Why Just Florida? Are they the only ones that can index valves?

What does Florida know about irrigation that the rest of the country doesn’t? Why do they use more of a surprisingly simple and effective device than any other state? Especially when you consider how much money this device can save? Do I sound like a late-night infomercial yet?

Take a look at the K-Rain Indexing valve. This valve lets you irrigate up to six zones without installing and wiring six different valves.  Each time the waters turns off and back on the valve waters a different zone.  There is a really smart disc inside that advances to the next zone when pressure drops. Water zone one, stop water for a few moments, start water, water zone two, etc. Automatically.

Yes, it looks strange. We don’t care: it works great.  These are commonly installed either on a direct feed from a pump or downstream of a single solenoid valve. The way it works is simple. Say you are using a solenoid valve. The valve comes on. Zone one on the index valve opens and water goes to zone one. The solenoid valve turns off. The index resets to zone two. The master valve comes on, zone two waters. Repeat for three through six. These are available with either four or six outlets; a six outlet is shown.

If you are working off a pump then each time the pump cycles the valve advances.  This completely eliminates the need for a solenoid valve and the related wiring and controller.  These valves work with flows as low as 10 GPM and at pressures of 25 to 75 PSI.

A great feature is the possibility of future expansion. Say you only have two zones but plan on expanding. You can get the four outlet model with a two zone cam. Down the line you can change the cam out to allow for three or four zones. Just keep the two future outlets capped off until then. The four zone outlet pattern is shown; the six zone is similar.

Here we have one valve that eliminates the need for any solenoid valves if working directly off a pump and eliminates the need for all but one if working off a municipal system supply. No wonder Florida loves it. Money saved on valves and money saved on wiring. Labor saved by not installing the other valves and wiring. Labor saved = money saved.  Order now. Operators are standing by. Or the website is, anyway. And if you order in the next 10 minutes you’ll have plenty of time to do something else today! So hurry!

Zombies coming? You need a rain barrel!

You’re wondering how I’m going to tie zombies in with rain barrels, aren’t you? It’s easy. First I want to talk about rain barrels and why you want one.

I generally believe that “free” is better than “costs money.”  I really like “free” when it’s going to be handed to me with no effort on my part. Rainwater is free. Tap water costs money. Twice. It costs when you get it and you pay for sewage when it goes away. It’s going to cost more as time goes by. Population growth and nationwide drought means we don’t always have all the water we need. Water is becoming hard to get and “hard to get” always means “expensive.”

As water becomes scarcer, regulations on its use will increase. If you want to know where your water regulations are heading, check out  San Antonio, Texas or Santa Fe, New Mexico. They are hurting for water. Examples are: you may not wash your car more than once a month; you may not use water to clean your driveway or patio, no fountain or waterfalls in any landscaping, indoors or out. Only water your lawn once a week. More and more restrictions are being established to make sure there is enough water for survival.  Survival does not mean washing your car or filling your swimming pool.  And it doesn’t mean watering your garden.

Back to rain. Rain does a very good job of watering your yard and your garden. Besides the fact that it is free, it is also pretty clean. Tap water has all kinds of chemicals your plants don’t want or need. Rain is soft water, readily absorbed by your plants. No iron deposits to stain, no calcium build up, just water.

RTS Northland Water Storage Tank

Just because it is raining doesn’t mean you are using it. Rain falls on your house at the rate of about a half gallon of water per square foot of roof area during a 1-inch rainfall. If you have a 2,000 square foot roof you can collect around 1,000 to 1,200 gallons of water. What do you pay now for 1,000 gallons of water? Why are you giving it all away?

Rain barrels collect water from your downspouts and put it where you can use it. Most residential rain barrels hold around 50 gallons. They have faucets for your water hose and can be linked together to increase capacity. They come in numerous colors and designs to blend into your landscaping. Put one in your front yard, one in your back and one in the garden.  If you figure you need to have ½” of water  to irrigate your garden then 50 gallons can irrigate about 160 square feet at a time. With no time/day restrictions.Woodgrain flat back rain barrel

Ok, it’s zombie time. For many people, “zombies” is short hand for TEOTWAWKI. That stands for The End Of The World As We Know It.  You know: civilization collapses, you have no electricity, no running water, no cell phone, nuthin’. Your world just fell apart around you.

