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How To Dig Trenches

How to Dig Trenches

Sprinkler System And Irrigation Basics

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Once the irrigation design has been establed and staked out you are now ready to get your hands dirty digging the trenches. The first installation step is to trench along the lines you have marked beginning with the point of connection to the control valves.

The climate in your area can determine how deep to dig the trench. Cold climates where hard freezes occur require a trench to be at least 18 inches. In extremely cold climates consult an irrigation contractor or supplier to determine how deep to dig below the frost line. Mild climates can be made at a depth of 8-12 inches.

Recommended Supplies:

  • A Trenching Spade
  • Rented Trenching Machine (Optional)
  • Tarp (Optional)

NOTE: The main irrigation line is the pipe that runs from your service line to your valve manifolds The lateral lines are the lines that run from the valve manifolds to the sprinkler heads.


Before digging any trenches, you must have all underground utilities marked to avoid any damage. Call your local underground locator service or the city for information.

Trenching by Hand

Trenching by Hand

You will need a trenching spade to dig the trenches. Water the ground approximately two days before you dig trenches to soften the soil,. Put sod on one side of the trench and soil on the other, tarps can be used to lay the soil and sod on to make clean up even neater.

Trenching Using a Trencher

Trenching using a Trencher

Trenching machines are an easier, faster alternative to digging with a shovel. They can be rented by the hour, day or week, usually from a lawn supply store or rental equipment dealer. The person you rent from can show you how to operate the machine properly and safely. Trenchers should not be used to dig through ground cover, flower beds, on steep slopes or near buildings. Be sure to verify all underground utilities before trenching. In colder climates a vibratory plow is used for pulling pipe. (This is not a job for a novice.)

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