Common Landscape Problems

By: Amanda Strack, Conservation Garden Park

No one’s landscape is perfect. Well, maybe there are a few, but most of us have some common issues in the landscape that if we solve, the overall health of our landscape will improve—especially the lawn. This year we conducted more than one hundred landscape consultations around the valley and analyzed irrigation systems and landscape layouts for individual home owners (to schedule your own landscape consultation for next year, visit in March). We saw many different landscape styles and unique situations, but throughout them all, we saw common and recurring errors, addressed below. If these same problems plague your landscape, here are some solutions:

Mixed Heads

If you have both rotating heads and fixed (spray) heads on one zone, your system cannot apply the correct amount of water. Mixed heads give some areas of the landscape too much water and others not enough. These two types of heads distribute water at different rates. If you’re running the irrigation system with spray head run times the areas being watered by rotating heads won’t get enough water. If this is your situation, replace heads and use the same brand, type, and model per zone.

Sunken or tilted heads

Over time, most heads settle or sink from lawn maintenance, compaction, and general use. This causes an uneven application of water, which can cause brown spots and water waste caused by runoff. Fixing tilted or sunken heads can drastically affect the coverage of your sprinklers. First, remove the lawn around the head. Be careful to not cause any damage to the head or surrounding irrigation line. Next, raise and straighten out the head. Use funny pipe if you need more length. Now compact the area around the head using gravel, wood shims, or a combination of rocks and soil. Finally, replace the lawn pieces and water them in to ensure root establishment.

Incorrect watering schedule

An incorrect watering schedule can cause many problems with your lawn. Watering too often encourages shallow roots and encourages plant disease. If you know the types of heads you are using and the general type of soil, you can create an educated watering schedule. Sandy soils don’t retain moisture very long, so plants growing in sandy soil typically need more frequent watering but for shorter amounts of time. Clay soils retain moisture for longer but can’t hold as much moisture all at once. Water landscapes with this type of soil using a “cycle and soak” method and less often. For example: If you want to apply water for 45 minutes total, using the cycle and soak method would require watering for 15 minutes for 3 cycles. For drip irrigation, water once a week for 60 minutes in clay soil and twice a week for 30 minutes in sandy soil.

This spring as you start up your system, look for and fix these common problems that plague the landscape and watch your lawn grow into a healthy and drought-tolerant beauty. Download a suggested watering schedule from