It doesn’t take a deadly mutant virus to cause this. Hurricanes will. Earthquakes will. Wild fires will. Don’t forget tornadoes.  All of these can bring your normal world to a screaming halt. All of these can leave you without a domestic water supply.

Besides watering plants, water from rain barrels can be used to flush toilets, wash your hands, clean counters, furniture and floors, top off your car radiator, and, if really desperate, wash your clothes. You’ll be surprised at how useful 100 gallons of water can be when your water supply is cut off.

The water from a rain barrel is better for your plants, it’s free and it’s not subject to watering restrictions for time or day.  And it’s zombie proof.  That’s a hard combination to beat.

The Right Way to Assemble and Glue PVC Pipe

There are many ways to glue PVC pipe and a number of solvents.  The bright side is most of them will work. The down side is many of them won’t, wasting time and money, or only appear to work until the pipe is long buried. Then it becomes expensive.

We are going to discuss measuring, fitting and gluing pipe. The premise is that if you do it correctly you only do it once. Not to mention limiting trips to the hardware store and controlling blood pressure.

Before we do anything else, there are two warnings. One on safety, one on product performance.

  • Folks, these are harsh chemicals. Don’t get them on your skin. Definitely don’t get them in your eyes. No breathing fumes. Make sure you have plenty of ventilation, as in ‘do it outside’. Wear gloves. Wear eye protection. Care to guess what the cement does to plastic contacts or your expensive glasses?
  • There is such a thing as too much glue. This is not Elmer’s Paste. If you put too much cement on and it has a chance to puddle it can and will eat through the pipe or fitting. Now you have a hole in the fitting. Also, too much glue when attaching valves can drip into the valve body and cause failure.

First, get these things together:

  • Rags
  • Primer and cement
  • Something to put the pipe on while you cut (sawhorse, cinder block, table, etc.)
  • Gloves
  • Hacksaw
  • Marker or crayon
  • Rough file or course sandpaper

Optional but you should have

  • Miter box
  • Pipe cutter, preferably ratcheting type though standard will work fine.
  • Hammer/Channel Lock pliers

Measuring is the shortest part of this paper. Remember that you have to include the length of pipe that goes into the fitting and the length of the fitting. Say you have a 10’ section from corner to corner.  The fittings add length. You need to figure out how short to cut the pipe so you can add the fittings and still get 10’.  How far does the pipe go into the fitting?  Depends. Depends on the cut, the pipe, your strength.  There is a stop designed into the fitting. How far in is it? To find out, take the pipe and fitting, get them wet with water only, and push the pipe into the fitting with firm but not killer force. The water makes it easier to slide them together. Now take a pencil and mark the pipe at the edge of the fitting. Twist the pipe back out. The distance from that mark to the end of your pipe is your glue area. This can vary depending on fittings and pipe size.  Measure everything twice. Write it down.

Cutting the pipe is more important that people realize. The cut should be square and smooth.   If you don’t cut it square the short end will not make complete contact with the inside of the fitting and will not bond as it should. It helps to use a miter box, if you can, or good ratcheting cutters. Take your time. It will help avoid problems later.

Ideally the end of the pipe should be smooth with tapered edges. Now I know you don’t hear many people talking about tapering a PVC pipe edge. You’ve probably never seen it and I know many professionals that have never even heard of it. However, we’re discussing the correct way to do this. You can bring in the shortcuts when I’m not looking. If you have a simple square cut pipe it has a tendency to push the cement ahead of it, as in the drawing. A smooth pipe with an edge taper lets the cement flow between the two. So take your file, file off the burrs that are left from the cutting, if any, and add a quick taper to the end. At the very least use sand paper to smooth the edges and take off any burrs.

