Irrigation Scheduling Information

If you’re looking to learn how to program your sprinkler control clock- look no further! We’re here to help you understand how to program an efficient watering schedule.

Essential Scheduling Piecesmore details

To create a watering schedule through your sprinkler control clock, you need to program 3 essential pieces:

  1. The days that you want your sprinkler system to water your yard.
  2. The run times, which is the length of time you want each zone to be watered.
  3. The start time(s) that you want your sprinkler system to begin watering.

If the schedule you input is missing any of these parts, your sprinkler system will not water your yard. Click on the sections below to learn more about each part of the watering schedule.

Watering Daysmore details

Most control clocks allow you to choose from a few different options in regard to which days to water.* Options often include watering:

  • On specific days (for example, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays)
  • On even days (meaning on the 2nd, 4th, 6th, etc. days of the month)
  • On odd days (meaning on the 1st, 3rd, 5th, etc. days of the month)
  • At specific intervals (for example, a 3-day interval would water your yard every 3 days)

The number of days per week that you need to water your yard varies based on weather, sun exposure, plant type, and many other factors. In most cases, turf grass should be watered about 1-2 days per week in Spring and Fall and about 3 days per week in Summer. Some water providers set limits on how many days or which days customers can water their lawns, so check your water provider’s website to understand which, if any, regulations you have.

*These are general recommendations for watering days. The specific needs of your yard may differ. 

Watering Run Timesmore details

The run time* is the length of time that you want a specific zone to be watered. Run times vary based on characteristics of each zone such as:

  • The head and nozzle type
  • The distance between heads
  • The water pressure
  • The flow rate from the heads
  • How much sunlight the zone gets
  • What type of plants (grass, flowers, shrubs, etc.) are being watered

You likely do not know all of this information, so it’s okay to estimate how long to run a zone for based on what you do know. Generally speaking, turf grass needs about 1/2 inch of water each day that you water. Most sprinkler brands have a guide that gives you information about their products, including how many inches of water their sprinkler models emit per hour. So, if you can determine what sprinkler type and brand you have, you can calculate how long you need to water to reach that 1/2 inch amount.

Periodically check on the condition of the grass and other plants in your yard and adjust your run times

If your water provider partners with Resource Central for our Slow the Flow program, you can sign up for an evaluation, during which, we can calculate how long you need to water!

*These are general recommendations for watering run times and turf grass watering needs. The specific needs of your yard may differ.

Watering Start Timesmore details

The start time* is the time that your sprinkler system will begin watering. On most control clocks, the start time refers to the entire cycle, NOT a specific zone.** In other words, you do not need to program in a separate start time for each zone.

Let’s say, for example, that you have a start time of 5:00AM and you have 5 zones that all run 20 minutes each. The program will start watering the zones in order starting at 5:00AM. So zone 1 will start being watered at 5:00AM and will shut off at 5:20AM. Zone 2 will start being watered at 5:20AM and will shut off at 5:40AM, and so on.

We recommend using a Cycle and Soak method for zones that water turf grass, which means programming multiple start times (cycles). To learn more about this, see “The Cycle and Soak Method” section.

So when is the best time to water? Many water providers have restrictions that customers cannot water in the middle of the day due to the hotter temperatures. With this in mind, we recommend watering either late at night or early in the morning. In early morning (around 3:00AM to 7:00AM), the air is typically cooler, wind is lower, and water pressure is higher.

*These are general recommendations for watering start times. The specific needs of your yard and may differ. Check with your water provider for any watering time restrictions. 

**A few sprinkler some clocks do require a start time for individual zones. We suggest consulting the user manual for your clock if you are not sure whether your clock requires this or not. 

Watering Programsmore details

We have discussed watering days, start times, and run times, but we haven’t yet gone over watering programs. Most control clocks have the options to input multiple programs often called Programs A, B, and C or Programs 1, 2, and 3.

We recommend using different programs for areas of your yard that have different watering needs. For example, you may want to water your veggie garden daily, your grass 3 times per week, and your shrubs once a week. In this scenario, you could put your veggie garden schedule on Program A, your grass schedule on Program B, and your shrubs schedule on Program C.

Make sure that when you are programming your days and start times on each program that they do not overlap. For example, if your grass stops being watered at 6:30AM on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, don’t put a start time of 6:00AM for your veggie garden because your sprinkler system will still be watering your grass.

The Cycle and Soak Methodmore details

One of our top recommendations to use outdoor water more efficiently is implementing the Cycle and Soak method for your turf grass zones. With the Cycle and Soak method, you water a zone for a short period of time, give the water time to soak in, and then repeat this cycle one or two more times.

Colorado has very dense, clay soil, which absorbs water very slowly. Using this method gives water more time to absorb into the soil. This reduces pooling, runoff, and evaporation. It also allows the water to penetrate deeper into the soil. This enables grass roots to grow deeper, which helps keep your lawn healthier and more resilient against stressors like heat, drought, disease, and pests.

So, as an example, let’s say you have 4 zones that need to run for a total of 15 minutes each on the days that you water. You can break these run times up into 3 cycles of 5 minutes each to employ the Cycle and Soak method. To program 3 cycles into your control clock, you just need to set 3 start times:

  • Start time #1: 4:00AM, zones 1-4 have a run time of 5 minutes each
  • Start time #2: 4:30AM, zones 1-4 have a run time of 5 minutes each
  • Start time #3: 5:00AM, zones 1-4 have a run time of 5 minutes each

It’s important to remember to leave enough time in between your cycles so that there is no overlap. In the example above, a full cycle takes 20 minutes (4 zones run back to back for 5 minutes each), so the start times are set more than 20 minutes apart. If you want to change a zone’s run time, remember that each minute you add or subtract will change the total daily run time by a minute for each cycle that’s programmed.

The Cycle and Soak method only needs to be used for zones that water turf grass. Drip irrigation has a much lower precipitation rate, so drip zones do not need to be programmed for multiple cycles.

Deep, Infrequent Wateringmore details

For established lawns, you should water deep on the days you do water, and let your yard dry out on days in-between. As mentioned, using the Cycle and Soak method helps promote deeper watering and deeper root growth. In additional to this creating a healthier lawn, it helps prevent soil compaction and promotes more uniform grass growth throughout your zone.

Allowing your lawn to then dry out between waterings reduces the risk of growing mildew or fungus or attracting unwanted pests. It also allows oxygen to re-enter the soil, which is important because grass roots suffocate without oxygen. As we noted in the “Watering Days” section, in most cases, we recommend watering your grass no more than 3 days per week. When there is a heavy rainstorm, you can skip a watering, but if there is only a drizzle, we suggest that you continue your watering schedule as usual.

Smart Controllersmore details

Smart controllers help take out the manual work of adjusting your watering based on the weather and season. They use Wi-Fi to collect local weather data and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. Therefore, many smart controllers don’t water on a set schedule like a traditional sprinkler control clock. If you have a smart controller, we suggest to enable the following options if your controller has them:

  • Smart cycling feature
  • Rain, wind, and freeze delay
  • Maximum of 3 watering days per week

Have questions?

Email our Slow the Flow staff, or call 303-999-3824.