Flex Schedules in Desert Climates

ORIGINAL TITLE: Fed Up With Rachio

I was already disappointed with this Rachio 2 device because it is killing my plants. Sure it saves water but at the expense of all my trees and other plants! But now it is even more frustrating because when it is supposed to water, it now just crashes and goes offline. For the past three nights, it has crashed sometime during the night, which causes it to skip watering. I have to physically unplug it and reboot the device every morning. Now I’m having to do “Quick Run” just to get water to my plants. I may as well go back to my old dumb Rainbird timer system. This Rachio device is proving worthless to me. I want a refund!

Hey @CW92262!

I’m so sorry for the frustration you’ve experienced here. In regards to your first issue with under watering, we’d love to take a look at your setup and make sure to fix whatever might be causing the under watering.

In regards to your Gen 2 crashing and going offline - our engineering team is investigating this issue and any updates will be shared here in the community.

Thank you for your patience!


Thank you. I’ve tried tinkering with the “advanced settings” but they are confusing and I can’t find any real documentation on them. Trying to get the system to water more effectively is proving to be a huge task. My old dumb timer was a “set and forget” it setup, this Rachio seems to require much more attention than I bargained for.

Totally understandable! We want to make things as easy as we can for you. Would you mind telling me which schedule type you’re using?

Trying to use the Smart scheduling. As stated, I’ve adjusted some of the “advanced settings” to try and get it to water more frequently, but it is proving to be very frustrating. When it looks as if it will water the plants, on the day it is supposed to water it then defers it to the next day. Then the next day, then the next day. It keeps deferring instead of watering. I then have to manually do a “Quick Run” to force some water to the plants. Here in this desert environment, we can’t keep deferring, plants need water! And now with the device crashing every day, it is even worse. I can’t depend on this device to keep my plants alive.

Thanks for sharing more info @CW92262! I’m sure there are a few @Arizona users who would love to share some tips for setting up a Flex Daily schedule in the desert.

We usually suggest starting with one schedule on Flex Daily so that you, and the controller, can get the hang of what your lawn needs. In terms of the Advanced Settings, you can check out this support article for details on each of those, or reset them to default and let the controller use the default settings based on your setup.

You can also try out the Flex Monthly schedule type - that gives you smart scheduling features, but with a more consistent schedule. But if you do prefer full consistency, you can try out the Fixed schedule type for more of a set and forget it setup.

I’ll defer to some of our desert users for more tips and tricks on what works best for their lawns :slight_smile:


@CW92262 Post your zone settings and lets take a look at them. Where in AZ are you located?

I’m not in Arizona, not sure where that came into the conversation. I’m in Palm Springs, California. Our soil is very sandy, seems to be a mix of the first two types described on this webpage (Carsitas and Myoma) http://www.cvwd.org/273/Soil-Types. We have some very tall Washingtonian Palms, Canary Island Date Palms, Oleander, Bouganvilla, as well as rose bushes, grapes, fan palms, Mexican Bird-of-Paradise. All are desert-hardy plants, but getting this Rachio to even deliver a basic amount of water correctly is frustrating. Especially in the height of summer, these plants need almost daily water and the Rachio was wanting to water maybe twice a month! I’d have some expensive dead palm trees if I depended on this thing. I was hoping the Rachio would be more efficient somehow than my old Rainbird timer, but I guess I spent money for nothing.

Sorry @CW92262 - heard desert and immediately assumed AZ, my apologies!

Maybe…but probably not.

Let’s start off by looking at your current settings that are causing the issues.

What do you have set up for soil?
What type of nozzle do you have set up on the zone?
What PR do you have set up on the zone?
What depth do you have your roots set to? How mature is the vegetation?

As for the issue with the controller going offline every night, that might be where @laura.bauman and @rachiosupport chimes in to check logs, but do you happen to know if there is a nightly event that kills your wifi? I’ve had my Gen1 for a number of years and I can count on one hand the number of times I have gotten a notification that my controller was offline, and every time it was a wifi issue on my end.

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The main zone settings for each of the three zones are:
Zone Type: Shrubs (we have a mix of shrubs and Palm trees in each zone)
Spray Head: Bubbler (all nozzles are bubblers)
Soil Type: Loam (that’s what I was told to use, not sure if correct)
Exposure: lots of sun (that’s an understatement!)
Slope: moderate (all have a slight slope, but runoff is a big issue)

In the Advance settings I set:
Available water: 0.17
Root Depth: 7"
Allowed depletion: 38%
Efficiency: 65%
Crop Coefficient: 150%
Nozzle inches per hour: 1 in.

