Mimicking a Slow Rain Using Sprinklers

It’s intuitive to most folks that a slow rain is far more beneficial to a grass lawn than a brief downpour.

In order to prevent runoff it’s best to break our watering into 2 cycles: the first to get the ground moist so it can receive the moisture and the second to soak down deeper into the soil.

Cycle and Soak

This is a great method for keeping your lawn as green as possible especially during times when you’re only allowed to water once per week. It’s called the cycle/soak method. It’s very easy to set up your automatic sprinkler controller to perform this task for you automatically.

It requires just a few changes in settings on your controller’s dial. (These are generic instructions and should work on most brands of automatic controllers.)

If you don’t know which stations, also referred to as zones, are sprays and which are rotors, the first step would be in establishing this. A spray pops up out of the ground or is stationary above the ground and has a nozzle that water sprays through. A rotor pops out of the ground and sprays a stream of water as it slowly rotates.

Step One:

On the controller, turn the dial to Station Run Times. Make sure the Program Setting says A, otherwise, hit the Program Button until A appears (if the program options use a switch just switch between programs). As you advance through your stations, whether using arrow keys or turning the dial, I’d suggest setting the run times at 6 minutes for sprays and  13 minutes for rotors. When you get to the end of your stations, if  your controller doesn’t automatically add up all the minutes to establish a total run time you should add the times of each station and take note of the total. More on that later. Once you’ve set run times for all the stations press the Program Button for Program B and set each station to run a few minutes more than Program A’s. Press the Program button until A appears.

Step Two:

Turn the dial to Start Times. Set the start time on Program A to begin at the earliest possible time you can water (usually midnight). Press the Program B button or switch to the Program B switch and set the start time to begin as soon as Program A’s total run time ends (this is where we use the total run time to figure out when to set the start time for Program B). That’s the cycle/soak method and your lawn will love you for it!

Most water restrictions have two times a day you can water. If you want to utilize the controller to mimic an additional cycle and soak in the evening follow these additional steps:

Turn the dial to Start Times and press Program A. Set the second start time on Program A to begin at the earliest possible time you can water in the evening. Set Program B’s second start time to begin as soon as Program A has finished its evening cycle.  Remember the total run times we added up? That’s what makes this possible.

For example, here in Austin we’re allowed to water before 5 am or after 7 pm. That leaves us a block from midnight to 5 am and again that night from 7 to 11:59 pm. So, we’d set the controller on Program A to come on at midnight for the morning run and again in the evening at 7 pm and Program B’s first start time to come after Program A’s morning run has ended and the second start time to begin after Program A’s evening run.

Green Lawns in Times of Drought
Green Lawns in Times of Drought