Berkshire Business Journal
Adopting a practice more common in warmer, sunnier climes, landscaper Tom Farley of Stockbridge has expanded his 10-year-old business by offering the installation of underground irrigation systems.
“As far as we know we’re the first company in this area to go into this line,” said Farley, owner of Land Design Inc. “We can supply any kind of system for every situation.”
Those situations, he said, run the gamut from residential lawn or garden care to small scale commercial agricultural operations. People choosing to install the systems are motivated by factors ranging from convenience to cost savings.
We’ve been getting calls from people who just have small gardens that they want taken care of,” said Farley. On the other hand, he is in the process of developing a system for restoration of a 90,000-square-foot residential grounds and has set up a system for the pre-sale care of 1,000 ornamental trees.
Farley said he decided to expand into this new area primarily because of customer demand. “I had been looking into the systems for about 7 years but saw that there had never been much of a demand for them in the area,” he said. That has changed in the past few years, he added, as a series of dry summers have increased the care requirements for many lawns and gardens. For those people (such as weekend residents) who are unable to provide that extra watering during drought periods, the effect has often been parched lawns and withered gardens.
While these situations are far from devastating, they can result in both aesthetic damage and money down the drain from previous landscaping and gardening efforts.
Farley began offering installation of the systems this spring. However, in anticipation of this, he and other members of his staff have been taking a series of classes, workshops and seminars during the past three years related to professional installation and maintenance of underground irrigation systems. Although Massachusetts does not presently have a certification requirement for irrigation specialists, Farley said the training he and his staff have received would qualify them for certification under other state’s programs.
According to Farley, irrigation systems have several advantages to the more traditional watering systems used in this area, including the fact that they save water. “An underground irrigation system is very conservation-minded,” said Farley. “It produces a controlled, consistent supply as opposed to a homeowner doing his own watering, which is inconsistent and a wasteful method of watering.”
Farley said that while there is an initial investment in the system, over the long run homeowners may see savings in both water bills and labor costs. “What would take one hour by hand-watering might only take five or 10 minutes of watering with an irrigation system,” he said. “A person who’s really serious about his lawn or garden can save a lot of time and money with an irrigation system.”
According to Farley, the systems can be installed at a cost that fits into most homeowners’ budgets. He said the average cost of a new residential system is between $1,500 and $2,000. Some systems can be installed for as little as $500 while more advanced and elaborate systems run as high as $5,000.
One feature that many customers will opt for is an electric timer that turns the watering system on and off at set intervals. The timer, which costs about $125, can be programmed so that homeowners can leave for vacation knowing that their lawns and gardens will be properly watered. Used in conjunction with the timer is a rain sensor, a very inexpensive device that prevents the system from operating if sufficient rain has fallen.
The systems involve a series of 1-inch and 5/8-inch diameter PVC pipes installed at depths of between 6 and 12 inches. Sprinklers and other types of water delivery devices are connected at appropriate locations. According to Farley, installation of the systems can be done in as little as one to two days with minimal disruption of existing lawns and gardens.
In order to demonstrate the new systems, Farley recently installed at cost a new irrigation system for the Mission House, the historic house museum on Main Street in Stockbridge, which is currently undergoing an extensive renovation of its gardens and grounds. The watering system for the Mission House has five watering zones, retractable sprinkler heads and an electronic timer. Steve McMahon, superintendent for the Mission House, said, “We were laying out $6,000 for new plant material and we couldn’t afford to have the new garden not tended properly. That’s when we turned to Tom.”
Based on early response, Farley said he expects the irrigation systems to become a major part of his growing landscape company. He said he expects to add another one or two employees to his staff as the business grows.
The systems can be installed at any time of year when the ground is soft—from early spring to late autumn. However, Farley said his company’s workload is such at present that customers seeking installation of a new system may need to continue hand-watering until early September or beyond.