These are just a few suggestions that you can implement to improve your irrigation system.

For more information about ways you can make improvements on your landscape irrigation system, contact Terracare Associates by visiting our website.

Terracare Associates’ irrigation experts are state-licensed technicians, trained to provide watering programs based on the varying needs of plants and planting environments. We design irrigation programs that are tailored to the client’s water use budget, while protecting their landscape investments.

Free Irrigation Audit

 

Tips for Water Wise Landscaping

After an unusually warm and dry winter in many parts of the country, it’s more important than ever to conserve water as summer approaches. What can you do to save your lawn and save money on your monthly water bill? Here are a few easy tips to help you be more water wise with your landscaping.

Prevent water evaporation: Water your lawn early in the morning or in the evening, especially during the hot summer months. Never water on windy days. Use drip irrigation systems for bedded plants, trees, or shrubs and use low-angle sprinklers for lawns. Also, be sure to cover pools and spas to prevent loss of water through evaporation.

One inch of water is enough: Just one inch of water each week will keep most grasses healthy. To determine how long you should run your sprinklers — place straight-edged cans at various distances away from each sprinkler and time how long it takes to fill an average of 1 inch of water in each can.

Mulch… Mulch… Mulch!: Cover all flower beds and planted areas with mulch. It keeps the soil moist and slows down the evaporation of water from the soil, allowing water to infiltrate it efficiently. Maintain at least a 2 to 4 inch layer of mulch in all planted beds and containers.

Maintain your sprinkler system: Repair any broken, missing or misdirected sprinkler heads. You should also install rain and freeze sensors on your sprinkler system and monitor your total water usage.

Terracare Associates can help with any of your landscaping needs from installing a more efficient irrigation system to laying down mulch in your plant beds. Visit our website to see what we can do for you.

Free Irrigation Audit

The Three Biggest Landscaping Trends for 2017

Environmentally friendly landscaping practices have been growing in popularity for many years, and 2017 is no exception. The biggest landscaping trends this year focus on protecting the environment and preserving local resources.

  1. NaturescapingNaturescaping

Naturescaping is a landscape concept that involves selecting plants for your property that grow naturally in the area.  Since these types of plants are already evolved to grow under local conditions, the landscaping does not need to be drastically changed to suit them. Not only is this type of landscaping low maintenance, it is environmentally friendly because it requires less watering, less pesticide use and less fertilizer.

  1. Water conservation

Regulating water use is a top priority during drought conditions, but water conservation tends to slip people’s minds when precipitation levels return to normal. However, water regulations are becoming the new norm year-round due to unpredictable weather conditions across the United States. Choosing drought-resistant plants for your property can drastically reduce the amount of water needed for irrigation. Drip irrigation is another great way to accomplish this. Drip irrigation drips water slowly onto the roots of a plant through a system of pipes and valves, rather than saturating plants with a sprinkler system. This minimizes nutrient loss and greatly increases the efficiency of watering. The simplest way to conserve water is to reduce unnecessary water usage before it happens by regularly checking irrigation equipment for leaks and cracks.

 

  1. Technical advances in irrigation

New technology is constantly being developed to help landscapers and property owners more easily and effectively manage irrigation on their properties. One of the most popular innovations is wireless irrigation controllers that run on Wi-Fi. These are used in conjunction with rain sensors, so they can track weather trends in the area and soil moisture levels to detect how much water needs to be dispensed on your property.

Visit our website website to learn how Terracare Associates can help you and your properties keep up with the latest landscaping trends.

What is Sustainable Landscaping?

The term ‘sustainable’ is everywhere, but what does it mean to our landscapes? The common perception is that sustainability in the landscape means drought resistant spaces that require little or no additional water, which are maintained with an unkempt aesthetic and mulched with rock. This is completely inaccurate. Sustainable landscapes get a bad rap because they are often installed improperly, and almost always misunderstood. There is a much more meaningful, and appealing approach to sustainable landscaping that is generally unknown.

So what are the main characteristics of a proper sustainable landscape? Sustainable landscaping

Sustainable landscapes are planned as complex ecosystems. Similar to nature, sustainable landscapes (also called regenerative landscapes) consider even the smallest niches to ensure the health and function of the complete system. These considerations start at the soil, move through the plant canopy and touch everything in between.

While they do generally require less water than a traditional landscape, the reality is more nuanced. They are designed with specific features and species that are able to thrive in the ecosystem in which they are placed. We have all seen soggy spots and dry spots in our own yards. Sustainable landscapes address these features as separate microclimates that require different materials. The soggy spots would house plants that require more water, while the dry spots would be populated with species acclimated to more arid conditions.

