Deep Infrequent Watering or Follow Rain Bird?

pbx2_gwMay 31, 2013

So based on these statement from a well respected poster on the lawn care thread - is there a conflict between the Rain Bird methodology & the deep but infrequent watering methodology?

from dchall_san_antonio's Basics of Lawn Care:
Watering

Water deeply and infrequently. Deeply means at least an inch in every zone, all at once. Infrequently means monthly during the cool months and no more than weekly during the hottest part of summer. Do not spread this out and water for 10 minutes every day.
Also from dchall_san_antonio's Basics of Lawn Care:
Watering Measure the output of your sprinkler(s) with cat food or tuna cans. Time how long it takes to fill the cans. This can range from a low of 20 minutes to a high of 8 hours, so you have to find that number for your sprinklers.

Conflict:
Based on dchall_san_antonio's Basics of Lawn Care on watering - Water deeply and infrequently promotes healthy grass roots & crowds out the weeds.

vs.

My RainBird controller - which Cycle & Soak Frequent Watering system is based on their own algorithm that also has weather & evaporation factored into the equation.

Questions

I've collected the sprinkler output measurements based on 15 minutes collection per zone multiplying it by 4 to get an estimate of each sprinkler output per 60 mins.

Fed the assumptions to Rain Bird controller & it variably waters each zone upto 15 mins per zone for 2-3 times per week & less if there is rain.

RB's algorithm is based on run-off, evaporation & how much water is soaked into the ground & the output establishes what is the 'correct' watering output for healthy lawn & reduced watering cost.

Rain Bird is well known supplier in the golf course industry but their Watering in increments seem contradicting to us homeowners & our deep watering philosophy no?

Would appreciate any feedback!

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lehua49

pb,

I think what is happening here is that the input for the Rainbird Controller requires a certain degree of plant physiology knowledge that is not common for the average homeowner. Therefore the homeowner starts seeking that knowledge and finds there are many different ways to look at the problem with many different variable that may differ the outcome. The other part is trying to understand the terminology definitions used by Rainbird may differ from terminology used by other sources. An example of what I mean is soil type (the controller doesn't know you specific soil type). The soil types (sand to clay Soils) may vary the frequency that you irrigate. Grass can take may different regimens even with varying soil types. The Ph and salinity also will vary water regimens. So infrequent and deep may turn into frequent and short duration to combat excessive runoff. Also frequency of rain is also a factor. So for Rainbird to provide a wonderful controller that makes it a simplified system that you don't have to worry about or check if it is doing things right is somewhat false since you have to input the information that makes it run effectively. You need to learn an equivalent to a partial horticultural degree. When all you have to do is set the parameters and watch whats going on and then adjust to what your grass tells you it needs. That is gardening, a satisfying pastime if you have the patience to see it done right. The water audit with the cans or cup is a good way to see if your system is delivering what your grass needs. On the average of 1" depth in the can per week (spread out across the week in several waterings), this is just a general rule. More in the summer and less or none in the winter depending on your location. Anyone else have thought on this topic? Aloha

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 11:06AM
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pbx2_gw

Posted by lehua13 (My Page) on Sun, Jun 2, 13 at 11:06
pb,
I think what is happening here is that the input for the Rainbird Controller requires a certain degree of plant physiology knowledge that is not common for the average homeowner.

Therefore the homeowner starts seeking that knowledge and finds there are many different ways to look at the problem with many different variable that may differ the outcome. The other part is trying to understand the terminology definitions used by Rainbird may differ from terminology used by other sources. An example of what I mean is soil type (the controller doesn't know you specific soil type). The soil types (sand to clay Soils) may vary the frequency that you irrigate. Grass can take may different regimens even with varying soil types. The Ph and salinity also will vary water regimens. So infrequent and deep may turn into frequent and short duration to combat excessive runoff. Also frequency of rain is also a factor. So for Rainbird to provide a wonderful controller that makes it a simplified system that you don't have to worry about or check if it is doing things right is somewhat false since you have to input the information that makes it run effectively. You need to learn an equivalent to a partial horticultural degree. When all you have to do is set the parameters and watch whats going on and then adjust to what your grass tells you it needs. That is gardening, a satisfying pastime if you have the patience to see it done right. The water audit with the cans or cup is a good way to see if your system is delivering what your grass needs. On the average of 1" depth in the can per week (spread out across the week in several waterings), this is just a general rule. More in the summer and less or none in the winter depending on your location. Anyone else have thought on this topic? Aloha

Thank you for your feedback.
You hit it on the head: I need a horticulture degree to even program the RB.

I can't help but think I wasted money on this thing (2 months in ) because while it saves me money on water, it's killing me with the short duration but frequent watering which perpetuate the growth of weeds (esp. on my shrub beds).

