When To Water & For How Long?


When should I water my lawn and for how long?


Controllers
Regardless of whether you live in the country or the city, the best time to water your lawn is in the early morning. This is the time of day when your lawn will absorb the most H2O and you will lose the lease H2O to evaporation. However, one bonus to watering in the early morning for city dwellers is that the water pressure will be at it’s peak before the population of you city gets up and starts using up all that water pressure for showers and baths! For rural folks, whose water comes from a well or direct from a lake, or pond or other source through an onsite pump.

Avoid watering during the day time, especially when the sun is at it’s brightest. Only a fraction of that precious water will actually make it to the grass.

How much should I water my lawn?

The amount you must water your lawn is largely impacted by the amount of rainfall you get where you live. This will be driven by the weather and a phenomenon called evapotranspiration (i.e. “ET”.) ET is the combined effect of water used by the plant and that which is lost to evaporation. ET is expressed in inches (or mm) of water per week. So based on the amount of water your grass takes in for nutrition and the amount of water that the environment takes out of the soil, you will have a new amount of water that has been debited due to ET and must subsequently be replaced.  Often times a local university will have accurate ET rates for your area of the country. You may also be able to find these rates published regularly in the newspaper or on a website.

How deep into the soil should water penetrate?

Soil-depthGenerally speaking, water should be able to penetrate down 6-inches into the “root zone” of the lawn. Ideally it is time to water again when that water level is at about 3-inches. You can check this in a variety of ways, by using different tools such as a shovel, a soil sample puller, or a digital sensor.

How much is too much (or too little?)

Most people are surprised to discover that there is more damage done, by overwatering a lawn than by under-watering it. This is due largely in part to the plant structures inability to extract the water left in the soil once so much water has washed through it. Without the water to provide it nourishment the grass becomes susceptible to insect problems, physical damage and disease.

What happens to grass during a drought?

ng655_01_front TurfSpyGuideIf your lawn can’t get enough water it will first go into a dormant stage, often marked by a bluish color. If the drought continues until the soil water is fully used, death will result for most cool-season grasses. Bermudas and other warm-season grasses will probably recover, however, the lawn’s quality will not.

 

 

6 Ways to prevent water waste


9 Ways to prevent water waste

 

Everywhere you look the world is (trying) to “go green”. This is especially true for the irrigation industry — finding ways to water our yards, gardens and crops that cuts back as far as possible on the senseless loss or overuse of water is key. Here are 9 ideas that can be easily implemented in your own yard.

 

night-sprinklerWater at night: By watering at night, more water is able to get to the roots of the plant than if you were to water during the day time because the sun and its heat are not causing the water to evaporate.
 

Mulching your grass clippings:  Instead of bagging your lawns clippings, it can be beneficial to mulch the clippings and let them settle back into the turf. The clippings will create a mat or thatch of sorts which traps the moisture in and protects from too much direct sunlight. Most recent lawnmowers have a mulch setting, or a removable bag which causes the mower to mulch by default.  Additionally, special blade(s) can be purchased for your mowers which are designed to mulch the clippings while they are inside the mower by adding an airfoil and additional sharp up-turned blades to further mulch the grass as it tumbles around under the mower before falling down into the turf.

 

MowerMow it high: Keep the deck setting of your lawn mower up above the 3.5” setting. The taller grass will allow a shadow to be cast from the turf and prevent water from evaporating too quickly. Additionally, taller grass looks healthier and helps to hide stressed areas.

 

2014-06-04_13-54-09Geyser Stop: With the help of this little device, you will never have to worry about waking up to a H2O geyser in your front yard or outside your business. Simply install one of these inexpensive devices inline with each sprinkler head you have and it will mechanically monitor and regulate the flow of water. Should the sprinkler head break or become damaged and begin to gush water out in a geyser the metal ball that is housed within the valve will be forced up against a seal preventing any water from flowing through that head. All other heads will be able to continue watering as usual.

 

aaa-smartSmart Controller: The new generation of smart controllers is making big waves in the sprinkler industry. Suddenly, managing the start and stop times of your sprinklers is easy to do! You can use your laptop or smart-phone to create watering schedules and programs and schedule them in a calendar to start and stop at predetermined times. Because sprinkler controllers can be difficult to program, many people took a “set it and forget it” approach to watering. Letting the sprinkler system run for the same amount of time all year long, instead of giving the lawn the prescribed amount of water according to the season. A smart controller will empower you to make those changes without the fear of messing something up and having to call someone to reprogram the controller.

