(read this entire article on sprinklers and how to adjust and set them! Don’t just look at the pictures ok?)
The biggest mistake homeowners make is not watering their grass correctly! I could tell you story after story of people who destroyed their lawns with improper irrigation.
You already know that you need to water your lawn to keep it green. You’ve read on other websites about watering and that you should lay down about an inch of water per week during the summer (two waterings, one-half inch each time). But how exactly do you do that and what type of sprinkler works best?
You want a sprinkler that will keep the water low to the ground and in large droplets. This cuts down on evaporation and drifting. Larger drops also mean more water is being put down so you don’t need to leave the sprinkler out as long.
You want a sprinkler that is adjustable to cover different sized and shaped areas of your lawn. Fixed, spinning sprinklers are great for the kids to play in, but they only cover a circular area and most lawns just happen to be square!
A rain gauge should be used to find out how long it takes to lay down one-half-inch of water based on your water output and sprinkler adjustment. You can get one at any garden center. Place it in the path of the sprinkler and check it often until it is up to the half-inch line. (you only have to do this once)
Remember, there is only so much water that your hose puts out, so if you buy a sprinkler that covers a huge area, be prepared to leave it in that one spot for many hours!
Sometimes, less is more when you get the right sprinkler that lays down the water in a smaller area, but low and heavy…
What’s the Best Kind of Sprinkler?
By far, the most efficient sprinkler on the market is the good old fashioned impact sprinkler, sometimes called an impulse sprinkler. They’re the ones that make that familiar sound you grew up with: “chk, chk, chk, chk, chk, st,st,st,st,st,st,st,st,st,st,st… chk, chk, chk, chk, chk, st,st,st,st,st,st,st,st,st,st,st”
You should buy these made of metal or brass with a metal base unless you have low water pressure, in which case you may need to buy the cheap plastic ones so they turn properly. I usually don’t like the ones that have a spike for a base because the spikes will bend in clay soil.
The key in adjusting impact sprinklers is in the screw that the arm actually hits against to make the unit turn. (see picture) The screw will interrupt the water flow just enough as to fan it out evenly across the area you are watering. If your impulse sprinkler throws the water far away and heavy only, turn that screw so it interrupts the water stream more.
In addition, impact sprinklers spray the water one way on the sweeping pass, and spray another way on the return pass, meaning you get even coverage.
Of course, there are other adjustments on the impulse sprinkler, such as the “stop rings” that allow you to direct the spray into a specific area of the lawn. There is also a metal deflector at the top of the impact area that can be used to direct the spray in a certain direction, but usually only the metal screw is needed to create the correct spray pattern.
Now that you have your impulse/impact sprinkler and rain gauge, set them out in an area of the lawn and see how long it takes to get ½ inch of water down.
In My Own Lawn, Here is my Watering Schedule and Habit
My impact sprinkler (pictured here) will lay down ½ inch of water in an area in 42 minutes. In order for me to cover my entire front yard, I need to move it around to 2 distinct positions or “zones.”
What this means is that I need to set aside about 80 minutes of time in order to water my entire front lawn with ½ inch of water. I do this two times per week, usually keeping the waterings 3 days apart. The only time I add more water to the schedule is during super hot and dry periods. I can usually tell I need to add a third day of watering when patches or areas of my lawn turn dark gray.
On a final note, if you use the every popular “oscillating sprinkler” (see picture) you may be able to cover a much larger area of your lawn, but you will need to leave the sprinkler out 3 times longer. My oscillating sprinkler can water my entire front yard on its full range, but takes 4 hours (240 minutes) to lay down ½ inch of water. In addition, because the water is pushed high into the air, and this being the “Windy City,” much of the water is blown into my neighbor’s yard or onto the sidewalk.
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Look here for a great book on building your own sprinkler system at home.
How to Build Your Own Sprinkler System
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