Many people think you set your sprinkler system once, and it is set until you sell your home years later. There couldn't be anything further from the truth. You need to get to know your garden and watch for the seasonal watering changes. Here in Texas you might need to water once or twice a month in the winter if there is no precipitation, but a couple of times a week in the summer if the temperatures are high and there are prolonged periods without rain.
According to the EPA “homes with clock timer controlled irrigation systems use about 50 percent more water outdoors than homes without irrigation systems,” and they “can waste even more if it’s programmed incorrectly.”
Our sprinkler system is set to go off at 5:00 in the morning. The other day thunder woke us up around 4:30 am, so we checked the radar and sure enough a large storm was heading our direction and would arrive in about 15 minutes. We quickly bounced out of bed and turned off the sprinkler system. No need to water when rain is coming.
We often see sprinkler systems running during a storm and also during times of heavy rainfall, when the soil is completely saturated and plants do NOT need any more water. We have drought tolerant plants and had plenty of rain last fall and spring, so we didn't turn on our sprinkler system for 7 months.
Do you know how your sprinkler system works?
We know many of the sprinkler boxes (especially the new, fancy ones) look complicated and can be pretty intimidating, but we promise they're pretty easy once you get the hang of things. Most of them have thorough instruction manuals and plenty of instructional YouTube videos, and if you get into a pickle there's even a customer support number you can call. I know it's not the most exciting way to spend a weekend afternoon, but the first step toward being a responsible sprinkler system owner is to be familiar with your control box and know how to adjust your system's settings. So take some time to learn how it works.
Rain sensors only get you so far
If you're really not loving the idea of being mindful about turning your sprinkler system off during a storm, then rain sensors are a great addition but they too have their limitations. In fact, rain sensors are often mandated by cities for new sprinkler system installations. The sensors are usually mounted on or near your roof where they can easily catch the rain and will not turn the system back on until the water in the sensor has evaporated. That sounds great but what if you have drought tolerant plants. The water will evaporate out of the sensor way before the plants really need to be watered again. Be aware of the weather outside and make sure your rain sensor is properly functioning and in sync with your landscaping needs.
So don't shy away from getting your hands a little dirty (or wet in this case)
Your lawn needs about 1” of water a week, so if you've received a few inches of rain, turn off your sprinkler system. In the summer when it starts getting warm and dry turn it back on and even increase the watering frequency if needed. We know it's tempting to set and forget your sprinkler system, but take some time to be more involved with managing it. Once you have learned how it works, it really is simple and will conserve one of our most precious resources and save you so much money on water bills!