 

shutterstock_79739230Rain Sensor / Moisture Sensor: Without a rain sensor or a smart controller that is connected to a live weather feed, your sprinkler system won’t know the difference between a sunny day and a downpour. Incorporating a rain sensor will prevent watering during a rainfall. Some rain sensors can even meter the quantity of rain and calculate how much system run-time was replaced by the rainfall and stop the system from running accordingly. Similarly, a soil moisture sensor is able to override the watering schedule when necessary.

 

Installing Check Valves: Check valves are designed to prevent from needlessly draining out of sprinkler heads at lower elevations in the system whenever the system is turned off.  This problem is especially prominent in conditions where there are elevation changes and hills where water can run back down from and out of sprinkler heads at lower elevations. Look for sprinklers with build in check-valves in them. Sprinkler heads that include a check valve in them will prevent any water from escaping in low pressure situation and are often indicated as “SAM” (Seal-a-matic) or “CV” (Check Valve) in the model number or name of the product.

 

Water Meter connected to smart controller:  Most controllers will accept a water mete to be installed for ministering the amount of water being used. When paired with a smart controller that is connected to a wifi network. The smart controller will monitor the amount of water that is used on average and if water begins to be used at a higher rate than what it has come to recognize as “normal” it will send out a warning message over the network to let you know that there is a problem of some kind.

 

165376220_fb050b94da_z_0Stay in adjustment: Check your sprinklers regularly to ensure they are not spraying places that they shouldn’t be. Common offenders of misplaced water waste are sprinklers spraying on sidewalks, the road, sides of buildings or fences, or vegetation which is blocking the water from spraying where it needs to go.

Save Water Without Sacrificing a Beautiful Lawn


Save thousands of gallons of water and have the best looking lawn on your block by using these simple tricks.

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Every year I look forward to winter for one very big, very important reason…no more lawn care or yard work. I used to live in the northern states where in the winter you would trade in your lawn care tools and tasks for snow removal tools and tasks. But Now that I live in the warmer southern states I don’t have to worry about snow removal (except for a few freak incidents resulting from this year’s totally bonkers winter – but that’s another topic altogether!)

But alas, the end of winter is coming into focus and it won’t be long before we will all have to get out our lawn mowers and weed wackers. So lets review some simple ways you can save water this summer while creating the greenest most beautiful lawn on your block

Mulch

2014-02-24_10-04-28spin_prod_242147301Mulching your grass clippings and allowing them to return back to the ground instead of bagging them and discarding them will help to conserve water use. The clippings act as an insulation of sorts preventing the moisture loss. Even if your lawn mower is not designed to be a mulching mower, you can buy special blades that will help to chop the clippings more finely allowing them to fall down into the grass.

When To Water

shutterstock_71595412Knowing when to water is key. It is sometimes mistakenly thought that the best time to water is at the height of the days heat and direct sunlight exposure; possibly because it is thought that the moisture will provide a break from the intense stress of the sun and heat. However, this is just simply not true, the best times to water is the early morning and the late evening… when the sun is lower on the horizon and the winds are typically at their lowest. These conditions help the water to not evaporate uselessly.

Timer

shutterstock_172496273You lawn has needs too! Be sensitive to the needs of your lawn and give it what it wants! Far too many people think that a sprinkler system is a set it and forget it type of system. (And while we hope that it does function in a set-it-and-forget-it fashion, the timing does need some attention on a month to month basis,) As the seasons change, the amount of water required by your lawn will change as well. In northern climates where sprinkler systems are decommissioned in the winter and blown out, the watering times shown below will only apply to the months where you are watering, whereas in warmer southern states climates year round watering should follow a pattern resembling this one. The following table shows a general idea of the amount of water you need to apply to your lawn based on the time of the year.

