20 Hours of Watering! A Flex Daily Question

I am setting up a flex daily schedule for the first time on a new Rachio 3 controller. After putting in all of the parameters for each of my 12 zones, the recommended total run time is 20 hours. First, am I correct in assuming that whenever watering begins that it will continue for 20 hours? Although I realize that watering will not occur on a fixed schedule, that seems like an incredible watering time (especially with water-retaining clay soil)! For comparison, with my old Hunter controller programmed to water on odd days, total watering time was around 3 hours which seems ideal for this time of year. I realize that I can adjust the run times for each zones on the flex daily schedule. But, before doing so, I would like to better understand the recommended total watering time with the flex daily schedule. I would appreciate your input. Thank you kindly.

Can you share some screenshots of your zone settings? Have you mixed different types of heads in zones?

Lastly the very first FD run assumes the water table is empty and runs to fill each zone up. From there runtimes should be shorter and zone will run as needed for that day.

Don’t change the watering times in Flex Daily; if you feel you must change to specific times, do a Fixed schedule instead.

20 hours does seem long, but a lot depends on the size of your area. I only have 5 zones of grass, but those water almost 6 hours, so… But yes, the FIRST time you water, it will water all zones in the schedule, possibly taking the 20 hours. You can check using the Moisture Graph, but I imagine this time of year it will water every 3 days or so. If you look at a Moisture Graph, how often will water be applied? (What days show an irrigation amount, and what is that amount?)

I’d concentrate on your Grass zones first; how many are there, and about what size is your area of grass? And as NCSuggs suggests, posting more information on your zones would be good. How many Grass zones are there? What is a zone’s typical settings?

Thank you for your responses. As a new Rachio user, I really appreciate your experience & input. As requested, let me give you some basic information.

I live in southern Oregon with 90F temps in the summer & virtually no rain. My total irrigated area is about 3/4 acre. The soil is dense, heavy clay which retains water. The entire irrigated area is exposed to full sun.

As for my 12 zones: Five zones are located on a relatively steep hillside which is comprised of native grasses which are drought-resistent. They are irrigated with rotary sprinklers. These zones cover about 1/4 acre. My objective is to water these zones sufficiently to reduce the risk of wildfire (which is prevalent in my area); yet not too much so as to require constant weed-whacking.

I have only one zone of planted summer grass. Size is about 66 s/f. This zone is watered with 10 fixed sprinklers.

Five zones are comprised of a variety of plants & shrubs irrigated with either drip emitters or micro sprinklers. Some are planted directly in the ground & others in above-ground tubs. Those that are planted in the ground have a thick layer of bark mulch to help retain surface moisture.

Finally, the last zone is for potted deck plants. These are watered with drip emitters or micro sprinklers.

I hope this gives you a better idea of my irrigation situation. Since my original post, I have given some additional thought to using a flex daily schedule. Since 5 of the zones are comprised of native grasses, they certainly do not need to be watered as much as a planted lawn. In the 5 zones comprised of plants & shrubs, the covering of bark mulch again reduces the need for water. This is why I was surprised by the total recommended watering time of 20 hours with the flex daily schedule. (Of course, the Rachio controller doesn’t have all of this information).

One other comment…in the 5 zones watered with drip emitters & micro sprinklers, the variety of plants & shrubs have different water requirements.

So considering all of the above, maybe the fixed schedule would be preferable to the flex daily schedule. I really would appreciate your thoughts. Again, thank for willingness to help.

Okay, a lot to discuss, much of which is beyond my experience. But I do have some thoughts:

66 square feet for your planted summer grass area? Basically only an 8x8 area? Just wanted to be sure a digit wasn’t left off. Especially as that’s the main area I’d know more about. :wink:

A lot of your areas are drip zones, etc., with good round cover Yes, that really helps retain moisture. It also means you can water in the middle of the day with no real loss in evaporation. Those can be separate, but admittedly can take a long time. The 20 hours starts to sound reasonable, with many drip areas.

You 1/4 acre of drought-resistant grasses: Possibly Rachios Xeriscape crop selection would be good for that (general drought-resistant grasses and plants)? If so, that will require 1/2 to 1/3 the water during the week, so that should be a big help. And Flex Daily should work well for that area, watering less as the weather cools.

