Friday, August 6, 2010

Warning: Water Saving Information Contained Within

There are few areas I am more passionate about in the landscape than water conservation through proper irrigation techniques. I know, how much nerdier can you get? It's true though. I get my panties especially bunched up when I see sprinklers watering in the middle of the day, or water being applied daily. Often, these errors are not intentional. They are the result of not understanding how to program a controller.

I have to admit that the information I'm about to give you is really, really technical but really, really important. Little mistakes add up quickly. I'll try to make direct points and keep it simple. Ok, here we go.
Programming Starts on the Kitchen Table

A well programmed box starts on the kitchen table. Decide what your landscape needs before you are in front of a box trying to decide. I've included an sample form to guide you through my method. The first thing you should do is list your zones and what they irrigate. If your zone covers more than one type of plant material, list either the predominate material or play to the more water needy material.

Your next step should be to assign run times to the zones. Please see my blog article Water Misers and Naughty Nuns for more information on this.

Modern controllers are sophisticated enough to water different material in different ways. They do this by using "Programs" to group like material together. Most controllers will have three to four programs. You should assign each program to a plant material. In this case, Program A is dedicated to watering annuals, Program B to watering beds and so on. Because Zone 5 waters the annuals, it will be the only zone relevant to Program A. Assign run times for the rest of the chart using this method.

Start time is the single most confusing part of the programing process. START TIME APPLIES TO THE PROGRAM, NOT THE ZONE. In this case, I have the annuals set to water at 9:00 a.m.

The rest of the card is simple enough, I want my annuals to water every because they are wimpy. So to recap: Program A will run every zone under it 7 days a week at 9:00 am.

Continue to fill out the rest of the form in the same manner for Programs B, C, and D.

Programming the Controller

I will speak now to Weathermatic, RainBird, and Hunter Controllers. I teach my clients the "one click to the right" method to keep things simple. This method starts by rotating the dial one click to the right which is usually the time setting. Once the time is set, rotate one click to the right.

MAKE SURE THE PROGRAM IS SET TO "A". Proceed in entering the information for Program A, and progress by moving the dial one click to the right each time until you've completed the cycle.

MAKE SURE THE PROGRAM IS SET TO "B". Repeat the processes above until all of the information on your form is programed into the controller.

WARNING: Most control boxes will have a position called "Run Time." Rotating to this position will produce a prompt on the screen which may say something like "run time 1", which is sometimes confused as "Run time for Zone 1." In this confusion, people believe they are assigning run times for each zone when in reality they are assigning multiple run times for the program. In the case of Program B, this mistake will cost you 60 additional minutes of watering.

When to use Multiple Run Times

Multiple run times comes in useful when you plant something like sod which has a shallow root system at first and dries out quickly. In this case, switch your zone over to an empty program and this will give you the flexibility to custom water that zone. In this case, Zone 1 was switched from Program C to Program D where it will water three times a day for four minutes each time.

An empty form is included here for your convenience. -Jason

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