Browning Grass- Increase Frequency or Duration?

If certain spots, or zones, in my yard are getting browner during these hotter summer temps, is it better to increase the duration of the water or the frequency in which I am watering?

For some background, I’ve been using the Flex Daily schedule so each of my 7 zones runs about twice a week (sometimes 3x). From all the research I’ve done, it’s better to water deep and infrequently so my thought would be NOT to increase the frequency in which the schedule waters, but instead just increase the duration of the zones that are brown. If that is true, what’s the best way to increase duration? Should I just manually go into the schedule and override what the algorithm set as the watering time for each zone based on the settings that I inputted for each zone (slope, sun, soil, etc.?) Or is it better to play with the Nozzle inches per hour number to increase the duration of watering per zone?

I live in Kansas City and have cool weather grass. Because our weather can swing so dramatically from day to day, I was hoping the Flex Daily schedule would update the watering duration times depending on the weather but it doesn’t appear to be the case. From my understanding, as the weather gets hotter the zone soil moisture depletes faster and therefore, it will require the rachio to the water that zone sooner. Is that correct?

Out of curiosity, do you feel like you have your zones’ settings (including advanced) pretty dialed in? For example, do you have it currently watering to cover your desired root depth, correct soil type, close on the amount of water it lays out, etc.?

Is it going brown from being too dry, does it need nitrogen, do you have any grubs, etc. (any of which could cause the browning)?

I have in the past modified the watering time, but found that is not a good idea. It seems when I do that, the system switches from thinking it knows best to thinking I know best. I found the consensus is to not do that, but change other variables that causes the time to be adjusted in the end. Maybe better would be to use “adjust” (although I have not done this yet).

If it is a watering issue causing the browning, I would think that adjusting the duration would just be watering deeper (may depend on soil type). My thinking would be that it would be wasting water if it is beyond the roots. Of course, if the roots are rather drought resistant and can grow to reach the deeper water, that might not be a terrible idea. However, they might not be able to reach a longer distance for a period of time.

You posed some good questions. I am not sure if I answered them or not, but hope it helped in some way.

Thanks for the reply. I do feel like the zone settings are pretty accurate in terms of soil, sun, slope, etc. I haven’t played much with the advanced settings but from all of the posts I’ve read, mine seem to be aligned with the majority of what people are doing (what it defaulted to). AD is 50%, Crop Coefficient is 78%, Nozzle is 1in, root depth is 5.9in.

The yard is about 2 years old and we moved last June so still trying to get it on a good plan and have some learning to do with it. I’ve been pretty diligent with grub/insecticide all spring/summer as well as fungicide; although there are a few brown spots probably attributed to fungus due to a lot of rain in July. But there are definitely some spots that are dry and you can tell. I don’t necessarily want to increase to watering more days, I trust the 2-3x a week that the Flex Schedule is doing but I’m worried if I manually adjust the watering times that the schedule defaulted to that it will mess things up. If I change it, is it possible to reset it back to what the schedule originally defaulted it to?

Another thing to check if you have not done so already is coverage . . . making sure the dry areas are getting adequate coverage. After messing with my zone duration(s), I had to create a new schedule to fix that (unfortunately, no reset that I know of).

The following is a pretty detailed summary of how to increase/decrease the duration/frequency (probably besides using the “Adjust” feature that might still be in beta): How do I edit duration and frequency on Flexible Daily Schedules? (rachio.com).

Here is something another community member said about adjusting it without the “Adjust”: Best way to increase water into a zone? - Schedules & Zones / Flex Daily - Rachio Community

1 Like

I don’t think the dry areas are getting enough water with the current length of time being watered. That’s why I wanted to up the amount of time watering verses increase the frequency. I’d be interested to know what the cons are to adjusting the direction directly. Does it impact anything else of having any other down stream impacts within my rachio? If I end up deleting my schedule and creating a new one, do I lose past usage data or anything? Will I need to re-input all the specific zone data again?

Zone data won’t go anywhere if you redo a schedule.

Like @Thomas_Lerman said, if you have spots that are dry, your coverage probably isn’t that great. You can attempt to fix by adjusting the nozzles themselves to make sure you get coverage from sprinkler to sprinkler (overlap). In the meantime, you can shift the efficiency down for the zone, which basically says that “my coverage/uniformity sucks” and it will increase duration to help get those dry spots more water. Depending how bad your coverage is, this could make areas extra wet, so keep that in mind.

How would I adjust the efficiency of the zone down?

Under the advanced settings for the zone, there is a spot to adjust efficiency.

Oh nice, I somehow skipped right over that setting haha! Maybe because most of the articles on here that I’ve been reading mainly focus on increasing frequency through crop coefficient or increasing duration by lowering the nozzle output. I found this article that seems to explain the efficiency setting more:

Advanced Zone Settings.

It’s a little overwhelming to be honest because there are 3+ ways to increase the duration of a zone and it’s hard to know which way is the right way.

Just an aside. Are you sure the brown areas are indeed due to lack of water? Could be a fungus, grubs, or other issue.

I gave up on the deep watering theory a long time ago. As a theory it makes sense but no matter how long I water seems I can’t get deep enough with thousands of dollars water bill. I am of the thinking that only rain can water it deep. My job is to water a little bit to keep it cool until the next rain. So my vote will be to increase frequency. But try it yourself and see how it goes.

I had the same problem, but I live in Colorado with cool weather grass (Blue Grass). I use a “Fixed Schedule” in the summer but in cooler weather, Spring & Fall, switch to Flex Monthly because Flex Monthly waters way too much for me in the hotter summer months. What I did to “fix” the brown spot problem was increase the slope. Go to Zones, pick your problem zone, choose “Edit” and increase your slope until you find your sweet spot. I was not using enough slope. By increasing your slope Rachio will impose a soak time and that has solved my brown spot problem. Now my brown spot problem is gone and my yard looks great. I have a Gen 2 system.

How often have you been fertilizing the yard. Was it sod when it was put in 2 years ago? It’s possible you simply need to fertilize it more. Sod is heavily fertilized often and sod can go into shock and get brown eventually if it’s not kept up or weened of that slowly. I found that out the hard way myself.