With the drip emitters and micro sprinklers, you mention differing water requirements, which makes sense. My personal feeling is that those who set up driplines and emitters know by the setup about how much water they want to apply. I’d calculate that out (how many gallons per week or whatever), then use your water meter while those zones (1 at a time) are running, to determine how long you have to water to apply the desired gallons. You’re not using as many Smart features that way, but you’re starting out with known, good data, and a Fixed schedule with Seasonal Shift will vary the water applied throughout the year.

Sorry I can’t be much more help, but there is just so much. I’d start with the most important zones, make some settings, maybe post back to see if it sounds good. It’s a lot to do at once.

In addition to what @rraisley said, I would definitely split your drip systems to a different schedule and run them during the day time. And with your situation, I would definitely give flex daily a try (assuming you don’t have any watering restrictions). It may take a little time to tune it to your liking, but there are people here willing to help. In the long run, I think you will end up happier with Flex Daily.

Oops! The square footage of the summer grass is 660 (not 66). Sorry.

As far as the drip zones are concerned, as I mentioned some of the plants are in-ground others are in above-ground tubs. That is not an ideal mix, but I have to work with the existing layout of the zones. Because the tubs are above ground & black plastic, the soil temperature is comparatively higher & the evaporation rate faster than in-ground plants covered with bark mulch.

I did re-define the crop selection in the 5 zones of drought-resistant native grasses to Xeriscape which makes more sense. That decreased the total run time from 20 hours to 17 hours.

With the drip emitters & micro sprinklers, the recommended run time of 2 1/4 hours in the Flex Daily Schedule seems way excessive. During this time of year, a run time of 13-16 minutes during odd days seems to be ideal. If I boost the run time to 2 1/4 hours, the soil in the tubs will be saturated quickly & the excess water will simply drain through the gravel base out of the tubs. With a run time of 2 1/4 hours, the in-ground plants in the amended clay soil will not adequately drain & create its own set of problems.

Linn: Your suggestion of having a separate schedule for the drip zones (maybe Fixed?) & running the native grass & planted grass zones on a Flex schedule seems sensible to a new user like myself.

In the interim, here is what I am thinking. Until the hot days of summer are over, I might simply run all the zones on a Fixed schedule. When temperatures cool, I might do some experimentation with the Flex Daily schedule since cooler weather is more forgiving. Does this seems reasonable?

1 Like

At least for the Drip zones, and at least for now, I would definitely put them on a separate Fixed schedule, and would simply set the times in for each zone to match what you have had good experience with. Any of those would be trial and error to start with, and you’ve already done the trials, so eliminate the error.

I wouldn’t hesitate to try your Xeriscape drought resistant grasses in 5 zones with Flex Daily schedule. I think that should end up best. And you’re a pretty good judge of when that area is over- or under-watered, so we can help you make changes to that should you need to. And those would probably be best watered early in the morning, not taking TOO long. Your planters and such may well benefit from water during the heat of the day, at least my wife’s do.

Your 660 sq ft summer grass should do well on its own Flex Daily, or another zone with the other 5 on the same Flex Daily schedule.

1 Like

Drip zones run for a long time but then don’t water very often. Definitely not every other day. Your plants will likely be healthier in the long run doing that rather than a few mins every other day. They can be a week or more between waterings. This is because usually they water plants which can suck water from the ground efficiently.

For the zone that gets plants in pots I’d suggest manipulating the soil depletion amount and water retention ability to cause it to water less time and more often since it can’t hold as much water as something planted in the ground.

I’d leave it on flex daily and see how it goes but I would set drips to say start at sunset and the others to end at sunrise. The overall time isn’t a lot really if you start seeing how often it waters. Which also maybe a bit more the first couple weeks till it settles in and believes it’s got your ground water table properly balanced.

1 Like

Thank you both for your thoughts. I can see the value in both your comments. Putting the drought-resistant native grasses (as well as the planted summer grass zone) on a Flex Daily schedule seems like a relatively risk-free experiment worth trying. As far as the zones that are comprised of both potted & in-ground plants… I need to mull this over a bit since their water requirements differ. Maybe, as rraisley suggested, a Fixed schedule might be best for these zones. I will report back.

Thank you so much for your suggestions.

Just a quick update. After a good discussion with the water conservation manager at our local water utility, I decided to put all of my 12 zones on a Flex Daily schedule starting tomorrow. (This corroborates with most of your suggestions as well). By correcting a few input errors on my part in setting up the schedule, total run time is 14hours. Still a bit daunting to me, but after a few weeks I can reassess.