Soil Health

Sustainable landscapes place a high priority on soil health. Without healthy soil you cannot have a healthy ecosystem. Regenerative landscapes add organic matter and soil biology to the soil. Critters like bacteria, fungi and other microbial creatures are the most important part of the soil. These creatures and the soil they create are the “immune system” of the planet. Regenerative landscapes passively build soil health as they mature, strengthening the entire system.

NatSustainable landscapingive Plants

Native plant species are another big part of regenerative landscapes. Natives are perfectly adapted to local conditions like precipitation, temperatures, pests and seasonal changes. If natives don’t pack enough punch for your space, many great cultivars have been developed for superior color and foliage displays.

 

What can sustainable landscapes be?

Sustainable landscapes can be anything. They can carry almost any aesthetic; natural and wild looking, or clean and compartmentalized. -Even with the same plant palette. They can display blocks of color, or show off muted textures. Turf can also be installed and maintained sustainably. Harvard Yard has been doing it that way for years!

The quickest way to build a truly sustainable landscape is to start from the beginning, but with enough foresight and thought, existing landscapes can be transitioned to a regenerative space.

Pockets can be carved out of a commercial landscape to keep the budget under control, or entire campuses can be transitioned to make a bold statement to your clients and your employees.

If you need direction for your regenerative landscape, reach out. Let’s see what Terracare Associates and your organization can build together.

 

A Quick-and-Simple Guide to Xeriscape

Xeriscape landscaping can be the most efficient and effective method for commercial properties, municipal parks, and cities to achieve water use reduction and reduce costs. Xeriscape has been cited as reducing outdoor water use by as much as 70 percent. While not a new concept, the increased frequencies of droughts and water scarcity has put a spotlight on the importance of xeriscape and its capabilities of reducing water while maintaining a beautiful and appealing landscape.

 

What is xeriscape?

Xeriscape is a set of water-wise landscaping and water conservation principles. It’s the idea of maintaining both an appealing landscape through introducing low-water-use plants.

 

Here are the fundamentals of xeriscape.

Plan and Design

Planning and designing the landscape will help ensure the new plants and overall xeriscape will not only survive, but thrive. Talk with your landscape contractor about the function of the landscaped area, sun exposure, and overall goal of the project.

  • Function: What function will the new xeriscaped area serve? For instance, if you need to keep a grass turf area in your park, how do you balance this need while incorporating drought-resistant plants? Your commercial landscape professional can help determine how to incorporate function and new design into your landscape.
  • Sun: Consider how much sun each section of the xeriscape will receive. Will it be morning, afternoon, or all-day sun? The amount and time of sun exposure will affect the types of plants selected.
  • Goal: What’s the overall goal of the project? Do you need to drastically reduce water usage or looking to make the maintenance of the overall property easier and more affordable? Discuss your goals with your landscape provider who will be able to provide appropriate suggestions and tips.

 

Soil

Depending on the soil quality, soil amendments might be necessary before planting. Soil changes can enable the soil to better absorb water. It’s notable though that not all xeric plants will need rich soil. Soil in all areas will need to be loosened before planting.

 

Plants

Xeriscaping utilizes the concept of zones – grouping plants together with similar water needs. Where you are located and how dry your climate and landscape are will dictate which plants will thrive in the landscape. Consult your landscape professional for help with selecting appropriate plants.

 

Irrigation

Not all areas of your landscape need the same amount of water. Design irrigation zones to fit the needs of the plants within designated zones. Turf areas will need more water compared to low-water-use plants. This approach will help save water and properly care for each plant. Remember to keep irrigation maintained to ensure optimum efficiency. Your landscape professional can help identify how much water is needed for each area and which irrigation methods will be most useful.

 

Mulch

As we’ve discussed in our previous post on mulch (How this 1 surprising landscape enhancement can revive your property), mulch is any type of material -usually natural – serving as a cover and is spread over the soil. Not only does it help suppress weeds and improve soil quality, it can help insulate plants and minimize water evaporation and greatly improving water usage.

 

Contact your landscape professional to assess how to turn the landscape you manage into a xeriscape landscape.

How this 1 surprising landscape enhancement can revive your property

You’ve likely seen this enhancement right in front of your eyes, yet perhaps never noticed it. It’s an easy, cost efficient enhancement offering a significant impact on protecting your landscape and water bill. The enhancement is mulch. It is a great addition to help your trees and landscape thrive throughout the year. It especially plays a vital role during the hot summer months and during times of drought. So what is mulch and how can adding it improve your property’s landscape?

 

What is mulch?

Mulch is any type of material – natural or synthetic – serving as a cover and is spread over the surface of soil. It can take many forms including bark, compost, grass clippings, shredded leaves, and straw. Ideally it is economical, easy to apply and remove, stable, supplies organic matter to the soil, and free of weeds, insects, and diseases.

