Understanding Your Irrigation System

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An irrigation system is a mixture of hardware used to water a garden, such as an irrigation controller, valves, drip tubing, and sprinklers.

Programming Your Irrigation Controller

An irrigation controller can be intimidating but it’s simply a clock that turns your irrigation system on and off. Irrigation controllers, also called a timer or an irrigation clock, can be understood with a few definitions.

What is a “smart” controller versus a conventional controller?

A smart Understanding Irrigationcontroller is an irrigation timer that uses local weather and site specific landscape information to create a customized watering schedule for your home. These type of controllers create  a watering schedule to better match weather conditions and your plant’s actual water needs. Some smart controllers even allow you to set your controller from your smart phone. 

Before you purchase a new smart controller, apply for our rebate, and you can receive up to $300 to purchase a new smart controller.

A conventional controller runs on a preset schedule, set by you. It must be adjusted regularly throughout the irrigation season to match weather conditions.

What are the features of an irrigation system and controller?

  1. Stations – Each station on your controller operates a valve that releases water to an irrigation area or “zone” in your garden.
  2. Zone – An irrigation zone is the area in your garden that is connected to the same valve. Examples include a lawn “sprinkler” zone or a shrub “drip” zone.
  3. Valves – Valves are the physical hardware that the controller opens and closes to distribute water to each zone in your garden.
  4. Start time(s) – The time(s) of day at which a program will begin.
  5. Run time or duration – The amount of time in minutes that a specific station or “zone” will run for each program start time.
  6. Program – Each program is where settings are stored including start times, run times and days per week for the stations that you choose to include. Most controllers have Programs A, B, and C.

How do I schedule a conventional irrigation controller/timer?

These guidelines are for one brand of controller but can be applied to other conventional controllers as well. All controllers have similarly labeled features such as start times, run times, etc.

WaterSmart Numbered Timer
  1. On the bottom middle of the controller, first slide the “Set Programs” (1) toggle to the middle.
  2. In the upper left corner of your controller, move the toggle on Programs to A (2).
  3. Set the dial to current time and use the +/– buttons to locate the current time of day. Turn the dial one click to the left and use the +/- buttons to locate the day of the week. You only do this once to set the current time and date of the controller (3).
  4. Turn the dial to the “valve run times” to select a station and use the +/– buttons to enter the amount of watering time minutes for that valve, which sends water to a particular zone in your yard (4).
  5. Turn the dial to start times and use the +/– buttons to select the time you’d like your irrigation to begin. You can have three different start times per day (5).
  6. Now turn the dial to “schedule” the days you want your irrigation to run or the numbers of days to skip in between watering. Use the +/- buttons to enter this information (6).
  7. Now repeat steps 4, 5 and 6 for each station you are controlling, and program A is complete. Use Programs B and C for other zones that require difference frequencies of watering, such as grass, low water use plants, vegetable gardens, trees, etc.

For additional step-by-step instructions on how to program your irrigation controller and watering recommendations, click on the video tutorial below or visit srcity.org/WateringRecommendations.


Drip Irrigation Basics

What is drip irrigation and how is it different than spray irrigation?

Drip irrigation is a collection of ½” and ¼” tubes with emitters that provide water directly to a plant at the root zone slowly and deliberately. Emitters can either be built into the tubing with inline drip or can be individually added as emitter heads to a tube. Drip is best used for shrubs and other non-turf plants. It emits water in gallons per hour.

Overhead spray irrigation includes a collection of sprinkler heads that spray water across a landscape, quickly emitting water. Overhead irrigation is best for turf. It emits water in gallons per minute.

What are the components of a drip irrigation system?

Drip irrigation includes the following:

  • Valve
  • Pressure regulator
  • Filter
  • ½ inch and ¼ inch plastic tubing and emitter heads, or inline drip tubing with the emitters built in
  • Flush end cap

Here’s a helpful video that shows each of these parts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlsAKtnF-zU

How do you maintain an irrigation system?

Maintenance of an irrigation system is essential to saving water and maintaining healthy plants. Maintenance information can be found HERE

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