Irrigation FAQ: Why Aren’t My Foundation Bed Plants Getting Watered?

I see the irrigation system running at my home, but none of the water is reaching the plants in the foundation beds around my house.  Is the irrigation system not adjusted correctly?

Typically, irrigation systems in multi-unit homeowners associations are intended to irrigate the lawn.  These irrigation systems typically consist of pop up irrigation heads positioned around the structures that spray away from the building. If the home has foundation planting beds, the irrigation heads will often be positioned along the bed edger line, and spray away from the house.

The following are reasons why foundation landscape plantings are not irrigated by the same pop-up heads that irrigate the lawn:

Over-Spray onto Homes: If an individual were to try to water the foundation plants with pop-up irrigation heads, the best way to achieve that would be to have the heads point back at the homes. This can create problems with windows getting sprayed and building materials being continually wet.

Varied Irrigation Needs of Turfgrass vs. Plantings: Kentucky Bluegrass, the most common turfgrass in Minnesota needs some level of irrigation at least every other day throughout the summer months to stay green and lush. Shrubs and perennials only need supplemental watering every few days, weekly, or not at all. In fact, many commonly used shrubs and perennials in the HOA context don’t require any additional irrigation once they are established. As a result, if the irrigation system is watering both the grass and the plantings at the same time, the result will be of them receiving too much, or too little water, while the other is receiving the right amount.

Proper Irrigation Methods:  Lawns and landscape plantings benefit from different methods of irrigation. The pop-up rotor and spray heads commonly used in irrigation systems can be classified as overhead irrigation. This is an economical way of irrigating large areas like lawns, but regular overhead irrigation can be harmful for landscape plantings. Shrubs and perennials are susceptible to fungal pathogens, and overhead irrigation keeps the foliage of these landscape plants damp, which is a great environment for fungal growth. The proper way to irrigate shrubs and perennials is through methods that deliver water directly to the soil area, such as dripline, which keeps the foliage from getting damp while still getting water to the roots.

Next time you notice the irrigation system at your home isn’t visibly watering the landscape plants in the foundation beds, you can be happy rather than concerned!  You now know that your plants aren’t being overwatered, and your house isn’t getting damaged from persistent moisture.

Jake Louwsma CLP | Sales and Marketing Manager
Posted 05/04/2021