On to fittings.  Once you have your pipe cut do a practice assembly. We do this to make sure we don’t glue the elbow on facing the wrong direction. Lay the pipe out along the trenches. Put the elbows, Tee’s and 45’s on just as if you were putting it in the trench. Once you are sure it is correct draw a line on the fitting and pipe with a marker or crayon. This will help line it up for you when the cement is on and drying fast.

Ok. Pipes are cut, fittings are ready. Now time for primer and glue. First I’d like to clarify one thing. It’s not really glue or cement. It’s a solvent. The solvent basically melts the PVC. When two pieces of PVC are joined using PVC cement the plastic melts, molecules blend, and it re-solidifies to a single unit.  That’s a gross simplification of what happens but its close enough.  When the cement is through and the PVC has re-solidified it is now the strongest piece. If you do it right the fitting or pipe will break long before the joint.

The first thing you do is make sure the pipes and fittings are dry. There are some cements that don’t need primer and will work with a wet pipe but we tend to avoid them. First, using primer gives us a last chance to check the pipe. You’d be surprised how often a small crack will hide until the primer hits it. . The other reason is that special cement tends to set FAST. Real fast.  No room for error or hesitation. Why ask for trouble?

Now prime both the pipe and the fitting. Use just enough to do the job. Too much doesn’t gain you anything. Using the included dauber wipe the glue area of the pipe and the glue area of the fitting with primer. Since it’s purple it’s easy to keep track. By the way, it stains everything so be careful. Primer removes dirt and grease and preps the PVC. When PVC is formed it has a hard, clear coating on it. This is resistant to the cement. Primer removes the coating, exposing the PVC.

Now apply the cement to both pieces. Do the fitting first. Since the cement is inside you can lay it down for a moment while you coat the pipe. Once both are done push the pipe into the fitting, turning about ¼ to ½ turn as you go. This makes sure the cement spreads evenly. Hold it together for about 15 to 30 seconds. Because of the chemical reaction and the way the fittings are formed there is a tendency for push back. The pipe will want to come out so hold until is sets.  If you’ve done everything correctly you can look around the edge of the fitting and see a little glue bead that has been push out by the fitting. It should be continuous. A gap might mean a pinhole leak later. Wipe off any excess cement.

I know. I didn’t say what you did with the pliers or hammer. That’s ok. They are always good to have.

That’s it. Doing takes far less time than reading about it. Doing it correctly doesn’t add any time and sure can save you a headache in the future.

Watering Trees

Trees clear the air, provide homes to wildlife, offer shade for picnics, and, without trees, there would be no tree houses or tire swings. They also add value to your dwelling, increasing the visual appeal and adding to the livability of your home.  Trees are a vital part of our lives, directly and indirectly.

The drought that hit the United States has damaged or killed millions of trees. Texas has been particularly hard hit but the damage extends from New Mexico to Florida. By one estimate, Texas has lost approximately 500 million trees, with other states suffering various levels of damage. Unfortunately, the drought is predicted to continue through 2012.

The question then becomes: what is the best way to water a tree? Ideally, the method chosen will provide the greatest amount of benefit to the tree while using the least amount of water.  The first thing to know is where to water your tree. Watering directly at the trunk is not only a waste of water but can promote some diseases. There are a few simple guidelines to follow for established trees.

First, the water needs to get to the roots. Watering too little, or just surface watering, will cause shallow roots, weakening the tree and leading to more drought damage. Deep watering to about 10” to 18” inches below the surface is best, depending on tree size. The older, more mature tree the deeper you should go.

For most trees, irrigate within the drip line. The exception is evergreens, as they tend to grow up and not out. For these, imagine the drip line to extend a couple of feet outside the physical drip line.

This Drip Line is basically the furthest most extent of the leaves, as shown in the picture of the tree. Inside this area is where the plant is growing smaller roots known as Feeder Rootlets.  These absorb moisture and nutrients from the soil.