January – 12 minutes July – 49 minutes
February – 10 minutes August – 60 minutes
March – 17 minutes September – 48 minutes
April – 40 minutes October – 43 minutes
May – 64 minutes November – 32 minutes
June – 50 minutes December – 16 minutes

Cut It High, It Won’t Be Dry –

shutterstock_122944705During the growing season of the lawn, it is best to allow the grass to stay higher. Taller grass is much more healthy and robust than a tightly shorn lawn is. Some people advocate that the first mowing of the season be a very close one, however, we recommend that you de-thatched your lawn prior to the first mowing by using a power-rake to remove last years remaining dead matter. This process along with aeration will give the lawn the best access possible to fresh air, water and sunlight. Then going forward throughout the growing season the lawn should not be mowed down really short — taller grass is healthier. This does mean that you will have to mow more often, but it will provide you with a much greener, much more beautiful and less thirsty lawn.

Water Brown Spots with a Hose 

shutterstock_1505857972014-02-24_11-19-07During the main growing season of the year, if you have a brown spot in your yard, and you have checked to ensure your sprinkler are hitting it, rather than running the system for longer time, you can water that single spot using much less water  by using a hose with sprinkler on the end. Purchase and incorporate an automatic shutoff to prevent from over watering. Simply set the sprinkler to cover the brown area of the yard and set the timer to shut it off, so you don’t forget about it.

If you find that the brown spot is not greening up after being given plenty of water, then you should probably look into other issues such as a fungus, or grubs which can cause a brown spot or dead spot inspite of receiving plenty of water. There are solutions for applying all-natural insecticides directly through the sprinkler system.

Collect Rain Water –

rainbarrel_greenshutterstock_127813637You can conserve a tremendous amount of water by using recycled rainwater to water your plants, especially if you are the type who uses a running hose to water your plants. The good news is that if your home has rain gutters already installed, then collecting rainwater may be easier than you thought! Simply allow the water to collect on it’s own in a rain barrel designed to collect and store water, whenever it rains and use that water in a watering can to water your plants.

Use a Rain Sensor With Your Sprinkler Timer—

Open-box-things-out_bundleTechnology has brought so many different area of our lives into the 21st century digital world. This is no exception for the area of sprinkler controllers. By incorporating the use of internet connections, and sensors seeing a sprinkler system running while it is raining is now a thing of the past! Get a controller which can access the weather report and adjust it’s control automatically, or install a rain sensor to shut down the system when it senses rain.

How to Choose an Irrigation Controller


 

irrigation controllers

Web Based Timers– Example: Irrigation Caddy S1– Web based controller that can connect to Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable, 9 zones, 5 start times, and is rain sensor compatible. Your controller can be controlled from your PC, tablet, or mobile device. No special software is required.

Battery Operated Controller– Example: Irritrol IBOC-12PLUS 12 Station Outdoor Sprinkler Timer– Sets up to 12 stations, comes with solar and battery powered options, and built-in surge protection. Battery operated controllers can be used for residential or commercial use or for sprinkler and drip irrigation systems.

Standard Controllers– Example: Hunter PCC1200 12 Zone Outdoor Sprinkler Timer w/ Internal Transformer– Up to 12 stations and 12+ run times per day can be set up, weather sensor ready and could be used for large commercial applications. Simple and cost effective, standard controllers are a great option for those installing a basic sprinkler system.

Cyber Rain

Irrigation controllers can use weather conditions to determine how much water to apply and when to run your sprinkler system. Little monitoring is required, and it can help you save up to 25% of the water that you would apply by a traditional controller.

Most irrigation controllers vary in their complexity, but are relatively simple to install and operate. Installation requires some basic electrical knowledge and can be accomplished by most homeowners in as little as twenty minutes or as much as three hours. Sprinkler timers come in a wide range of makes and models. It is important to choose your timer based on the size of the sprinkler system and any specific landscape requirements.

Three major factors that should affect your selection of a sprinkler timer:

Zone/Station Quantity- You need to decide how many zones are in your irrigation. The timer you select must be able to operate at least as many zones as your sprinkler system is broken into.

Location – You have to decide where you want your controller mounted– indoors or outdoors

Desired Number of Programs- A minimum of two programs is recommended for programming flexibility; you may want more for increased flexibility. Most sprinkler timers come in single, two, three, or four-program designs.

