rather than only turning off the timer, you may need to reprogram it in the spring.) Close the main water valve to shut off the flow of water to the irrigation system. The main valve is often located out- side, but may be inside the garage, depending on the system setup. Shutting off the main valve will prevent any flow of water and protect the system from freezing up. If your system does not have a main shutoff valve, you may con-
sider purchasing one, as they are inexpensive to install and a great way to protect your investment. If you live in colder regions, remove the water from pipes to keep them from freezing and bursting. There are several ways to drain pipes, including draining the valves manually and using compressed air to “blow out” the system. There there can be some risk involved when using the “blow out” method, so wear eye protection or contact an irrigation system specialist beforehand. Insulate any aboveground pipes, valves and backflow preventers. Wrap the valve in insulation (foam insulation tape and a plastic bag). Home supply stores sell self-stick- ing, foam-insulating tape and insu- lating tubes for this task. Another option is installing wireless rain/freeze sensors. A sudden cold snap before the sys- tem is winterized cannot result in damage and wasted water. A rain/freeze sensor connects to most irrigation controllers, and overrides the watering schedule when it detects rain or freezing temperatures. Once conditions improve, the system will return to normal operation. Even if temperatures don’t drop below freezing during the winter, it is important that homeowners reduce the watering times and frequency during cooler tempera- tures. Most plants and grasses adapt to cooler temperatures and shorter days by curtailing growth, or going dormant during the winter. Scaling back watering will result in happier, healthier plants when spring arrives.