The objective is to water slowly, dispersing the flow of water to get the water deep down to the trees roots.

Don’t dig holes in the ground in an effort to water deeply. This exposes the roots to air and dries out roots even more. Watering at ground level with a sprinkler system does help. However, running your sprinkler system long enough to provide sufficient water for trees would result in a great waste of water in other areas and increase chances for water runoff.

There are a number of ways to provide water at the proper rate and in the proper place, saving both the tree and water. The first, and simplest, is through the use of soaker hoses. Simply place rings within the watering area and turn the system on. The water goes where it is needed with little waste. The disadvantage is the labor involved in placing the hose, turning it on and off, removal and replacement for mowing and raking, and the possibility of damage to the hoses, requiring replacement. While efficient in water placement this method does require a bit of effort.

A more efficient method is the use of deep watering systems. One system involves using tree watering stakes. These range in lengths from 14” to 36”, connect to your watering system, either drip or garden hose, and put the water where it can be best utilized. This way the roots are sure to receive the water without worry of wind or run off.

Finally, there is a root watering system that attaches directly to your irrigation system. These provide the needed water and have minimal visual impact on the yard, as they are installed at grade. Since they are attached to your irrigation system you have the ability to set the watering schedule as needed without the frequent labor needed with soaker hoses or garden hose attachment.

Whichever system you choose, the key to tree survival is proper watering. Too much, too little or watering in the wrong place can cause further harm to the tree. Proper watering can extend the life, health and beauty of the tree for years to come.

For more information about anything involving irrigation, please visit us at www.SprinklerWarehouse.com.

How to Identify the Size of the Water Meter & Supply Line

A critical step in designing an efficient irrigation system is determining how much water you have available, its flow and pressure. Start at the meter. It is usually near the curb buried in a meter box.

To find the meter’s size first look at the dial. Many meters have their size located directly below the gallon count. Sometimes it is stamped on the metal below the dial face. It will be something like ¾” or 1”, in most residential cases. Sometimes it’s not there or so dirty you can’t find it. In that case you have two choices. The easiest might be to simply call your water company and ask. They’ll have it on record. The other option, which is far from accurate but is safe for design, is to determine the size of the pipe leaving the meter and assume the meter is one size smaller. It is fairly common for the meter to be one size smaller than the feed pipe to the house. Typical water meter sizes are: 5/8″, 3/4″, 1″, 1 1/2″.

If you can’t read the pipe size on the pipe leaving the meter, don’t worry. DON’T GUESS. Also, don’t lay a ruler across it and use that measurement. If you have PVC you might be lucky enough to see the size printed on the pipe. If not,  or if  it’s not PVC, we have to measure. First, find a piece of string. Now, wrap the string around the pipe and mark the point where the string crosses.  The length between the marks gives you the pipe size.

Measuring PVC pipe using string Measuring Pipe Using String
Pipe Size Conversion Chart- Nominal Pipe Size to Circumference
Nominal Pipe Size
Approximate String Length in Inches
Copper Pipe
Galvanized Pipe
PVC Pipe

It is important to know what your pipe is made of. PVC tends to be white or grey (usually white), sometimes with lettering on the side and is plastic.. Steel grey and is magnetic, so that’s a quick test if there is any doubt. Copper will turn to a dirty green color over time and is not magnetic. Its connections will be soldered, so if you see silver at the joints you have copper. You may have what is commonly known as “flex” tubing. It can be either PEX or PE Tube. Pex is the stronger of the two and would usually be the one used for supply lines. It is white, might have PEX on the side. If there is any doubt then take a section to your supply house to see what you have and what fittings fit.

Now that you know what size meter you have we need to determine flow. That’s coming soon. Stay tuned.

Want to Have an Impact? How about an impact rotor?

Which came first: the lawn sprinkler or rain? Well, rain. Then lawn sprinklers. Well, no, I guess flooding and then maybe ditch irrigation and then someone poured water from a pot onto plants and …never mind. I’ll just skip ahead.