I had to set such extreme settings to get any water at all to the plants during the summer. With temps over 120F every day and extremely low humidity, the plants will dry out quickly. The “smart soak” doesn’t seem to work well, I had to set manual soak to water 3 minutes, soak 30 minutes, otherwise most of the water just runs off other than what is in each plant’s “basin”.

Most all the vegetation is mature. 30’ to 50’ palm trees, 15’ fan palms, 20’ date palms, mature oleander. Some newer plants like rose bushes that are just a few years old, brand new grape vines, some herbs. Each zone is a mix of plant types.

As to the wifi issue, it seems that is a known issue and Laura is handling it. Hopefully, that won’t be a problem in the future.

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What do you have your nozzle PR set to for each zone?

I have no idea what “nozzle PR” is, I don’t see that in the settings.

Sorry, “nozzle inches per hour” under the advanced settings in the zones.

Ah, that I left at the default 1 in.

Got it. Missed it in your original post.

What type of “bubblers” are these? Do you know the manufacturer by chance (picture would help)? Do all the plants have these same bubbles, and is there just 1 per plant?

They are Rainbird 1300 full-circle bubblers. We have them adjusted to a moderate flow, not full-force. Each of the big palms have a bubbler that is inside a deep-set pipe (to allow deep root irrigation. Other plants like the shrubs that are in groups have one or two bubbler per group. The bubblers and plants generally have a “basin” formed by soil and gravel so the water can pool in order to then soak into the soil around the plants. But, if the water goes on for too long, it will run off because it takes a long while to soak into the soil. That’s why I set the manual soak period for 3 minutes on, 30 minutes off. Even then, a lot of water does run off where it doesn’t benefit any of the plants.

So here are some initial observations…

I hate adjustable anything when it comes to irrigation. You have no idea how much water you are actually putting out. Those 1300’s can range from 1.0gpm to 2.3gpm. Part of why you are getting so much runoff when Rachio in command is that it is currently set for 1" per our PR, but even at their lowest flow, those bubblers are putting out WAAAAYYYY more than 1"/hour. I need to sit down and do the calculations on it to figure out what it actually is…even with you only running for 3 minutes at a time, you are might be putting down in excess of 6.9gpm

Based on the soil in your area, I’d say that you setting should be set to sandy loam, or hell, maybe even sand. The predominant soil is that Myoma, which looks like it soaks water extremely fast and can be in upwards of 36" deep, so I’m interested as to how you are seeing ponding. Was outside fill dirt brought in for the landscaping by chance?

All in all, your system is not set up ideally, but we can make some concessions and get it dialed in so that it will “work”. You have a big mix of plants with vastly different watering needs, and utilizing adjustable bubblers, some feed a single plant, others feeding multiple.

I think we need to first reset everything back to default settings and start over. From there, I think we need to look at your soil type and confirm what exactly the Myoma falls into. Looks like it is about a .7-1.1 AW, which falls into Loamy Sand and Sandy Loam. Lets set it to Loamy Sand (.7 AW) to play it safe. I’d probably cut the root depth back to 15", and we need to calculate the Inches Per Hour on those bubblers.

Sound like a good start?

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I’m being sent a new Rachio 3, so once I get that and install it, I plan to start from scratch defining the three zones. I have no idea how to test how much water the bubblers are putting out. I’ve adjusted each one (with a screwdriver to tighten the flow restrictor) to what I think is appropriate for each plant or group. There was no outside dirt brought in here, it is just the standard valley soil. It does seem very sandy, but water will pool in it at least for a few minutes. The plants that are grouped around one bubbler are all the same type (like a few smaller sago palms sharing one bubbler). But, as I wrote, when planting, we formed a basin in the soil around the plants and bubbler to maximize water retention and lessen runoff. The big palms have the deep irrigation using the bubblers inside a pipe that was driven deep into the soil next to the tree. So, the bubbler fills the pipe (about 10’ or more of 3" PVC). Oh, that pipe also has holes about every 3-4" so the water can drain at various depths. The irrigation was installed by a professional landscape company here in Palm Springs 4 years ago and the designer took into account the plant types and such. They installed a Rainbird ESP-Me controller that is just a standard timer. They set it to water each zone for 4 minutes twice daily (before sunrise and after sunset), every day. They told us to set the seasonal adjustment to 120% for summer, and 80% for winter. It was simple and worked well, but I thought the Rachio could do better and more efficiently.

Being from Phoenix, I know dry heat, but you guys tend to have the added wind. Even with that, I don’t see the need for watering twice a day everyday…although, that does tell me that your roots are going to be pretty shallow, so that will need to be accounted for with the new set-up.

For reference, my irrigation only waters my trees every 6-7 days in the heat of the summer here in AZ. I have drip irrigation, and much less permeable soil, but I don’t think more than every few days is really needed in your setup, once we re-train the plants that is…