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Additional Features:

  • Remote: Many of the major irrigation companies such as Hunter, Irritrol, and Rain Bird carry compatible remotes that you can use up to 2 miles away to operate your system without all the walking back and forth.
  • Seasonal Watering Adjustment: Most timers have seasonal scheduling options, in addition to daily, weekly, and monthly scheduling.
  • Memory: If you live in an area where power outages are common occurrences, battery backup is highly recommended, which will store programming indefinitely without power.
  • Self-Diagnostics: Some timers include water fluctuation compensating diagnostic programs or short-circuit protection.
  • Rain Sensor: A great water-conserving feature for sprinkler timers is a rain sensor, when precipitation is detected watering is suspended temporarily.

**As a matter of personal preference many additional features and options may be available that you can choose but are not critical to your sprinkler system functioning properly.**

Here are a few links to help you make the best decision for your lawn:

Sprinkler Timers http://www.sprinklerwarehouse.com/Sprinkler-Timers-Controllers-s/23.htm

Drip Irrigation Timers http://www.sprinklerwarehouse.com/Drip-Controllers-s/1048.htm

Battery Operated Controllers http://www.sprinklerwarehouse.com/Battery-Operated-Controllers-s/7892.htm

Types of Timers http://www.sprinklerwarehouse.com/Battery-Operated-Controllers-s/7892.htm

Choosing a Timer: http://www.sprinklerwarehouse.com/choosing-sprinkler-timer-s/8257.htm

Broken Septic System


Broken Septic System

Septic System

Now I know no one likes talking about a septic system… I mean it’s poop, that’s what it comes down to…. However when that poop is all over your yard you might change your mind. I bet that’s why you are reading this right now isn’t it!? I figured just as much. You want to know first if you can fix it yourself, and second if not how much it’s going to cost, right?

1. No

2. A Lot

Once your conventional system fails, most home owners are recommended by professionals to install an aerobic septic system. These systems have a 98% clean out of the tank when applied with their irrigation system. You are really hitting two birds with one stone,  a fertilized lawn and getting rid of your poo.

Of course an aerobic system is not cheap, but it will last between 40-60 years and maybe even longer if you keep up on annual maintenance and treat her nice. No chemicals or any “foreign” objects. There is oxygen loving natural bacteria in your tank that feeds on the…um… effluence… and it cannot digest your child’s army figurines.

Shop around for a quality, cheap septic cleaning company. You need someone that knows their stuff, but you also don’t want to pay that much. Most homeowners don’t factor in the annual cost for a septic system or the debt they might incur if their system fails. Installing a new one yourself is almost always out of the question since it requires a lot of knowledge experience and is a huge hassle if installed incorrectly.

You may be out of luck, but after following my tips you can dig yourself out of that disgusting effluent-filled hole and go find a reliable aerobic septic system.

Septic System

Silly you. You thought ½” tubing measured ½”.


Half inch tubing is literally the backbone of many drip irrigation systems. It is by far the most popular size used.  The only problem is half inch tubing isn’t half inch.  It’s close! Closer than ‘hand grenade’ close. More like ‘electric razor’ close.

 

Piping has specific dimensions. Steel, iron, copper, pvc all have set standards set by ASTM International.  This means that the steel pipe you buy in Maine will fit the fittings you buy in Nebraska and connect to the existing pipe in Alaska.

Plastic tubing? No, no real standards.  The size can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer or even within the same manufacturer.  The term ½” is known as the nominal size, or the industry trade description of the product. As they say in the diet commercials, your results may vary. A lot, actually.

Irrigation 1/2-inch polyethylene tubing is available in different configurations:

1/2-inch – .570″ ID x .670″ OD     1/2-inch – .580″ ID x .700″ OD
1/2-inch – .600″ ID x .700″ OD    1/2-inch – .620″ ID x .710″ OD

Why do you care?  Honestly, the sizes are so close they won’t have much effect on water flow, especially the two biggest. You care because fittings don’t always fit. It’s easy to buy a ½” fitting that won’t fit a ½” tube.

It is important when building a drip system to check the internal diameter of the tubing against the size of the fittings you need. While always buying the same brand of tubing and fittings help it is not a guarantee of fit. The two fittings in the picture are from the same company.  They are not interchangeable. If you put the .520” in a .600 ID tube and clamp down tight enough it should hold. You can’t put the .600” in a .520” tube without deforming the tube.

