The Sprinkler Buddy is a cone shaped plastic collar that fits around a sprinkler head to prevent grass from growing up next to it. It serves two purposes, the first purpose is to keep grass from growing over the sprinkler head, thus make the sprinkler location obvious in the lawn. When using heavy power mowers this allows you to mow over it while avoiding hitting and breaking the sprinkler heads. The old standard method of keeping sprinklers visible is to trim around them each week with a line trimmer to remove the grass around them. Obviously this is a lot of work that is not needed when the Sprinkler Buddy is installed around the sprinkler. A second use for the Sprinkler Buddy is as a sprinkler head stabilization device. According to the manufacturer, the wide cone shape helps keep sprinklers in an upright position. Another advantage of the Sprinkler Buddy that isn’t heavily promoted by the company is that it keeps tall grass away from sprinklers with low pop-up heights, again reducing the need for frequent grass trimming around the sprinkler head. The Sprinkler Buddy is made to fit on all pop-up sprinklers, both the smaller body spray types and the larger residential rotors (up to 2.5″ diameter, and maybe a bit larger.) It is a product of RyRo, Inc. of Florida, USA.
The Sprinkler Buddy is made of a semi-rigid, UV protected, plastic material that is soft enough to cut with a pair of scissors, but rigid enough to maintain it’s shape. To install you start by cutting away the grass from around the sprinkler in an area just large enough to fit the Sprinkler Buddy into. Next, the sprinkler head is unscrewed from the pipe (the proper name for this pipe is a “riser”) to remove it. Using scissors, simply cut slits in the Sprinkler Buddy base that are large enough to allow your sprinkler to slide into the bottom of the Sprinkler Buddy. In a few situations you may also need to trim the edges of the Sprinkler Buddy to custom fit it to unique situations, for example if the sprinkler is very close to a sidewalk or wall. Finally the Sprinkler Buddy is pushed onto the sprinkler head, and the head is screwed back onto the pipe. A set of complete installation instructions are on the Sprinkler Buddy Website.
I installed two Sprinkler Buddies into a professionally maintained condominium complex in Portland, Oregon during the summer of 2011. The Sprinkler Buddies were installed per instructions over existing brass sprinklers, one was a flush mounted no-pop-up spray head, the other was a low pop-up with gravity piston retraction. (I need to insert a disclaimer and warning here. Both these sprinklers are older types, they were state of the art in the ’50s and ’60s, but are still found on a lot of older sprinkler systems. While still available for sale in stores, these heads are an antiquated design that are high maintenance and water wasters. As a professional my first recommendation for these sprinklers would have to be that they be replaced with new plastic-body pop-up type sprinklers with at least a 4″ rise height. See my recommendations and reviews of sprinkler heads.)
The Sprinkler Buddies immediately performed as expected, they held back the grass that had previously interfered with the sprinkler’s spray patterns, allowing for better water coverage. The maintenance caretaker also reported that he no longer had need to trim the grass back around those heads as he does with all the other heads on the property. He did note that periodically some bermuda grass would grow up between the sprinkler body and the sprinkler buddy. This appeared to be an infrequent issue that might require a check of the sprinkler once or twice a year in order to remove any grass growing inside the Sprinkler Buddy.
The Sprinkler Buddies were left in place for the winter and rechecked in the spring and again in the summer of 2012. Upon examination in spring we found that the Sprinkler Buddies had each filled with leaves and pine needles over the winter. The leaves and needles were easily swept out using an old broom, and an examination showed no damage from frost or snow to the Sprinkler Buddies. Further, no grass was growing inside either of them and no grass trimming was needed around them before restarting the sprinklers. By way of contrast, we could not even locate the other sprinklers in the lawn that did not have the Sprinkler Buddies. Despite having the grass trimmed well away from them in the fall, these sprinklers were now completely covered with grass that had grown during late fall and early spring while the sprinklers were shut down for the rainy season. We had to turn on the sprinkler system to locate the other sprinklers and then mark their locations so the grass could be trimmed away from them.
The Sprinkler Buddy worked as promised. It clearly marked the sprinkler locations making them very visible, and it looked attractive if you are into that edged sprinkler look. While not my thing, I have met a lot of people who love the look of a clean cut edge around their sprinkler heads, and for them the Sprinkler Buddy will be something they love. It will create a near perfect edge of uniform size around each sprinkler head. In my tests the Sprinkler Buddy was also very effective at reducing maintenance at the sprinklers where we installed it, saving about a minute a week in grass trimming effort for each sprinkler. It was also a huge labor saver at the spring season sprinkler system start-up, saving about 10 minutes of time per sprinkler (for sprinklers without the Sprinkler Buddies the caretaker had to turn on each valve circuit, located and flag the sprinklers, then return later with the string trimmer to trim away grass from them.) The caretaker was able to mow over the Sprinkler Buddies with his rotary mower without damaging them.
On the minus side the Sprinkler Buddies were a bit harder to install than I expected, mostly because I needed to remove the sprinkler heads and they were rusted in place. Some people have stated that they successfully have installed the Sprinkler Buddies without removing the sprinklers. I did try this and I was not successful at installing the Sprinkler Buddy to my rather high quality standards (ie; I was able to get it on but I didn’t like the way it looked when finished and it wasn’t nearly as stable.)
The Sprinkler Buddy is made to cure a problem that you really shouldn’t have. (Unless you are one of those people I mentioned who like the look of a neat cut-out area around each sprinkler head, or you just want to be able to see all your sprinklers all the time.) A properly designed sprinkler system should be able to take a direct strike on a sprinkler head by a heavy mower without any damage. Properly selected sprinkler heads should also utilize pop-up risers that allow the nozzle to rise well above the grass level so that grass does not interfere with the water spray pattern. Almost all sprinkler bodies now are constructed of high-impact plastic, engineered in a way that, when properly installed, can take the shock of being hit by a large rider mower wheel without damage. However for this to occur the sprinkler must be installed on the proper type of riser that allows them to both absorb the shock and stay in an upright position. This website has suggestions for identifying both quality sprinkler heads and the proper risers to use. Unfortunately switching over a older sprinkler system to utilize new sprinkler heads and risers can be time consuming and expensive. The Sprinkler Buddy is a good temporary fix for these older systems that will reduce maintenance time and costs until such time as a proper repair may be made. A wise approach would be to use the maintenance cost savings created by the Sprinkler Buddy, and save back that money to fund a future replacement of the sprinkler heads and risers.
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Text and Images by Jess Stryker unless noted. Copyright © Jess Stryker, 1997-2012. All rights reserved.