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watering schedule

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by 944own, Jun 12, 2011.

  1. 944own

    944own LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,178

    I have a few nice yards with irrigation that are starting to look bad. Everything around here is looking bad because it has been so hot and no rain. They usually run each zone about 5 minutes every morn but needs more water. What would be the best plan on when and how long to run the zones to get the yards more water. Thanks
  2. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    You really have to educate yourself here, best I can tell you in the short is the secret lies not in the frequency, but in the duration.
    Watering too often or too much hurts our water supplies and the lawn may not benefit, some will actually suffer as a result.
    Yes, you can water too much, too.

    Because what you need is depth, the water needs to seep down in the ground and
    the only way to get that is through exposure (read: time).
    Water longer, not more often.

    You're better off watering one day a week for 20 minutes than 7 days a week for 5.
    Get that?
    Every homeowner who is watering daily (or worse twice a day) is wasting water!
    They could double the exposure while watering twice a week and come out ahead.

    This is crucial, the world is running out of fresh water!
    No, I am not joking.
    Global water shortages

    But there's more to it...
    The entire irrigation system needs to be visually inspected, gone through zone by zone and inspect
    each riser for function (make sure it works but that it's also turning), make sure
    none are watering outside of a certain perimeter.
    Check for leaks, correct any problems.

    You have to study the shaiat, I can't explain it all, some sprinklers will cross,
    with some that is good, but if an area is too wet it might need adjusting.

    The zone timers have to be adjusted, so that it waters evenly meaning the dry areas get more, the wet areas less.

    Another tip: NEVER control water systems "manually."
    It's like a thermostat, once it's all set up it is best left alone.

    And so on...
    It takes time.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2011
  3. lukemelo216

    lukemelo216 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from ...
    Messages: 1,267

    early in the mornign is the best time. If you run them at night you are promoting diseases to form. Best time to water would be between 5am and 7am usually. This way the water can soak into the soil and keep it moist. The goal in watering is to get the soil wet about 6-10" below the surface. This will force the roots to "grow" deeper in search for more water. By ending at 7 the grass blades will be dry by about 10am (in most sunny areas). This will reduce the magnification of the blades of grass. If the grass is too wet during midday the water acts like a magnifying glass and bakes the sun and forces it to utilize more of the water in the soil thus not allowing for further root growth.

    Sometimes you have to play around a little with each zone, but we try to run ours for 15-20 minutes usually. If an entire zone is in a really shaddy area, we may run it 7.5 minutes or something so then the water doesnt pool up. In an extremely sunny area that gets zero shade, we will run those for maybe 20minutes to get just a little extra water. Sometimes too we may split that up and do a 15 minute run in the morning and then another 5 minute run in the late afternoon (after 4 usually) very rare that we actually do that though.

    Any yes topsites is correct, not everyday do you want to water the lawn. The beautiful thing is with an irrigation system you can program what runs when. So maybe those sunny areas we may water every other day, and those shaddy areas every 3 days or something. Longer, deeper waters less often is better than short watering more often. you want to soil to be nice and moist for a few days so then the roots can expand.
  4. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,274

    Since we get no rain I can tell you our grasses do ok on 15 minutes twice a week. If there is any chance it will run off change heads to MPs and then water for 30 minutes. The mps are less affected by wind and the droplets are larger so you get no drift in the wind.
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Watering 5am to 7am isn't going to work when you've got 9 zones each set to 20 and 30 and a few to 40+ minutes either,
    you can not just arbitrarily start a timer whenever you please, you have to start it depending on how long it takes to get through the cycle
    and if you're watering for 5 and 10 and 15 minutes you might as well shut it down, don't even waste your time sprinkling around
    in 100 degree weather that 5 minute bit of spittle isn't helping.

    One other thing...
    If you have a homeowner who is afraid of a 50 or 100 dollar water bill, you can forget the whole subject.
    Don't even bother arguing with them, best to be patient and just let them do their thing,
    but to water a lawn proper you need to drop some Hache Two OH!
    Most people don't get it, or they don't want to, that's fine as well.