1 Like

You can have multiple flex daily schedules. The only restriction is that each zone can only be in one FD schedule. I would still encourage you to put the drip zones in their own schedule. Should make that 14 hour number seem less scary.

1 Like

I will definitely monitor all of the zones. If the drip zones will require their own schedule, I will adjust accordingly. Thank you for your suggestion.

It might be helpful to at least “finger test” your pots and other drip zone plants to check the moisture levels in the soil. If they are already “topped off” then you can manually set THOSE individual zones to “full” and Rachio will immediately adjust water for those to the weather, etc. If they are “a little low” you could also run those zones manually to top them off, then manually set those zones to full.

There is no need for Rachio to run an extended period on Flex Daily first runs if you have a good assessment of the existing moisture level in the soil. Unfortunately, you are only able to “fill” or “empty” your zones manually in the app.

Alternatively to the above ideas, you may want to consider:
1. Buy and use a soil moisture meter ($10-$20 Lowe’s & Home Depot);
2. Running those zones that are < 100% manually from the app until “full”;
3. Use the app to then program “FILL” all of the zones (app > zones > % soil moisture > [ FILL] ); and finally
4. Set all the zones to Flex Daily

Doing this will save you from putting down excess water, but will also require a bit of time to visually check on the manual runs.


1 Like

After a few days on the Flex Daily Schedule, I really do need more time to assess any tweaking I might need to do. However, 2 of my zones has a variety of potted, in-ground, perennials, shubs & annuals. I can see why these zones might need some adjustments in the future. Since being on the FD schedule, some of the potted annuals are being excessively watered. I changed the emitters so as to decrease the water volume to those plants.

Yes, I do use a moisture meter.

First, let me thank all of you for taking this Rachio newbie under your wing. This certainly gives me a push up the learning curve.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I have 2 zones that (unfortunately) are a mixture of shrubs, perennials & annuals – some of which are in large pots & other planted directly in the ground. The shubs comprise about 70% of the plants in these 2 zones. I set up a Flex Daily schedule based on the shrubs & the bubblers that are used to water them. This translates to longer durations between watering days, which makes sense. However, the poor potted annuals are way too dry. My initial reaction is to put these 2 zones on a fixed schedule. As an alternative, I could increase the water flow to the annuals. But doing so, still wouldn’t help the falling moisture levels between waterings. I could also manually use the “Empty” option; but obviously that is going to affect the shrubs in the zone as well. So, setting up a fixed schedule for these 2 zones seems to make the most sense. BUT…you Rachio veterans know a lot more than I. I would appreciate your suggestions. Thank you for your input & your patience.

Having pots on a zone with other plants will always be a problem. Over time, some plants will get too much water, others too little. If you use Flex Daily as you suggest, one way to help your potted plants is to ADD a fixed schedule watering them (along with the rest of the zone, unfortunately) once or twice a day to keep them damp. Just a couple minutes, maybe, as little as will keep you potted plants living. Flex Daily will adjust to include this effect, so it might do the job for you.

For example, my back yard is just a normal grass zone, and runs on Flex Daily. But in the middle of it is my wife’s “Butterfly Garden”, which doesn’t necessarily need more water, but the flowers wilt in a day or so. So, every day at noon, when the plants are receiving a lot of heat, I water the back lawn, including the flowers, for 2 minutes. It definitely helps the flowers, as I think it would your potted plants.

Thank you for the suggestion. It certainly will be worth a try. By supplementing the flex schedule in that zone with a daily (or odd days) fixed schedule for several minutes will undoubtedly help the annuals during these hot days. The additional water shouldn’t pose an issue for the trees & shubs in large tubs (in the same zone) since they are well drained.

Am I correct in assuming that adding a fixed schedule will cause the flex schedule to adjust by increasing the number of days between watering (assuming, of course, that other factors such as temperature & evaporation don’t change)?

Yes, that is correct. As watering grass and such just a couple minutes at a time, especially in the hotter part of the day, results in much of the water evaporating, you may need to increase the water applied in the Flex Daily schedule. That is, the system thinks it’s getting, say, 3 x 7 = 21 minutes more water during the week, but not all will reach the roots. Certainly less than appying that 21 minutes at one time.

Thank you, Richard. Much appreciated.