Sprinkler Questions?

by | Apr 3, 2019 | Lawn Care

How much should I water?  Should I water 3 times a week?  How long should each zone run for?  Should I water at night or in the morning?  Why are some areas of my lawn swampy and others are burning up?  If you’ve ever asked yourself any of these questions then this post is for you!
To promote overall lawn health your lawn needs a specific amount of water at specific times.  Too much water and your lawn will develop thin roots, have stunted growth, develop too much thatch, likely contract a fungus, and won’t be of much use as it will be a swamp.  Too little water and your roots will shrivel and thin out, the grass will turn grey and then brown/yellow and literally disintegrate, weeds will flourish and you will have decreased heat and traffic resistance.  

Before even looking at your sprinklers you need to do an inspection of your yard.  A few things to consider are what kind of grass you have, slope, sun/shade areas, soil type (clay, sand, etc.), other plants or trees in the yard that could have roots taking water from the lawn, high traffic areas, or any other situation/circumstance that could hinder how much water is going to the lawn.  

Most grasses in the area are a mix of different breeds of bluegrass, fescue, and rye.  Each has different identifying elements as well as physical characteristics.  When it comes to watering your blue grasses will be more temperamental especially when temperatures are over 80 degrees.  Fescue is much more drought tolerant and doesn’t require as much TLC.  Bluegrass, when healthy, has a blue hew to it, hence the name.  It is soft with thin blades.  Fescue is more course, and has wide blades with sharper edges.  

Sloped areas will have a hard time getting watered deeper as water will naturally flow down the slope.  A slight slope might not be a big deal, but as the grade increases you will have to adjust your watering techniques.  Some steep areas may need to be watered two to four times (usually of very short duration) with a break of 15-30 minutes between.  This will help water absorb deeper into the lawn while limiting run off.   

Soil type may be hard to determine just by looking at it but can best be determined by a guess and check type method. (Read below to learn more). Water will penetrate sandy soils faster and will also dry out faster.  Water has a harder time penetrating clay soils (runoff and pooling can occur) but once it is soaked it will retain the water for longer periods of time.  The GENERAL idea is to water longer/deeper less frequently, but due to high clay content of many Cedar City soils some yards won’t be able to go much more than a day between watering in the summer heat.

Areas in direct sunlight for all or most of the day are going to need more water than shady areas.  This can get tricky if the same zone waters both a sunny area and a shady area.  A compromise may be needed to keep the sunny part watered and the shady part not swamped.  (This is something that often isn’t taken into consideration when sprinkler systems are designed.)  For a bad case of this you could water the zone properly for the shady area, and then hand water the sunny area on occasion to give it the water it needs.  

Once you have determined your yards make-up it is time to look at your sprinklers.  Different sprinklers emit different amounts of water (nozzles can often be changed to adjust this.)  Small pop-ups (That don’t spin) spray their coverage area completely every second they are on.  These type will need less time in comparison to rotary heads (they spin back and forth) and aren’t covering 100% of their coverage area at the same time.  The larger degree that they spin the longer they will need to run.  Yards can often have both types of sprinklers, which is fine, you will just need to note which zone is which type.  Hopefully, you don’t have any zones with a mix of pop-ups and rotaries on it as this is never a good thing and the only real solution is to change them to all be the same type.  

We recommend drawing a map of your yard and labeling each zone.  Number it or color code it and keep it next to your control box.  Set each zone for your best guess of time and run through them.  Check your watering depth with a screw driver, adjust the timing of each zone according and then when you water next try the same thing again.  Turn down any zone that feels overly saturated or where a screw driver goes in easily over 6”.  Turn up any zone that a screw driver doesn’t penetrate 6”.  Due the screw driver test before watering to determine when to water again.  This will be getting you close.  If you have a certain zone or area with problems that is when you may need to look closer at it, and maybe watering two or three times for a just a few minutes if you have a lot of runoff etc.  

How long to water? Until a screw driver will penetrate 5-6′ inches into the soil with little force.

How often to water? Whenever a screw driver struggles to penetrate 2-3′ inches with little force it is time to water.  It will change with the temperature/weather. (More heat & wind will dry the ground out faster.)

When to water?  City ordinances don’t allow watering between 8am-6pm.  In the summer even 6-8 pm may still be hot enough where you could lose more water than you’d like to evaporation.  Ideally, early morning will be best as you will have less evaporation, and the sun will be out shortly to dry the surface to help prevent mold or fungus growth.  One area of concern is pressure/volume.  If everyone on your street waters at the same time you may have issues with not enough water so just watch out for that.    

General Guidelines*:
Water 2x/week when daily highs are in the 60s.
Water 3x/week when daily highs are in the 70s.
Water 4x/week when daily highs are in the 80s.
Water 5x/week when daily highs are in the 90s.
Over 100 degrees plan on watering everyday.

*These are just general and you may need to water more so don’t follow this if it doesn’t work for your lawn.  

We hope this helps you know how to figure out your lawn and sprinklers and give you a great looking lawn while not wasting money on water.