    You ain't doing no good watering for short durations of less than 20 minutes, with few exceptions...
    These exceptions are shady areas that receive little to NO sunlight all day.
    Every other area likely needs more water, again most HO's whose systems I have inspected it's all wrong...
    Most have it set up to water 5 to 7 days a week for quick bursts :nono:
    5, 10 minutes, what a joke, why even have a system?

    All that is doing is drawing roots up towards the surface of the soil, roots follow the water
    and when you're just barely sprinkling the surface, roots will come to the surface.
    Then when the sun hits, your lawn is toast.

    Not 10 or 15 minutes, most zones in the deep of summer need 20-45 minutes or so, especially in full sunlight,
    and once, maybe two days a week.
    You're better off watering one day for 30 minutes than 7 days for 5.
    So if your homeowner is watering for 10 minutes 5 days a week, you can set it to one day for 40 minutes and come out ahead
    both in terms of how well the lawn does, and the dang water consumption and the resulting water bill.

    To determine your start time:
    You need to ADD individually the timers for each of the zones.
    So for instance if Zone 1 is set to 27 minutes and zone 2 to 30, that's 57 minutes.
    Add the rest of the zones and get yourself a grand total.

    Once you have this grand total, subtract it from 6am.
    The result is the time you want to start watering.
    You want it to be FINISHED by 6 and I don't care if you have to start it at 1 to do so.
    To finish any later is simply leaving water up for evaporation.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2011
  6. lukemelo216

    lukemelo216 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from ...
    Messages: 1,267

    yes exactly what topsites is saying. hes got the right idea. Bottom line is longer water less often. Get the roots to grow. Watering more often with less water will cause the roots to stay shallow and be useless.

    You need to play around with each zone and kind of experiment. Some areas may only need a 10 or 15 minute watering pattern while others may need 45 minutes to an hour so the soil gets soaked. You want to have the sprinklers come on again just as the soil is starting to dry up, but not completely dry. Remember hills, areas along driveways, along the house, the south and west side of the property all dry out much quicker and need more water.

    Between 6 and 7 finish time is right on. Right about 10am or so is when the sun starts to get hotter. So you want the water to be dried off the blades before that. Otherwise like I said, its just going to cook the lawn and use up all that water way faster and its going to be useless. Then you will be watering way more often than needed.
  7. 944own

    944own LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,178

    I am going to one of my nice lawns tomorrow to do mulch. Would you say I would be safe to just set the timer to do every other day in the early morn for 20 min per zone. The homeowner is not concerned with the water bill he just wants it to stay green and not burn up. Thanks for the replies
  8. lukemelo216

    lukemelo216 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from ...
    Messages: 1,267

    It depends on what the areas are like. I would maybe go like 30 minutes every 3 days or so. Your best bet is to generally water 2xs per week. The lawn will be green if you do that becasue your promoting deeper root growth. Do that, and Just be sure to have it so you mow on a day the water is off. Like water Tuesdays and Fridays or something. That way you can mow on wednesdays or thursdays, and the actual blades of grass are not soaking wet.
  9. flatlander42

    flatlander42 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,239

    I've always heard that you want an inch a week. Turn them on, place a few rain gauges around the lawn in different zones. Run them for 10 or 15 min and do some math.

    Split the times up between two or three times a week, and tadah!

    With the soil around here, I try and make them water as far away *before* from the day I plan on mowing. Most people here have a damned swamp for a lawn, and are afraid of not keeping the ground "WET"!! Almost makes me hate sprinklers all together. They never listen to me tho and it seems like I always pull up and their is water on walks and drives. I can't get it through their thick skulls that they are actually hurting their own lawns.
  10. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Water just enough to soak the root zone, then let it dry almost to the point of wilt, then soak the root zone again...

    The question is always asked "How long to soak the root zone?" Odd question, since every lawn is different and soils and real thatch makes a huge difference in how they should be handled...

    But the pro lcos always say the same thing, w/out ever advising to look at the root zone and see... Just guess is good enough... :)

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