It’s almost the end of winter and time to start thinking about the nice hot Cape sun that’s on its way. With that comes the need to protect and maintain our gardens with proper watering.

Before the season begins, check that your irrigation system is functioning properly. I often get asked to repair and service garden irrigation systems and most problems are fairly easy to fix, like the reprogramming of computer systems or the removal of grains of sands from irrigation heads.

If there is a problem, before you spend money on getting in an expert, here are 10 easy steps to check first.

1. If the system is automated then check the computer to see if it is plugged in! If it is unplugged and there is a backup battery it will still look as if the system is on but actually it is only storing the program info and the system will not come on until AC power is on.

2. When the system has been standing unused all winter and you turn it on for the first time, any grains of sand that may have got into the line will be pushed forward and block the heads up. If you know how to get the heads off then check them for dirt and clear them out.

3. If the computer appears to be working but no water is running then check that somebody has not switched off the stopcock, normally located at the green box holding the valves for the irrigation. Also check that the stopcock for the mains to your property has not been switched off. This would stop all water to the property.

4. You notice that one or more of your stations is running with a very weak waterflow. Walk from valve box towards the part of the garden that is being watered and check for any water that might be seeping out of the ground. This is where most of your water flow is going. Sometimes there is a surge in the water pressure which often causes the pipe to burst through a joint in the line. If you have dogs on your property, there’s a possibility that they may have chewed through the pipe.

5. If you notice that there is water leaking out of one or more of the valve heads and flooding the valve box, then you may have to replace a valve unit. Remove the valve and take it to your local hardware store and ask someone for a new one. Fitting this back on the system can be tricky, so this may be an occasion to call your local irrigation specialists for help.

6. You manually switch the valve on and the station works but when you try the computer, it fails, yet will tell you that the station is running. There is a chance the wires going from the computer to the valves have been disconnected. Look for any breaks in the wires or exposed wire that are being grounded causing the valve to fail.

7. You notice that the pipe has a nick in it, probably from a spade or a pitchfork. Dig up the area around the damaged piece to expose the pipe. Use a serrated knife and cut straight through the pipe 3mm either side of the nick. Buy a straight joiner which will join the two ends. A little trick is also boil some water and dip the cut ends into it to soften the pipes so they slide into the joiner easier.

8. When a micro head or sprayer is broken it is not always necessary to replace the whole set. A cheaper option is to take it in to your nearest hardware store and they will give you the relevant part for replacement.

9. If the pop-ups are sticking and not retracting into the ground once the water has switched off, it’s probably because there is a grain of sand struck between the shaft (pop-up part) and the housing. Gently unscrew the whole housing and slowly remove it from the ground. Try not disturb the ground around the hole as sand might get into the pipe and cause more problems. Unscrew the housing around the shaft and slowly allow the large internal spring to push up. Clean the shaft and the sleeve (this is the top you unscrewed) with water. Reassemble and slowly screw back into the line underground. If this does not work then replace whole unit.

10. Every six months check the back up battery. In most cases it is a 9v battery. Touch the two terminals on your tongue – if the battery is ok you’ll get a mild shock (don’t worry, it’s a VERY mild shock). You can also switch off the mains but if the battery is flat you will lose all the settings and it will all have to be reset. The battery is almost always tucked away at the bottom of the computer of behind it (the computer face clips open like a door). Always take a sample of what you need to replace as there are so many sizes and similar parts. If you can’t do that then use your cellphone to take a photograph as a reference.

If you get stuck, if you’ve tried everything and it still won’t work, give me a call, it’s usually a simple fix.