Things like root depth in inches, slope of topography & additional watering needs % are just some of the questions I need to answer when working with the rainbird.

Easy enough to answer but still just guesses.

I may just default to the timed option on the RB & goto a more generally accepted residential lawn care schedule of deep & infrequent & take the guesswork out of programming the RB.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 12:39PM
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SaveH2O

pb,

Lehua actually hit a couple of good points. "frequency" and "duration" are on a much longer scale than minutes and days... the Rain Bird smart controller actually waters deeply and less frequently, the "cycle & soak" feature you mention only splits the irrigation cycle into chunks to ensure that on the day the controller is supposed to water all of the water actually reaches the roots and doesn't run off. Many professional irrigation contractors without the use of a smart controller emulate this by using multiple start times on a controller hence using the watering day more efficiently. Once the desired amount of water is applied (five times in a day for clay and maybe once for sand) the smart controller will wait until the soil has been depleted to a certain extent before applying any more water. So the irrigation frequency is really the time between watering days and not the time between "starts" on any given day. The great benefit of a smart controller like the Rain Bird is that it will vary both run time (on a watering day) and frequency (based on weather) additionally, the Rain Bird controller measures rain whereas other sensors simply shut off and not calculate how much of that rain was usable to your landscape. I would heavily discourage you from switching to timed option. The controller is actually watering "Deep and Infrequent" the multiple starts in the day should not be considered as part of the frequency they are just preventing you from wasting water due to run-off.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 2:28PM
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lehua49

pb,

I was not trying to discourage you from using the RB controller but that you need help in setting the parameters for your soil type and local climate. That help is ready available at your local landscape and irrigation stores, RainBird or local ag extension service. Farming grass or any crop has been a trial and error process forever. You will be doing this with any controller. You are the dictator of your system not the controller. You call the shots so understand the crop you are growing. Change your input info until the system is working like you want it. Good luck and Aloha

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 10:33PM
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pbx2_gw

Posted by SaveH2O (My Page) on Thu, Jun 6, 13 at 14:28
pb,
Lehua actually hit a couple of good points. "frequency" and "duration" are on a much longer scale than minutes and days... the Rain Bird smart controller actually waters deeply and less frequently, the "cycle & soak" feature you mention only splits the irrigation cycle into chunks to ensure that on the day the controller is supposed to water all of the water actually reaches the roots and doesn't run off.

I am still trying to figure the 'cycle & soak' options out a bit.
So while I have not investigated what type of soil I have (looks like sticky reddish clay from visual inspection) - the C&S setting seems pretty straight forward.
Unfortunately, it seems to split the watering for each zone over several days and so many minutes. It seems counter intuitive to the age old adage of deep/infrequent to attain root growth & minimize weeds.

Many professional irrigation contractors without the use of a smart controller emulate this by using multiple start times on a controller hence using the watering day more efficiently. Once the desired amount of water is applied (five times in a day for clay and maybe once for sand) the smart controller will wait until the soil has been depleted to a certain extent before applying any more water.

I understand what you are trying to say & it appears to alleviate some of my watering frequency fears, I may actually have to get a soil test to properly input the necessary control parameters.

So the irrigation frequency is really the time between watering days and not the time between "starts" on any given day. The great benefit of a smart controller like the Rain Bird is that it will vary both run time (on a watering day) and frequency (based on weather) additionally, the Rain Bird controller measures rain whereas other sensors simply shut off and not calculate how much of that rain was usable to your landscape..

I've noticed that my clay inputs, root depth & coverage setting for grass, shrubs, trees, or plants using the sprays & rotors have yield different watering times but not frequency.
ie. times can be go up or down because of type of foliage, root depth & slope assumptions but I cant for the life of me tell how the RB accounts for frequency except that it doesn't water after rainy days.

I would heavily discourage you from switching to timed option. The controller is actually watering "Deep and Infrequent" the multiple starts in the day should not be considered as part of the frequency they are just preventing you from wasting water due to run-off.

Thank you very much for your insightful feedback. I am really trying make sure that I am using water only when needed to maintain a healthy & vibrant lawn.
The RB is my first sprinkler controller & one that is very powerful from what I can see to help me in that purpose.

But the lack of information from the RB, the irrigation installer & the landscaper that laid the sod down has gotten me a bit frustrated & I appreciate any & all feedback!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 3:41PM
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lehua49

Pb,
I feel your pain about not having your builder and subcontractors be responsive to your requests. Par for the course I am afraid. One note about your weed comment. A regular frequent mowing regimen is the most important to controlling weeds in the lawn. In the planting beds, different watering schemes will have no effect to growth of weeds. What watering that make your plants healthy make the weeds healthier. Weeding is the bane of the gardener and takes concerted effort. Whichever way you do the weeding, the more frequent it is done the easier it is. JMHO Aloha

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 6:58PM
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