How to Use a Vibratory Plow for Irrigation Systems


Installing a residential sprinkler system can be an extremely time consuming process without the use of advanced equipment. In-ground sprinkler systems require proper burial of pipes, and while this usually implies the construction of a network of ditches, new innovations in the residential irrigation industry have allowed for much faster installations that are far less damaging to your lawn. The most common of these alternatives is a vibrating plow, a heavy blade to which a plastic poly pipe is attached. The plow then pulls the pipe through the ground. Knowing how to properly use a vibrating plow can make the difference between a messy, lengthy installation and a quick, clean one.

Things You'll Need

  • 18 inches of 8 gauge chain
  • 2 8 gauge "C" link chain connectors
  • Open the screwing nut of one of the "C" links by turning it to the left with your fingers. Place the link around the small shaft at the bottom of the plow's blade. Attach the lengh of chain before closing the screwing nut by turning it all the way to the right.

  • Open the screwing nut of the other "C" link and place it on the end of the length of chain. Turn this length of chain back on itself, and secure the "C" link on a second link of chain to create a 6-inch-long loop. Secure the "C" link by turning its screwing nut all the way to the right.

  • Ask an assistant to place about 12 inches of poly pipe through the loop of chain, and bend it backward. Until the chain follows the blade into the ground, the assistant must hold this bend closed so that it enters the ground in this way, ensuring that the pipe is pulled properly behind the plow's blade.

  • Lower the plow until the blade touches the ground using the plow's controls. Then turn on the vibrating mechanism and lower the blade into the ground until the chain is at least 6 inches underneath the surface. Consult the instructions on your tractor to find the controls for the plow. Usually, the tractor has the control for raising and lowering the plow near its main console, and the vibrating control is immediately above the plow itself.

  • Advance the tractor to the desired destination very slowly, with the plow and blade still buried and vibrating. If you notice the blade getting more shallow or churning up too much soil, slow your speed or stop. Never back up the tractor while pulling a pipe.

  • Conclude the process by slowly raising the plow blade as you advance. Once the pipe breaks the surface of the ground, quickly turn off the vibrator and pull a final 2 feet of pipe out of the ground. Raising the blade gradually ensures that you do not drastically disturb the soil.

Tips & Warnings

  • Poly pipe comes in many sizes. The larger its diameter, the more friction will be generated by pulling the pipe into the ground. Therefore, you may have to go much slower with large pipes in order to avoid stretching them.
  • Once finished with your pull, you will notice that the blade has made a long scar mark across the lawn. You can minimize its long-term effect on your lawn by first replacing any disturbed patches of grass, and then running over the scar mark with the tractor.
  • Never operate a tractor or plow without proper instruction from a renting agency or irrigation company. These machines have a variety of controls and you can easily cause irreperable and/or expensive damage by misuse.
  • Always contact your local agency responsible for marking underground wires and pipes before you begin your irrigation projects. Though you may have to wait several days until they can mark all of the public wires and pipes on your property, knowing where these wires and pipes are will help you avoid cutting them with the plow's blade. This service is usually free, and their contact information can usually be found in your local phone book.
  • Plan your intended path for pulling the pipe and then carefully dig up marked wires and pipes at the spots where the pull will cross them. Exposing these utilities will help you better avoid damaging them. Be sure to dig carefully with a blunt shovel when you are exposing these utilities.

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