Timer Tune Up
With the proper setting of your sprinkler timer (also know as the irrigation controller) you can save thousands of gallons of water each year in landscape irrigation, while helping to prevent plant loss or diseases caused by over watering. Just because your sprinkler timer is “automatic” doesn’t mean you can set it and forget it. You’ll need to change the watering schedules as plants become established, month-by-month, and when it rains. Here are some basic tips for getting the most water-use efficiency out of your sprinkler timer.
1. Keep your timer accessible: You will be adjusting it monthly, make sure your timer isn’t buried on your garage wall behind large storage boxes or other obstructions. You will also need to access the back or inside of your timer’s box to regularly replace its back-up battery.
2. Irrigation Key Functions:
- Run Time: This is the station duration time, in minutes, when a specific valve will stay open and therefore water a station or zone.
- Water Days: These are the days (currently two days) each week when a specific valve will be activated to water a zone.
- Start Times: The times at which a specific valve will open to irrigate a station or zone. In “cycle and soak” irrigation scheduling, the same zone may be watered two times in one day, at one hour apart. This increases water-use efficiency by allowing the same amount of water to soak into the soil, rather then at once when it is more likely to pool and run off.
- Water Budget: Most irrigation controllers have a seasonal percentage adjustment, or water budget feature, which allows the watering run time for all electric valves managed by the timer to be increased or decreased with just one adjustment by percentage.
- Off or Stop Switch: This will stop all irrigation programs from running until you toggle back to “Run”. Your previous settings will be saved. This is great during rainy days. (No watering 48 hrs. after a rainfall)
3. Additional Timer Tips:
- Set run times to avoid runoff: By setting the sprinkler timer to turn on for the
recommended number of minutes (3-4) one hour or more apart. This will promote deeper watering and healthier root growth while runoff is reduced.
- Set watering days for season and plant needs. Please refer to the "Resources" / "Brochures and Mailers" section of this website for the “Suggested Weekly Summer Irrigation Schedule”.
- Use water “budget” feature for interim adjustments. After programming your timer
for 100% water application (as typically required in July and August) you need only make one simple
adjustment each month to “budget” the water application to meet the plant’s changing needs. See Watering Index
Water your grass only when it needs it.
A good way to see if your lawn needs watering is to step on the grass. If it springs back up when you move, it doesn't need water. If it stays flat, the lawn is ready for watering. Letting the grass grow taller (to 3") will promote water retention in the soil.
Water during the early parts of the day. (No watering 9:00am to 5:00pm )
Avoid watering when it's windy. Early morning is generally better than dusk since it helps prevent the growth of fungus. Early watering, and late watering, also reduce water loss to evaporation. Watering early in the day is also the best defense against slugs and other garden pests. Try not to water when it's windy - wind can blow sprinklers off target and speed evaporation. water more frequently but less duration. Soil can only accept so much at a time. Try two run cycles at 3-4 minutes each thereby, allowing the water to soak into the soil rather than running off due to applying to much at one time.
You can greatly reduce the amount of water used for shrubs, beds and lawns with strategic placement of soaker hoses, rain barrel water catchment systems and simple drip-irrigation systems. A watering meter can be easily added to your hose, and lawn sprinkler timers can be used to set water usage to required needs. Avoid overwatering plants and shrubs, as this can actually diminish plant health and cause yellowing of the leaves.
Weather conditions, such as local temperature and humidity, level of rainfall, and amount of sunshine play an important role in determining just how much and when you should irrigate. Simply using timers to turn on the sprinklers for the same amount each day and week doesn't factor this in. Weather-based irrigation controllers (WBICs) allow for an accurate, customized irrigation by automatically adjusting the schedule and amount of water in response to changing weather conditions. Not only does this save water by reducing unnecessary watering, it allows you to tailor irrigation to meet your landscape's specific plant needs.
Plant drought-resistant shrubs and plants.
Many beautiful shrubs and plants thrive with far less watering than other species. Replace herbaceous perennial borders with native plants. Native plants will use less water and be more resistant to local plant diseases. Consider applying the principles of xeriscape for a low-maintenance, drought resistant yard or view landscaping ideas.
Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants.
Mulch will slow evaporation of moisture while discouraging weed growth. Adding 2 - 4 inches of organic material such as compost or peat will increase the ability of the soil to retain moisture.
This simple practice can save as much as 150 gallons when washing a car. Use a spray nozzle with a shut off valve when rinsing for more efficient use of water. Better yet, use a waterless car wash system and never see your wash water enter the gutter, ocean and bay again. View a waterless car wash product.
Don't water the gutter.
Position your sprinklers so water lands on the lawn or garden, not on paved areas. Repair and maintain your irrigation system. Periodically run your system station by station to view what is happening. Also, avoid watering on windy days.
Check for leaks in pipes, hoses, faucets and couplings.
Leaks outside the house may not seem as bad since they're not as visible. But they can be just as wasteful as leaks indoors. Check frequently to keep them drip-free. Use hose washers at spigots and hose connections to eliminate leaks.