Flex schedules have led to dead and dying plants

I installed Rachio last year and told all my neighbors about this ‘smart’ system that could figure out how often and how much water was needed for various soil types, plant types, etc. It was going to keep my yard green and alive. Over the past few months I’ve watched as plants and grass turned brown and I tried tweaking the soil types or depth, etc. In reviewing the thousands of help topics and comments, discussions are very technical - root depth, evaporation and other charts, etc. Lost me early on.

So I began adding fixed schedules to add more watering time to certain zones. But this morning I read that any fixed schedules override flex schedules so I haven’t been “adding to,” I’ve been “changing to.”

Why is this “smart” system making me feel so stupid? I did spend lots of time trying to be sure I had all the right settings, but I discovered my grass was only watering every 10 days of so in early but warm summer. I read one topic where the user was frustrated and he was asked, “What are you trying to accomplish?” My answer is pretty much the same as his - keep my yard green and healthy while not wasting water.

I hate to give up on this, but I’m tired of watching my plants die. Any suggestions on making the flex schedule work that will not include hundreds of hours of research and testing?

First question, are you running flex monthly or flex daily?

There are a lot of good folks on the forums that will be more than happy to ask you the right questions to help you get your system tuned in.

flex daily

@jerrymountjoy. You mentioned your lawn watering too infrequently. Let’s start there, and post your turf your, screen shots of your zone settings, both basic and advanced, your nozzle precipitation rate, and screenshots of your schedule settings. Also let us know where you live so we can get an idea of the soil type and climate.

Is this chart of my grass zone setting what you’re looking for? I don’t know what you mean by basic and advanced. I live in Granite Bay, CA, near Sacramento.
By the way, on my PC screen, ‘edit watering schedule’ doesn’t appear anywhere, though it does show on my cell phone.

@jerrymountjoy That’s what I was looking for, in part. How confident are you on the rotary nozzles and soil type ? The Clay Loam holds quite a bit of water and will hold a lot of water, leading to less frequent watering. The root depth is on the shallow side, which combined with the high-output rotary nozzle setting will lead to pretty short watering time. What was the watering time and duration that you had before flex, and what do you see now ? For your schedule, it looks like you have it set on a fixed or monthly schedule now ? If you were on flex daily you should see a button for ‘moisture levels’.

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The rotary nozzles are correct. The soil typically is clay, but over the past 25 years top soil has been added and grass planted several times. I assume it’s mostly clay below the first 6 or so inches. Before flex I was watering roughly 30 minutes per day (split 15 on, 30 off, 15 on) every other day during summer months. I did just switch it to the fixed schedule because I couldn’t figure out how to increase watering frequency in the flex schedule.

@jerrymountjoy. Try disabling the fixed schedule and enabling flex. There’s and enable button that you can toggle to off so you don’t have to delete the schedule. Then go back to the Flex schedule, plot the moisture braid WITH DETAILS, and share the screenshot here.

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I looked up the general area for Granite Bay, and your soil type varies quite a bit throughout the region. The map shows the areas with numbers identifying soil types, and the table shows the soil type. The 3rd column in the table represents the Available Water (AW). You have 0.2 right set right now, but you can see that none of the values in the table are that high. The highest is 0.15, and the numbers go quite low from there. In any case lowering your number will create a more frequent schedule.

Your best bet is to go to the Web Soil Survey and zoom into your neighborhood to find the AW specific to you.

Here’s the soil survey website: http://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/App/WebSoilSurvey.aspx

First, look for the AOI (Area of Interest) button to set the area around your home. You can also enter an address on the left side of the screen, then select the AOI symbol and draw a square. After that, look here:

I recommend finding the AW number and putting it into your zone settings prior to re-creating your Flex schedule and sending screenshots.

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Following comments by anders1212, I changed my sprinkler settings to use the actual sprinkler heads I have (Hunter MP 1000 90), decreasing from 1.4 gph to 0.4 gph. Using your input, I changed the available water from .2 to .09. Here are screen shots of the new settings.

The soil type has probably been my biggest problem for all the zones. Thank you very much for your suggestions, and I welcome any additional.

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@jerrymountjoy That’s great. I have MP1000 heads as well, and ran catch cup tests that gave me 0.4 gph as well. How do you feel about the run time that it’s giving you ? Also, would you hit the ‘more detail’ in that moisture graph and then share it ? It will show a table that has some great info.

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Here is the “more detail” info:

Very interesting information. I assume the current moisture balance should approach 70-100% at some point after watering, and the closest I came was 61%.

and that 61% was with fixed watering. If I’m interpreting this correctly, I haven’t even been close this way.

@jerrymountjoy I think you’re on the right track. That’s actually a pretty normal looking moisture graph. If you click on the arrow next to Irrigation it will confirm if it was a ‘fixed’ schedule that was being accounted for. I wouldn’t say that you weren’t close with the fixed. It seems like a fairly normal plot. The Iro will try to keep you between Field Capacity and Allowed depletion, so any levels in between are fair game. Here’s what mine looks like:

I’m in a hotter, drier Phoenix, so my Evapotranspiration (ET) numers are generally higher, but you get the idea from the plot that you aren’t so far off. You may see some skipped days, etc. Don’t be surprised if you wake up and the moisture plot shows it watered, but you know that it didn’t. See the ‘Forecasted’ under Jun 29th ? The current date in the plot holds on to forecasted information until tomorrow. Tomorrow when you look at Jun 29th it will contain actual data. The Rachio guys are working on that as it’s a bit confusing, but I thought I’d let you know.

How are you feeling about your watering duration ? You have 4" set for Root Depth which might be on the low side, depending what kind of turf that you’re growing. Shorter roots will be watered for less time, and more frequently. The deeper they are they’ll need more water, but shouldn’t need to be irrigated as often. For water savings it’s always recommended to try to have deeper, less frequent watering as it makes the vegetation more efficient, or drought tolerant.

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This is part of your problem. You have created a shallow root canopy with that frequent watering. :frowning:
If you have brought in top soil I’m willing to bet your awc needs to be .15-.1

You need to set your root depth to 6 inches. If you start,watering there, the roots will burn starches to reach more water, it is there, the roots will not die back.

@jerrymountjoy It looks like your Flex Daily is getting much better. I am glad you put the AW lower. That was going to be my next suggestion. Feel free to PM me any time! Let us know how it goes the next couple weeks.

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My shallow root canopy was just my ill-advised way to increase the watering. I reset it to 6". The suggestions you’ve all made seems to be making a great difference in watering frequency and depth. I’ll keep a close watch on it and report back on how it’s doing. Thank you all for your guidance.

My neighbor bought this system soon after I did, but he’s stayed with a fixed schedule so far. I’ll let him know what I’ve learned so far. I believe at this point the system will meet my expectations.


You’ll find that as you learn about the more advanced items in the system, the Flex is the best, and most fun way to go.