Before contractors dig into an irrigation job, they should consider everything from the soil to the sky. Between trenchers, vibratory plows and their attachments, factors like landscaping logistics and machine performance in varying weather conditions can play a key role in determining which equipment will be the best fit for the job.
Gilbert Turner, owner of Richmond Irrigation in Midlothian, Va., near Richmond, prefers trenching for most of his work.
“Different projects mandate which machine makes the most sense to use,” Turner says. “The biggest factor is disturbance. For existing lawns and landscapes, you want to plow if possible, but in new construction we trench everything.”
Although they can tear up a yard, trenchers allow contractors to dig deeper and wider than a vibratory plow. The size and scope of the project should be taken into account when choosing a trencher or trenching attachment. If the job requires pipe installation with a diameter that is more than an inch and a half, trenching is the way to go, says Brian Moran, president of American Lawn Sprinkler in Dryden, Michigan near Detroit.
To minimize the turf damage created by trenching, Turner looks for machines that have tracks instead of rubber tires. He has found those trenchers to have less ground pressure, better traction in different conditions and less likelihood of getting stuck.
Contractors should also look for machines that fit the logistics of the jobsite. On many residential properties, contractors may need to maneuver tight spaces. A more compact model or a ride-along may be necessary to safely navigate those spaces. Alternatively, a larger and more powerful model will be more efficient on larger spaces, Moran says.
“You have to figure out what it is you're going to mostly be doing. If you're getting something too big, you're going to be tearing up the yard a little too much, and you want to do as little disturbing of the ground as possible,” Moran says.