Sprinkler Programming

Stream Rotors in Action

How to Save your lawn with proper

sprinkler controller programming.

Proper watering is the most important, number one priority to your lawn and landscape here in the high desert of Denver Colorado and the surrounding suburbs.  Without proper watering……… your fertilizing, aerating, spraying, and mowing will not give you the results you are looking for.  It all starts and happens only because of the water.

Screw driver test: To see if your lawn is wet enough any time of year, take a medium sized to large flat head screw driver and push it into the soil of your lawn.  If it is hard to push in then the soil is either too dry or you have a lot of rock in your soil.  If it goes in easy then your moisture level is good.  If it goes in easy, but sloppy, and there is standing water in the hole you just made, you have too much water, depriving the roots of oxygen because they are drowning.

Below, you will find a good starting point to a sprinkler program that is going to give you a deep watering and deep root penetration if you water this way regularly for the life of your lawn.  This watering schedule will lead to a very healthy lawn and a lawn that is more tolerant, getting through drought, diseases and weed problems with ease.  As long as you are properly fertilizing, aerating,  and mowing of course.

You want to water in cycles, meaning that you water through your zones/stations one time and then immediately after that cycle is done, water again and then again one more time when that cycle is done.  You want to do this on each and all of your watering days.  These shorter consecutive cycles create a deep watering by wetting the top layer the first round, and then soaking into the soil a little deeper between each consecutive cycle.  Having shorter run times on these cycles also prevents run off and waste onto the sidewalks and gutters, because if you dump water on hard compact soil for too long  it will just start to run off since the soil cannot absorb the water at the rate you are putting it down.  So watering in short cycles is going to give the water time to absorb in between.

When you water deep through cycles and skip a day or two in between watering days, your roots will automatically penetrate deeper into the soil because they are trying to find water.  When you skip a day in between watering schedules, the top layer dries out and the deep soil will still be wet which encourages the roots to penetrate deeper to get to that deep water.  This is how you create a deep root zone.

If you currently water every day you shouldn’t. Watering every day creates a situation where there is always water on the surface, so your roots will be shallow and that means you have  a lot of thatch.  So when it gets hot your lawn will stress out quicker than a lawn that has deep roots from deep watering and skipping days.  When you have a lot of thatch, you get more runoff since the thatch layer prevents a lot of water from soaking directly into the soil.  One problem leads to another in your lawn when not watered properly.

If you water once in the morning and once at night each day or any days for that matter, you are really harming your lawn because you are watering just enough to wet the surface each time and it dries out in between each watering times, so the roots never penetrate deeper into the soil making your lawn weak with a lot of thatch and prone to disease, it will succumb to  heat stress quicker and usually have more weeds.

Watering daily and/or at the wrong time of day increases the chances of getting a fungus in your lawn.  When you water at night (between 7pm-1am) the moisture sits on your lawn all night long and when it is summer time and warm out at night, the moisture and warm temperatures are a prime breeding ground for fungus problems.

So with all that in mind….. I have put together a good watering schedule that you can try out for 2 weeks and make adjustments to it from there.  If you start this program, I think you will see a great improvement over a 2 week period.  Of course creating a deep root zone will take a few years, not two weeks, but you may as well  start now.

Try putting this into your sprinkler controller/timer:

The first thing you should do is clear out all information in Program A, B, C, and D if you have that many programs, so that they don’t interfere with your new program.  You will only be using Program A.   Also make sure the time and date are correct and put in a new backup 9 volt battery if applicable.

Water Days: Program 3 days per week spring and fall skipping a day in between each day.  For example: Monday, Wednesday, Friday – Add a fourth day in mid summer if needed (If the lawn is drying out).  For example: add Saturday or Sunday during this time.  With this 3 day schedule in the spring and fall you will be skipping Saturday and Sunday each week, unless you add one of them in the summer.  If your mowing day is on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, you would want to put in the opposite days, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday(Or Sunday).

Station/Zone Run Times – this depends on the type of head on that particular station/zone: Pop-up Spray Heads (These don’t turn) 5-7 minutes each cycle. Rotor Heads (These Turn) 12-15 minutes each cycle. Drip System 15-20 minutes each cycle. Micro sprays (Typically on a drip system – They look like miniature pop-up spray heads) 5-7 minutes each cycle, but if they are mixed with drip emitters on the same zone then you need to water 15-20 minutes to get the drip emitters enough water. Stream Rotors (These heads look like spider legs that turn) 15-20 minutes each cycle.  Remember, you will be running theses cycles 3 x per watering day, see the next paragraph.

Cycle Start Times: Add up the amount of time it will take to go through your zones one time by adding up the times that you entered above on all zones and make sure you put enough time in between cycle start times to go through all zones once.  Most average residential landscapes are 1-1.5 hours of watering time in between cycles starts – For example if you have 4 zones and the total time to water is 36 minutes after you add up the station/zone run times, your start times should be 3am, 4am, and 5am (1 hour apart) getting done right before the sun comes up to dry off the surface of the lawn, helping to prevent fungus problems.    You always want to water early in the morning if possible.  There is generally less wind and you can prevent fungus problems by doing this. If you have 7 zones and the total watering time is 1hr and 18 minutes after adding up your station/zone run times, then your start times should be 2am, 3:30am, and 5am (1.5 hours apart).

You only have to use program A for this program.  Programs B, C, and D (If applicable) are not required unless you have a garden, or new seed/sod etc. that requires a different watering schedule.  For example if you lay new sod, you should water daily 3 times per day so you can put a separate program on Program B to water the area of new sod without over watering all of the other zones every day.

Try this program out for a couple of weeks. I think you will see great results from it.  If you need to make adjustments to it, just add or subtract a minute or two from the run time of each zone that needs adjusting.  If a zone is too wet subtract a minute (you will actually be subtracting 3 minutes since there are 3 cycles), and if a zone is too dry add a minute to that zones run time.  If the whole yard is overall dry after some minor adjustments, add a day, go from 3 days to 4 days, but don’t water more than 4 days per week, you shouldn’t need to.

More Watering Tips:

– You also need make sure your sprinkler clock is set to water at 100% for those of you who have a seasonal percentage adjustment on your sprinkler clock.

– Always turn your sprinkler clock to the off for a day or two if you get 1/4″ or more rain at your house, but don’t forget to turn it back on a day or two later.

– If we are having a dry winter like the last couple, you need to winter water your trees and shrubs and your lawn.  Give them all a really good soaking at least once per month but twice is even better.  You don’t have to use your winterized sprinkler system, just do it the old fashioned way with a garden hose and sprinkler.

– If you are watering enough and you still have brown spots, most likely you have an inefficient sprinkler system with bad coverage problems.  Don’t worry, most sprinkler systems average about 60% efficiency if your lucky, so this is very common and will show up when it’s hot and we are not getting any supplemental rain falls.  The good news is that this is usually something that we can fix with adjustments to heads or nozzles, or replacing heads with better more efficient heads that cover better.  Let us know if you need help with this.

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