Before you buy your system take a moment and verify dimensions. Look at the barb fittings  and you see the specs are given for each piece. All you need to do is match them to your tubing.

Fortunately, ½” tubing seems to be the only product with this problem. The ¼”, ¾” and 1” are all consistent in sizing.

Why didn’t the soil sensor want to party with the rain and rain/freeze sensors? BECAUSE THEY WERE ALL WET! Hahahaha…get it? All wet? Huh? Never mind….


I could have said “because he was well grounded and they were stuck up!” Would that have been any better? No?  Ok. I’ll stop.

Today’s controllers can do a number of things: multiple programs and start times, rain delays, soak cycles and more. They do it routinely, day in and day out, like nice little robots. But what happens if the conditions change? What if you don’t need more water? Tropical storm comes through and drops six inches of rain and your system is still running? What if your grandma is showing her favorite ice hockey moves on your frozen driveway? Need more ice?

Sensors are the answer. A sensor will turn your system off when there has been enough rain, or a freeze hits or if your soil just doesn’t need the water. This saves money on your water bill and, in the case of freezing, can prevent that lawsuit from when Grandma misses the goal and the puck flies across the ice into your neighbor’s window.

The simplest is the rain sensor. Easy to set, almost maintenance free. The rain sensor connects to your controller, either in a direct wire or wireless connection, and stops irrigation after a certain amount of rain has fallen. You mount it in an open area, such as the eaves of your house. You determine the amount of rain that causes the shut down, usually from 1/8” to 1”. To set the sensor you simply turn the top to the proper setting. That’s it. Rain comes down, sensor gets wet. When it gets wet enough it stops irrigation. Some rain sensors suspend irrigation immediately during rain events without need for rainfall accumulation. It rains, they stop.

Rain/freeze sensor. A rain/freeze sensor handles rain just like the standard rain sensor, either on accumulation or immediately upon rainfall. They add the advantage of shutting irrigation down before the water sprays and icicles and ice patches form on your yard and drive. The most common sensors stop activity when the temperature reaches about 37 degrees. Some models let you choose the shut off temperature, ranging from 35 to 45 degrees. The irrigation remains off until the temperature warms to above the freeze cut off settings. The rain/freeze sensor looks pretty much like a standard rain sensor.

The moisture sensor is a different kind of creature. The moisture sensor is buried in the ground, not up high. It doesn’t care if it rains or freezes. All it cares about is keeping the correct amount of water in the soil. If the soil has sufficient moisture it interrupts the irrigation cycle. Too much water in the soil can be just as harmful as too little. The moisture sensor aims for the proper range of moisture.  When the soil gets too dry it turns the cycle back on. With a direct read on soil moisture you don’t worry about wasting water through unnecessary irrigation.

With the proper sensors you can save water and money by watering only when needed. You also decrease liability by preventing icicles  and hazardous ice patches on the drive and walk.  The only downside is that Grandma might be upset you took her ice rink away.

Can’t afford a trip to the Bellagio? Stream rotors + your music + your lawn chair = you’re there!


The fountains at the Bellagio, Las Vegas, are world famous. They are designed to take you away from stress and trouble with their combination of dancing water, music and light. They are not, however, designed to keep you from gambling.

Each performance is a unique interpretation of a classic piece of music.  Their definition of classic covers a broad spectrum: Mozart, Glenn Miller, the Beatles and more. I hope they are working on Hank Williams. That might take a while. His work is pretty complicated.

If you can’t make it to the Bellagio, bring the fountains to you. Get stream rotors for your yard. You will enjoy the relaxing show and you will water your yard at the same time. Having a beautiful yard helps you relax even more. You benefit in many ways.

Stream rotors are different from standard rotors in that, instead of blasting a great deal of water out of one nozzle, they produce multiple streams of water of lower volume. These streams come out at different angles, some high, some low, ensuring even coverage. If you have sloped land the slow, even coverage minimizes the chance of water runoff. Blasting gallons of water every minute at sloped land just encourages runoff, as the soil cannot absorb the water as fast as it is applied.

In traditional stream rotors the Toro 340 is the answer. Designed to replace impact or gear driven rotors with a ¾” inlet it covers from 15 to 30 feet. It also has 9 easily set patterns to cover most any area. Great coverage, great application.

