Preparing Irrigation Equipment for the Winter Season

— Written By and last updated by Patricia Burch

Now that freezing temperatures are around the corner, it’s time for many farmers to prepare their irrigation equipment for winter. Freezing temperatures can have detrimental effects on your irrigation equipment especially if it is left out or not lubricated correctly. Maintenance of irrigation equipment is a yearly priority, and preparing the system for the winter season is an integral part of that maintenance program.

There are many types of irrigation equipment and many different tips and suggestions for winterization. Listed here are practices for a commonly used system in Sampson County, the hard hose traveler. Always consult your equipment supplier or manufacturer with any specific questions or concerns about your system.

One of the most important steps is removing water from the hoses and purging all the irrigation waterlines. Purging can be done by using an air compressor or by rolling out the line and removing or opening the drain plug. If lines are left with water in them during the dead of winter, they could freeze and expand which could burst your irrigation line. While getting the excess water purged from the lines, this is a great time to check the stability of the lines. If or when the line is pulled out, take the time to walk the length of the irrigation hose and look for any damaged areas or potential problem areas. It is also a good idea to make sure there is no excess water in the turbine. This can be accessed by opening the gate valve and drain plug on the turbine.

Another area needing attention is the gun cart and big gun. Start by using calipers to measure the nozzle ring size to make sure the nozzle has not been worn out during the pumping season. Rotate the big gun around to make sure there is no issue with the bearings that would hinder the rotation speed which needs to be consistent. Check the tires on the gun cart and the reel itself to ensure they have the adequate amount of air and that the tires have not begun to dry rot and need replacing. Do not forget to check all safety shields to ensure they are still in place and tight. Take the necessary time to find all the grease fittings located on the reel. Once you have located the fittings, go around the reel with your grease gun to ensure all the fittings have the appropriate amount of grease.

Once you are confident you have prepared the irrigation system for winter, then it is time to store the hard hose traveler. It is recommended that it be stored indoors out of the rain in a clean, dry place. If there is not a covered shelter option and the reel is kept outside, it is suggested to cover the reel with a canvas or tarp that will shield it from the rain. Once your reel is stored and ready for winter, you can feel confident it will be ready to get the job done for you when you resume your regular irrigation during the spring.

For more specific questions about winterizing your irrigation system, contact me at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Sampson County Center at 592.7161,, or your equipment supplier or manufacturer.