How to Run a Sprinkler System

Properly calibrating your automatic sprinkler system is a major part of ensuring plush green grass and healthy trees, bushes, and flowers. Once you figure out how much water you need in each section of your yard, just set the automatic sprinkler system control program, and your work is done.

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Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:

  • 5 to 10 open containers, 3 to 6 inches in diameter
  • 1 ruler

Step 1

Check the sprinkler heads to make sure they are in proper working condition. Use the same head type if a replacement is necessary. Be aware that mist heads will apply more water than impact heads.

Step 2

Increase the water pressure if it is low, so the lawn receives good water coverage. It may be necessary to contact your water department if you don’t know how to turn the water pressure up.

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Step 3

Decide what time of day you will water the lawn. Early morning and late evening are the best times because you will lose less water to evaporation.

Step 4

Find out how much water per hour your automatic system supplies. Place 5 to 10 containers that measure 3 to 6 inches in diameter in different areas of the individual zones your system waters. Space them evenly throughout the area. Turn the water on in the zone with the containers for 15 minutes.

Step 5

Measure carefully the amount of water that has collected in the containers. Add the depths of the water in all of the containers together and divide by the number of containers. Multiply this total by 4 to calculate the amount of water the zone receives in an hour.

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Step 6

Use the calculation to decide how long you will run your automatic sprinkler system each time. The general rule of thumb is to give turf 1 inch of water per week, but water two or three times per week and not all at once. If your sprinkler system is supplying water at a rate of 1 inch per hour and you choose to water three times weekly, you will water the zone for 20 minutes each day. Flower beds usually require less water.

Step 7

Repeat the collection and measurement of water in each zone that your system irrigates. Determine the amount of time you will water each zone. Program your automatic sprinkler system control by setting the days of the week, the specific time of day or night, and the length of time you will water. Refer to your system’s manual for specific instructions.

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Tips & Warnings

Do not use tapered containers. Tin cans that have the tops removed work best.

It requires trial and error to see how your lawn and garden react to the amount of water and time schedule you have chosen. Climate and humidity will also be factors. During rainy periods, turn the system off to conserve water and avoid fungus.

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