Don’t have a commercial application? Looking for the Bellagio effect at your home? No problem. In the last few years a number of manufactures have developed stream rotors that fit standard pop-up spray assemblies. The stream nozzles simply swap out with the standard spray nozzles and you are in business. Rain Bird and Hunter have every situation covered.

Not sure why you want to get rid of your old nozzles? Two good reasons come to mind. First, the stream nozzles cover up to 30 feet, where spray nozzles stop around 15 to 17 feet. This means that in many systems you can have the same coverage while eliminating a number of heads, saving water. Second, stream nozzles are not as sensitive to breezes as spray nozzles. The droplets are bigger and heavier; they go where they should when standard sprays are being blown away. Wait, I’ll add a third, no charge.  A zone with stream rotors can use 30% to 40% less water for the same coverage. Less water = less money.

The reason for their efficiency lies in their pattern. Small streams, slow application and constant, even movement add up to  more consistent, usable irrigation.Take a look at the spray pattern below.

Notice how closely it matches the Bellagio fountain pattern? Quality knows quality.

So turn on the stream nozzles, add music, sit back and enjoy the show. You can charge your neighbors admission if you wish. After all, look at the money you saved them by bringing the Bellagio to them.

Drought? There ain’t no stinkin’ drought. Waiter! Two drops of water, please.


So let’s talk about money. Yours, mine, yours and yours. I do want to go over one water fact first. It’s a surprising fact to many people, even though it’s obvious. Fact: the Earth will never, ever run out of water. Ever. Never. Can’t happen until the Sun novas or the asteroid-to-end-all hits.

Great news, huh? Sure beats the ‘not enough water to water the crops’ and ‘not enough water to drink’ rants you hear all the time now.  Want water? We have water.

All you have to do is pay for it. And it’s going to get very, very expensive. Costs are going up. Eden Prairie, Minnesota: +7%; Clay Center, Kansas: +26%; Hershey, Pennsylvania: +14%; Sacramento, California: +27%.

Eyes glazed over yet? Mine did and I’m writing this. Don’t want to pay? Fine, go get the water. It’s in the ocean (remove salt and fish before use) or the nearest lake (long walk in Arizona) or deep underground. Start digging.

The problem is not the lack of water. It’s the lack of drinkable water in particular areas. Lots of it today in Houston, Texas.  Not so much in San Antonio, Texas.  Or parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, etc. Getting water from one place to another costs lots of money. Lots. Whether you are pumping from underground (now discouraged), piping in from near or distant lakes, or pulling from a river, it’s expensive.

And it’s not just the drought that’s causing prices to increase. Sometimes you are just mussel bound. No, not the gym kind. Mussel. Like aquatic animal. Zebra Mussels have clogged up water pipes at numerous municipal water supplies. The Great Lakes has them. Lake Takoma in Texas has them. They are clogging the water supply lines and are expected to cost the US $5 billion in control efforts and reparation. How big is this monster? About the size of a dime.

What else is causing your water bill to go up? Surprisingly, the fact that we are using less water. Water districts have fixed costs/overhead, such as electricity, payroll, insurance, equipment, fuel, supplies, etc. All budgets are figured on a estimate of how much water is sold divided by overhead equals cost per gallon.  Gallons sold/fixed costs = cost per gallon.

Well, when you use less water (you meaning everyone as a whole), the quantity of gallons sold goes down. This means the district does not sell enough to cover its costs. It now has to raise the cost per gallon to match the fixed costs. So cost per gallon goes up and usually stays there.

Confused? Use the donut idea. Pretend you sell donuts for $.05 (5 cents) each and you clear $.01 per donut. Now say it costs you $1.00 to operate. You have to sell 100 donuts to break even. If Weight Watchers moves into your neighborhood and half your neighborhood joins, you can only sell 50 donuts. This means you only make $0.50.  That’s not $1.00 by a long shot. So you have to raise the price of each donut to $.06 to keep your $1.00  (ain’t finance fun!).

Water costs are going up. Conservation does help, as it means we need fewer pumps and less piping. But, as you can see, it’s not a cure. The reasons are varied and the drought is involved but it’s not the only thing.

That’s it. Not trying to sell anything, except possibly water conservation. Just trying to help you understand where your money is going and why.