Brass Impact RotorThe impact rotor sprinkler was the first successful, efficient area sprinkler developed. The original design came about in 1933 from a farmer looking for a more efficient way to irrigate his citrus crop. Pouring water out of a pot just wasn’t doing it. It would not be an exaggeration to say this sprinkler revolutionized agricultural irrigation and is still an integral part of irrigation today.

One of the indicators of a good design is to look at how much something has changed through the years. A 1925 pickup had a drop tail gate, stake pockets, leaf springs, and was available with an 8’ bed and 1 ton rating. Sounds a lot like current pickups. If you saw the first impact sprinkler you would see that the design has changed little through the years. Arm still swings, it still rotates and it is still dependable. It would work fine today.

Impact rotors work best on large, open areas. Typical operating distances are from a low of 20’ up to 65’ in the residential applications and over 100’ in commercial uses. They provide consistent, dependable coverage with little maintenance required. Most give you rotation settings of a partial circle from 20°-340° or full 360° coverage.

What are the main advantages? There are a couple and they are important. The first is that the water path is uninterrupted. On standard, non-popup, rotors it doesn’t go through any filters or screens; it flows through just like the water from the end of a hose. This means the impact sprinkler is far less susceptible to clogging from debris. It also means there is very little risk of damage from grit and sand in the system. It just blows out.

The second is the exposed operating mechanism. With more modern design popup rotors there is an internal gear drive mechanism. This is vulnerable to dirt or debris in the water and can cause the rotor to stop turning. At this point the rotor must be disassembled to clean. With the drive mechanism of the impact being 100% external and with no gears to worry about, the durability and long term performance of the unit is greatly enhanced.

Pop-Up Impact RotorOne objection to impact sprinklers was their high visibility even when not being used. The Rain Bird Maxi-Paw acts as a pop-up, disappearing when not in use. It gives you the benefits of an impact rotor with the visual appeal of disappearing pop-up. One big advantage of these is you can use them to efficiently water a park or public area yet avoid trip hazards.

Impact sprinklers are thought by some to be ‘old technology.’ After all, numerous new and different irrigation products have come along since. Well, hammers are pretty old technology and no one hesitates to use them. Old doesn’t mean useless. The technology might be old but the usefulness and efficiency has increased through the years. With different sizes, replaceable nozzles, pop-up designs and water saving features the impact rotor looks to be around for a long time. It just works.

Teflon Tape and How To Use It

Teflon Pipe TapeTeflon® tape (polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE), AKA plumber’s tape, is a thin film used to seal pipe threads. The tape is durable, flexible, and fills in the minor imperfections in the threads to seal leaks.

To use, hold one end of the tape against at the start of the pipe threads/end of pipe and start wrapping opposite of the direction of the threads, keeping the tape flat. Pull the tape Wrapping Pipe with Teflon Tapetightly into the threads but not so tightly that the threads cut through. Keep going in a flat uniform manner until you come to the ends of the threads/pipe. Now thread the pipe in carefully and you’ll have a good seal.

You want more than one layer but generally not more than three or four. If you are using drastically different materials, such as copper or brass to PVC, you may need extra but that is unlikely. Too much tape is as bad as too little. It will prevent a good seal. With the proper amount the pipe should thread together smoothly, sealing all gaps in the thread.

When do you not use plumber’s tape?

This tape is only effective on tapered threads as it uses compression to form the seal. Fortunately, the vast majority of the connections you make in irrigation will be with National Pipe Thread Tapered Thread, or NPT, and this tape will work well.

Many will tell you that brass to brass fittings are self sealing. In one manner they are but it takes an experienced professional to know which ones will work. You risk a leak if you are not sure you have the correct condition. Tape is cheap insurance. Brass fitting threads also tend to be extra sharp, especially on the smaller pieces, and may cut through the tape and ruin the seal. In this extra care is needed. In extreme cases you might need pipe dope but that is rare. The general connection involving brass in an irrigation system is with the backflow. Plumbers tape should work just fine there.