Mulch

How it can help.

  • Creates insulation. Mulch helps reduce water from evaporating off soil thus reducing the need to water plants frequently. It also helps keep plant roots cooler during the hot months.
  • Suppresses weeds. Mulch is most effective in minimizing the growth of weeds when thoroughly applied to an area. Areas with low or bare spots are prone to weed growth.
  • Improves soil quality. No matter the consistency of the soil you’re dealing with, mulch can help. In sandy soil, it provides nutrients and improves the soil’s ability to hold water. In soil containing clay, it helps break up the clay allowing better air and water movement through the soil.

 

As Donald A. Rakow noted on Cornell University’s website, “When water droplets land on bare soil, the impact causes soil particles to fly in all directions, resulting in soil crusting and slow water infiltration. Most mulches break the impact of the droplets, reducing soil erosion and crusting and increasing the penetration of water into the soil.”

 

Where you should use it.

Different types of mulch should be used around different areas on your property. In flower beds, consider using bark mulch to curb weed growth, improve soil quality, and water absorption. Around trees, remove the grass around the trees and replace it with mulch. This minimizes competition from water and nutrients. It again helps keep the roots moist and reduces damage from lawn mowers. Your landscape professional can help identify other areas where mulch can be added to your property.

 

TCA’s San Francisco Bay Area-based Enhancements Manager, Quinton Guenther sums it up, “Installing bark mulch on your property will instantly add curb appeal making your planter beds look crisp and clean. Additional benefits are water retention, pesticide reduction (less weeds) and help naturally build up the soil quality as the organic material breaks down over time.”

 

Are you considering adding enhancements to your property this summer or fall? Our experts are happy to meet with you to help with enhancement projects you’re looking to work on. Why not drop us an email so we can help you make your property its best?

3 Reasons Enhancements Improve Your Property

A commercial property, municipal park, or other landscaped areas need ongoing improvements, but it is not always easy to justify the expense. When evaluating your landscape enhancement needs you may be looking at projects such as:

  • Adding a bed of perennial flowers near a parking lot
  • Sprucing up an entrance with trees for shade and protection
  • Installing a state-of-the-art water efficient sprinkler system to save money
  • Creating a patio area for visitors to use and beautify the area

 

You likely realize enhancement projects add to your property’s curb appeal, but do you know how else they can help your property? Here are a few ways.

 

Reduce water costs

Think long-term when it comes to your property’s landscape. Enhancements can reduce your water costs and usage. A few examples of enhancements that can help cut water use:

  1. Upgrade to new water-efficient smart controllers for your water system will cut water usage and costs.
  2. Invest in turf conversion in areas that grass is not used for recreation or relaxation.
  3. Install drought-resistant plants and grasses can help reduce water usage and overall maintenance.

 

Increase desirability of property

Think about the last time you were on a property that was appealing and comfortable. Now think about what landscape features that property exhibited. Was it a nice water feature or vibrant flower bed? Any of these enhancements can often conjure positive feedback and attraction for visitors and employees who are on the property. It increases the property’s desirability and has proven to help raise occupancy rates or visitors, increase overall value of the property, and most importantly, those living or working in the area, have an increased desire to stay.

 

Protects existing landscape investments

You’ve already invested time, manpower, and money into developing and maintaining your property. Now is a good time to consider protecting these landscape assets with enhancements. Examples of enhancements that will help protect and maintain your landscape:

-Drainage: Ensure plants and trees have adequate drainage and excess water is flowing into the correct areas.

-Mulch: Mulch can reduce evaporation from soil, stabilize soil moisture, and more.

-Arbor services: You’ve invested in trees. Now make certain those trees thrive through pruning and proper fertilization.

 

Interested in learning more about how enhancements can improve your property? Reach out to Terracare Associates and we’ll happily answer your questions and work with you to identify which enhancements are best for your property.

 

Reducing water usage in Napa Valley — A Case Study

With a state of California mandate to reduce water usage by 25 percent, many communities and homeowners association agree reducing water usage helps cut costs and protects this precious commodity. However, there are varying opinions on how to best achieve water efficiency while protecting the plants during hot climates. How do you build consensus, keep a property aesthetically pleasing for residences, and conserve water?

Silverado Springs-29

Nestled in the beautiful, world-renown Napa Valley, Silverado Springs, a quaint upscale neighborhood was facing this dilemma. The community boosts lush greenbelts, lakes, tennis courts, a swimming pool and spa, and a variety of open spaces. It provides residents high-end, low maintenance living in the heart of wine country. For more than 20 years, Terracare Associates — TCA has grown to be a trusted partner to the community and homeowners association by supplying high-quality recommendations, expertise, and landscape services.

