Inspect Grounds Equipment, Irrigation Systems for Signs of Winter Damage
Irrigation systems are a likely source of significant spring problems following an extended period of inactivity and harsh conditions from a long winter. Cracked valves and pipe leaks are among the most common problems managers might face. Another potential problem is snowplowing that results in broken irrigation heads.
“The first thing to do is make sure that the zone farthest from the water source is open, so when they start pressurizing the lines, there is a way to relieve the pressure in the air and everything else is going to be pushed through the system,” Fitzpatrick says. “Once it’s pressurized, look for valves that are seeping. If managers see a little bit of water dribbling out of heads, look for leaks in case there was any freeze damage, especially as cold as it has been this winter.
“If managers are in a market where systems need to be certified every so often, they want to make sure they are up to date on their backflow certifications.”
Managers in warmer climates might find additional surprises when opening up their irrigation systems for the first time.
“The farther south you go, you don’t typically evacuate all the water out of the lines,” Fitzpatrick says. “You may just turn the water source off and run the zones to let most of the water out and leave a little bit of water in those pipes. So the farther south you go, the more likely you’re going to have freeze damage to your irrigation system.”
The end of winter is a good time for grounds crews to inspect and prepare grounds equipment so when the ground thaws, technicians can immediately begin to work.
“Make sure bearings are good and that everything’s been properly serviced with fresh, clean oil, clean oil filters, good tires and proper tire pressure,” Fitzpatrick says. “Make sure there are no hydraulic leaks on the transmissions or wheel motors. Have fresh sets of blades and new blades that are balanced and straight.
“Grounds crews want to make sure that everything is going to start after sitting all winter. There might have been condensation built up in the plugs, so cleaning fuel filters is probably as important as the oil and air filters. It also doesn’t hurt to clean the equipment up and touch up on the rough spots with a little paint so it looks more pleasing when it’s out on the jobsite.”