Pump Installation for Irrigation

Ok. The water is in the lake and you want it on your yard. This means you need a pump to move the water from the lake to your irrigation system. Choosing the pump is addressed in another article. We’ll talk about how you put it in and what you need to do it. Pumping from a well is the same basic procedure.

Basically we will have a pipe, probably PVC, going down into your water supply, up through a pump and into your system. So let’s start with the pipe and the water. If you are lucky you have lots of fish in your lake. Unfortunately, you also have sediment, plants, bugs and other things that will not go through your sprinkler heads. The first thing to install is some sort of filter/strainer. It fits on the end of the pipe and keeps the larger trash out.

Foot Valve

One type of filter is a foot valve. This is a combination of a filter and a check valve. A foot valve keeps the water in the pipe even when the pump is turned off. This means that the pump is kept wet (primed) and water is at the pump as soon as you turn it on. If water ran back down to the lake the pump would only have air to pull. This is an example of a foot valve and strainer combination. They can be PVC, aluminum, brass or steel.

Basket Strainer

Some other options are a basket strainer or a self-cleaning strainer. If you use either one of these, you will need a check valve, too, or the pump will not stay primed. The exception to this is if you have a self-priming pump. A basket strainer or self-cleaning strainer is all you need then.

Now we have PVC pipe running up hill to the pump. The end in the water must be secured to something: dock, pier, post, etc. It cannot float free or it will break. The size of the PVC will be determined by your pump. For both looks and freeze protection you might want to bury the pipe. If you leave it above ground you will need to stake it down and possibly insulate to protect from freezing.

The pump itself will need to be bolted to a concrete slab and connected to your pump switch and controller.

So what do we need and why?

At the pipe end/strainer:

To fasten to a post:

Galvanized strapping

  • Strapping. Usually galvanized, available at almost any hardware store. Available in rolls or pre-cut to length.
  • Nails, should be galvanize, 16p.
  • Claw hammer.
  • Tin snips to cut strap.
  • Leather gloves and eye protection

To fasten strainer/foot valve to pipe:

  • Drill, preferably cordless
  • Good, grounded extension cord if your drill is not cordless
  • Assorted drill bits
  • Phillips and/or slotted screwdriver

For the PVC:

  • Primer and cement
  • Hacksaw
  • Pipe tape (commonly called Teflon tape, even though it’s not)
  • Saw horses or cinderblock to lift pipe off ground while cutting.
  • Pipe and fittings, determined by pump and location
  • Tape measure. Measure everything twice. Trust me.
  • If placed above ground you will need some sort of stakes to hold the pipe in place

For the Pump:

The pump needs to be bolted down to a slab. If possible, buy one pre-made. If you need to make one follow factory recommendations and you will need:

  • Board 1”x4: to length for framing.
  • Saw, hand or power
  • Hammer for nails and stakes
  • 1”x2”x12” stakes
  • 8p or 10p nails. Duplex/double head are best
  • Wire mesh or #3 rebar re-inforcing for concrete. Some stores sell pre-cut.
  • 24” bolt cutters if you have to cut your own rebar
  • Tie wire (also known as baling wire) if you tie your own rebar
  • Pliers, preferably side cutters.
  • Bags of concrete for slab
  • Something to mix concrete in: bucket, wheelbarrow, etc.
  • Bolts to mound pump to concrete. See factory recommendations.


  • A bucket or hose to put water in the pump to prime and to mix the concrete
  • Shovel for digging ditch and mixing concrete
  • Rags
  • Wire nuts
  • And if you are like me, a first aid kit.

Who do I ask? Not me. I just do irrigation repair. You need to talk to…

Well, not me, that’s for sure. I’ll tell you why. First, the questions being asked:

  • Why are my leaves yellow?
  • What fertilizers do I need?
  • What plants should go behind my house in the shade?
  • Is my soil absorbing enough water?
  • What is the best herbicide for my yard?
  • Are you married?

