When I come to your home to repair your lawn sprinkler system, I don’t, as the “big companies” do, try to sell you parts and services that you don’t need. I use my many years of experience and my knowledge gained as a Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor and Commercial Designer (the ONLY one in Central Florida that will come to your house) to identify the underlying design faults in your system and suggest the best remedies. If you want to save money and implement the changes yourself, I’m happy to help you do that. For those of you interested in doing it yourself, you can go to IrrigationRepair.com and watch my videos on how to fix pipes, solenoid and indexing valves, controllers and sprinklers. I have spent many years tracking buried sprinkler wire and irrigation valves. My knowledge of system design layout helps me find buried and lost valves when other companies cannot. If you would like to try and locate your own valves first before calling a professional company, read this article. My goal is to help you solve your sprinkler system problems in the most cost effective way possible. You do not need a perfect system. Just like in horseshoes, sometimes close is good enough.
Watering your landscape too often can cause even more problems than too little water.
Over-watered turf promotes shallow root growth which makes your lawn less drought tolerant. Too much H2O also helps the spread of fungus and other grass diseases.
Seminole County FL. Allows homers and businesses to water twice per week (http://www.seminolecountyfl.gov/envsrvs/watercon/restrictions.aspx). To irrigate more often could cost you a fine.
The best time to water is in the early morning due to less wind and evapotranspiration. Don’t believe the “old wives tale” that watering at night causes fungus, because it’s just not true. The most pampered grass in the world is golf course greens. When do golf courses water? At night. Regulations allow watering only between four PM and ten AM. I suggest setting the controller so that the last zone shuts off about an hour before sunrise.
Setting station run times are too specific to each individual system to provide a pat answer, but there are some “rules of thumb” that you can use. If your soil is sandy (not all areas are, for example some parts of Lake Mary FL) try 20 minutes for your spray zones, and 60 minutes for your rotor zones. Given the poor efficiency of most lawn irrigation systems I’ve seen, this is enough to apply three quarters of an inch of water in all but the worst designs. This does not mean that you need to run the stations for that time period continuously. Most digital sprinkler controllers allow for multiple start times.
Also these suggested watering times are for systems that have the rotor head and spray heads on different zones. When sprays and rotors are mixed you need to fix that problem first before calculating accurate zone run times.
Since nineteen ninety one, water sensors have been required all turf irrigation systems. However I believe these devices are best used when you are on vacation. The best “rain shutoff” is you. Just keep your system off until the grass needs water. There are easy tests for this (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep054)
Inefficient irrigation coverage is not the only reason for brown or dying turf. Besides diseases caused by over watering, poor cultural practices can also contribute to unhealthy turf.
Lawn sprinklers can only do so much. They are just one piece of the puzzle to maintain a quality landscape. Here are some other requirements.
Cut your lawn with sharp blades. Dull mower blades will rip and tear the blades of grass. When the blades of grass are torn, the tips will always be brown. Even a well fertilized and watered yard will look brown with torn versus cut grass. If you use a lawn service, make sharp blades part of the contract.
Cut your lawn at least 4 inches in height. Scalped lawns are one of the biggest problems that I see. The University of Florida recommends mowing only dwarf varieties of St. Augustine any lower than five inches in height. Most lawns that I see while preforming sprinkler repairs appear to be cut at only half that suggested height. Not only will this produce shallow root growth, it will also inhibit moisture retention, leading to having to run the sprinklers longer. No amount of water or fertilizer can overcome poor lawn maintenance. Another thing you can do is to take soil samples from around your yard and get them tested at the Seminole County Extension Service. This way you will have some real data about your soil conditions.
Generally landscape plants require less water than turf (excluding annual flowers.) A well designed sprinkler system will have the landscape beds zoned separately from the turf. However, due to the fact that installation contractors are usually selected by lowest price, I rarely see this in residential irrigation. Mulch your plant beds. Mulch helps retain moisture and keep down weeds. When choosing mulch, I suggest going eco-friendly. See http://saveourcypress.org/category/cypress-mulch/consumer-education/. Please consider not using cypress mulch. Use pine straw, pine bark or melaleuca mulch instead. Pine is a renewable resource, it will last just as long, it’s cheaper, and you get to save a cypress tree. Melaleuca mulch is unfriendly to termites, won’t float away in a heavy rain and is an invasive tree species in Florida. Please don’t cut down a cypress tree to grow a flower.