Silverado Springs-34

 

The Situation

In 2012, before the statewide mandate, Terracare Associates (TCA) was actively consulting with the Siverado on water management enhancement to prepare for higher water prices and expanded water restrictions in the region, the homeowners’ association was eager to become better environmental stewards too. They wanted to overhaul the community’s look from a lush landscape to a more regionally appropriate xeriscaped environment with drought-resistant plants. While the community and homeowners association at large agreed they needed to reduce water usage and cut costs – there were varying opinions on how to best irrigate and achieve water efficiency. They turned to TCA to educate the community while developing a solution and long-term plan to lower water usage and costs. It became a partnership with the goal to dramatically reduce usage while keeping property value and desirability high.

 

Over several months of TCA employees attending board meetings and forums, TCA was able to hear and address residents’ and the homeowners’ association’s concerns, explain best water conservation practices, and build consensus among residents and the homeowners association on how to best tackle the problem. TCA recommended and completed a project that included:

  • Installing new upgraded Smart Controllers, which adjust to optimal sprinkler run time based on the local weather conditions.
  • Converting large areas of the communities turf to drought resistant plants.
  • Updating more efficient MP nozzles on the turf that remained in the community. Replace all community medians holding turf with mulch and xeriscape.
  • Upgrading all current water nozzles to ensure efficiency.
  • Continuing to educate the community and HOA on other initiatives to further decrease water consumption.

Silverado Springs-18Silverado Springs-26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making an Impact

The project has been wildly successful and popular with the community. Residents have loved the transformation and new look. The homeowners association has been highly satisfied with the service quality and changes TCA recommended and provided. From 2012 to 2014, the community reduced water usage by 23.5% allowing the 2014 annual water expenses to come in more than $15,000 under budget. This initiative took place prior to California’s restrictions. The community was prepared for mandate and was able to maintain their desired aesthetics.

 

With ongoing maintenance, continued monitoring, adapting to a new norm of water usage, Silverado Springs has transformed to an eco-friendly and sustainable neighborhood.

 

Can TCA help your community or city improve your public service, or commercial and landscaping services? TCA would love to help you find out. Why not send TCA a request for proposal?

How to Save Water And Money – A Case Study

A Denver-area HOA partnered with Terracare Associates to save water and money for the community. 

 

Water, our precious commodity. When it rains, we may not think of the need to reduce water usage. Many commercial properties managers and communities in the western United States are engaging in tough conversations around water usage. Years of water restrictions and droughts are becoming more common. Conserving water and creating sustainable and environmentally friendly water features – even during rainier years – is a growing priority.

 

Commercial site managers, and municipalities and special districts are faced with tough decisions including property or area aesthetics, costs, and technology. It’s important to find the right balance between incorporating sustainable plants while also identifying and determining the most efficient and effective irrigation system technology. The irrigation system has to work effectively and instantly to make sure the landscape remains beautiful and pristine while only using water when needed.

Water cascading into a pond at Arapahoe Lakes

The goal?

Cut water use costs, lower the amount of water used, and create a more sustainable landscape.

 

The Arapahoe Lakes community and homeowners association (HOA) was faced with this dilemma. Situated in the South Metro Denver area of Colorado, the community encompasses a couple hundred family homes, a lake, a playground and a several miles of greenbelt walkways.

 

In 2009, the Arapahoe Lakes community and HOA wanted to take a proactive approach to being more responsible stewards of water – the community wanted to reduce water and cut costs. Arapahoe Lakes HOA turned to Terracare Associates – TCA, who had been a trusted and credible partner to Arapahoe Lake’s board members for more than 15 years, to help troubleshoot a solution.

 

The Solution

The solution included three players – Terracare Associates, Arapahoe Lakes HOA, and Denver Water. As Terracare Associates and Arapahoe Lakes HOA worked to develop an efficient and effective solution, Denver Water was also running a rebate incentive at the same time. Denver Water’s rebate program, the Irrigation Efficiency Agreement, provided payments to customers for water savings achieved as a result of making irrigation efficiency upgrades and/or landscape changes. Terracare Associates and Arapahoe Lakes HOA decided to maximize financial savings through both water usage and the rebate program. Arapahoe Lakes HOA received financial incentives on material costs associated with upgrading the irrigation system to include smart irrigation controllers and commercial irrigation high-efficiency or rotary nozzles.

 

The Results

Over five years, from 2010 to 2014, the Arapahoe Lakes HOA saved more than 9.3 million gallons in water, at a savings of more than $106,000. That’s huge!

 

Interested in learning more about how Terracare Associates can help you and your team manage your property? Drop us a note.