Actually, I don’t get the last one a lot. If ever. The rest come up frequently in every variation. Why? What makes me such an expert? Well, I’m a licensed irrigator and I’m doing work in the customer’s yard. That makes me an expert on plants, right?

Did you see where I said I was a horticulturalist, botanist, gardener, arborist or even farmer? No? Well, I am related to a number of farmers and one horticulturalist but the knowledge is not DNA based. It is training, experience and education based. My training tells me how to get the water to your yard efficiently and economically. It doesn’t tell me what you need for your particular soil and landscaping. The question now is: who knows? How do you find the information you need? I’m going to work backwards, from the big guns down to local experts.

The Big Guns

In every county of the country there is a county extension agent. Every county of every state and Puerto Rico, no matter how small the population. As of this writing, Loving County, Texas is listed as the smallest county population in the nation with less than 100 people. Actually, only 82 as of the 2010 census but someone may have broken down there since. Loving County has a county extension agent.

Get to know your county extension agent. They know their business, help is generally free and their resources are vast. They can help with plants, fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides and general advice. To find yours, go to the United States Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension System.

The more information you give them, the better they can help. One very important piece of information is the makeup of your soil. It’s more than just dirt. It has all kinds of important chemicals that can help or kill your plant, such as lime, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, sodium, nitrogen, iron and more.

Finding out what is in your soil is very easy and amazingly cheap. Most states have at least one college that has an agricultural program that will test your soil. Some soil tests run as low as $10. Many I found were only $15. Send them a sample, give the results to your county agent, listen to the advice and get ready for a very healthy yard.

The universities listed here are purely random and provided as a country wide sample. The links will give you an idea of what tests are available. To find one in your area go to your web search engine and enter your state name and ‘soil analysis’. You will find one.

University Websites With Soil Analysis Services
North Dakota State University http://www.ndsu.edu/soils/services/soil_testing_lab/
University of Idaho http://www.agls.uidaho.edu/asl/services.htm
University of Maine http://anlab.umesci.maine.edu/default.htm
Virginia Tech University http://www.soiltest.vt.edu/
Kansas State University http://www.agronomy.ksu.edu/soiltesting/p.aspx?tabid=34
University of Hawaii http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/Site/ADSC.aspx
Utah State University http://www.usual.usu.edu/
Texas A&M University http://soiltesting.tamu.edu/

Local Experts

Don’t want to go through all that? No problem. The key to finding good local advice is finding someone you can trust and who has experience in your area. These are both important. I’m pretty trustworthy, I think, but you don’t want my advice on anything outside of my garage.

Get to know your local nursery. Real nurseries, not bulk distributors. Ask for any accreditations or degrees the company or its employees might have, such as Certified Nursery Professionals, horticulturist or botany degrees, arborist, master gardener certification, etc. There are national and regional certifications. Don’t hesitate to ask. They’ll be glad to show them to you. Find out how long they have been in business in your area. When you are satisfied, start asking questions. I have never found a nursery that was not more than willing to help.

Talk to a professional landscaper. Again, feel free to ask them for their credentials. Being a member of a regional landscape association is nice and can be of benefit but it’s not the same as that degree or certification. Ask for those. They should be proud to share them.

One note about professional landscapers: don’t expect it to be free. County agents and colleges are government funded. Your local nursery hopes to get your repeat business. A professional landscaper’s income is based on his/her knowledge and experience. Most of it is hard earned. It would not be right to ask them to give it away free. While they might give general advice just for goodwill, expect to pay a fair price for a real consultation. Since they can come to your house and see the actual conditions and plants they may be well worth the expense.

Who do you not ask, besides me? Your neighbor, for one. Plant damage can take a while to show. A good yard today doesn’t mean they didn’t just put down way too much fertilizer and it will be burned tomorrow. Some people think the best weed killer is gasoline or diesel. Care to guess what diesel does to your soil? It’s effective. No weed will ever grow there again. Nor anything else.

Ask a professional. You and your yard will benefit for years to come.