Tips to winterize irrigation systems

Updated Dec 7, 2017
Photo: Rain BirdPhoto: Rain Bird

When it comes to winter temperatures, landscapers need to know how to maintain a proper irrigation system to avoid serious problems.

The Michigan State University Extension has put together a few tips on how to keep irrigation systems protected through freezing temperatures this winter.

Often next year’s irrigation startup problems are winter damage that can be prevented. Time spent now will prevent damage and lead to a better start on next year’s irrigation season.

Inspection of the system now allows you to make improvements and repairs in the less costly off season and get irrigation problems out of the way.

Trickle and drip lines and tape
Trickle and drip lines and tape are designed to be self-draining but manifolds and supply systems need attention to make sure no water pockets remain to freeze. Winter rodent damage can turn usable drip tape and trickle line into junk rapidly. Lines that are to be moved for next year are best stored. Lines over wintering outside stand less rodent damage if not covered by plastic, plant material or mulch.

Pump down or drain underground pipelines
Most underground pipe lines are buried deep enough to prevent freeze damage but they often require pumping or draining enough water from them to empty the upper portion of Z-pipe risers and pump manifolds. This is typically done by purging the system with air or modifying a fertilizer transfer pump to pump system at its lowest outlet or inlet points. Remember to cap all pipe inlets and outlets to prevent animals from entering. 

Create a winter work list for each system
While it is fresh in your memory list the improvements and repairs needed for each system. As you are inspecting and winterizing your system, add any other areas needing attention to the list of repairs needed. Assign the repair to someone whether it is your people or the local irrigation dealer repair crew, the sooner it gets into the plan the better and more efficient it can be.

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