July 15, 2009
It’s not just the plants growing in the University of Guelph’s trial gardens at the LO home office that will benefit from a newly installed state-of-the-art irrigation system.

Designed and constructed by Lorne Haveruk, the new irrigation system is what all contractors will use in the future. “The system at LO is something everyone in the association can be proud of,” says Haveruk. “This is the way irrigation systems should be. We must seriously understand the issue of efficient water use.”

Haveruk says that water restrictions will be the next target on the horizon. “Our industry must react before the government starts imposing restrictive laws.” He says everyone must work towards using as little water as possible, but still complete the task of properly watering plants. “We have accomplished that here at the LO gardens.”

The pride factor inspired Haveruk to become involved in the trial gardens project. LO’s Irrigation sector group looked at getting involved in the project, coordinated by the Grounds Management group. “Our group wanted to show the best systems available,” says Haveruk. “At the same time, we also wanted something that could be used as teaching devices for education seminars at LO.”  The new system will be used as a tool to help students improve their knowledge of irrigation. Seminars have already been scheduled, with the first held on June 24 and two others scheduled for July 28 and 29 and Aug. 25 and 26. See www.horttrades.com for details.

For ten days, Haveruk and LO summer student Tom Seymour did some heavy hand-digging to install the systems. They found an old road bed, which made the going even tougher. Haveruk says installing efficient irrigation properly is labour intensive. “It takes time to do the job properly.”

Even the best detective would have a tough time to locate the spray heads hidden in the garden bed. That is until it’s time to irrigate the plants, and then the entire bed is covered.

Each section of the trial garden has different irrigation systems donated from three companies, Toro, Rain Bird and Hunter. Point source low volume irrigation components, provided by Rain Bird, supported by Vanden Bussche, now water the perennial plants in the front entrance planter island. Each of the more than 150 perennial plants has its own emitter buried at 250 mm, making it difficult to see that irrigation has been installed.

Haveruk considers this the most water efficient delivery system, because the water is not evaporating above the plant. “The water is where it should be down at the plant’s roots.” The system waters 60 plants with the same amount of water many people use to brush their teeth. It’s a system that wouldn’t work for annuals, because the location changes each year, but for perennials it’s the ideal system.

John Deere and Hunter provided the product at the same location’s subsurface for the annual bed irrigation system. The Hunter dripline is buried at 100 mm. This provides water to the roots through capillary action. A rain sensor will prevent watering in the rain, saving 12 per cent or more of the water, plus preventing drowning plants by overwatering.  The results are reduced runoff, lower water use very uniform coverage.

“I had two contractors, Neil Whitehall of Watertight Home Services and John Lamberink of Aquality Irrigation, donate time, staff and machinery to help with the south garden,” says Haveruk. Toro, with the assistance of Turf Care, provided a new spray sprinkler nozzle known as Precision Series H20 chip technology spray nozzles. During installation, 12 people took part in the process that required 42 of the 12-inch Toro pop-up spray sprinklers, plus all the lateral lines and irrigation control wires, including the controller. “This was all done in seven hours.  The guys did amazing work,” said an enthusiastic Haveruk.

The other garden beds are covered by systems that have timers, with some based on the amount of rainfall received. The water is drawn from the nearby pond, which provides the plants with warm, nutrient-rich water.

It should make for some impressive looking gardens which are very visible from the 401. Visitors can see the plants up close, when an open house is held to tour the LO trial gardens on Aug. 20.

Lorne Haveruk is past president of the Canadian Irrigation Association’s eastern region, which ten years ago voted to join Landscape Ontario, resulting in the creation of the Irrigation sector group. The Toronto resident owns and operates DH Water Management Services and writes a column in Landscape Trades.  

Caption: Lorne Haveruk looks over the variety of irrigation systems he installed at the LO trial gardens.