Help setting up for drip irrigation

Dear all,

I appreciate the helpful community in answering my questions. I’ve been toying with one of my zones but am unsure where to start.

I have one dedicated zone for my 18 fruit trees that were previously irrigated with drip lines. Each tree gets one loop/circle of drip line. And each loop/circle contains 6-7 emitters, with each emitter putting out 0.5 gallons per hour. During the heat of summer in southern California, I was running the drip irrigation for 20 min, 3 times per week.

With my purchase of the Rachio, I obviously want to be more efficient with my water usage but able to maintain my small orchard. What would be the best way to translate all I’ve done and input this information into the Rachio?

I’ve looked at other threads on this topic and they went way above my head with various calculations. If my goal is to use similar or more efficient watering for my fruit trees, but incorporate more weather data via Rachio, how do I set this up?

Thank you kindly.

Given the huge investment of such an orchard, I suggest easing in and not going straight to Flex Daily-type schedule so that you’ll have time to figure out the why’s and how’s of irrigating a fruit orchard. You’ll want to stick with what you know works via a Fixed schedule until you figure out the details of using smart irrigation and understand how Rachio’s smart features work.

If you have an unused zone, that is not hooked up to any sprinkler valve, I suggest setting up a test zone to learn how Flex Daily or Flex Monthly works based on some basic fruit tree centric settings. Learn about Saturation skip for Fixed schedules. You’ll want to work through that drip spreadsheet to at least determine your precipitation rate based on tree canopy diameter and GPH of emitters at each tree. You’ll want to do a little bit of research on root depth of your trees. You’ll want to know, at the very least, what the summer and winter crop evapotranspiration coefficients are for your trees — there’s lots of UC Extension documents on that. You’ll need to know about the Available Water Capacity of your soil. You’ll want to find a weather station that is near you and reliable for rain gage data. Keeping a log of all this information you collect would be ideal—and keeping a log of your tree health, status, etc., would also be important especially to monitor how the trees react to a change in your irrigation regimen. They might not react favorably… as has been the case for me a couple of times and the only way to know is monitor tree health almost daily for the first year of a new schedule.

Anyway, I cannot offer any instant tips as it’ll take research, vigilance and adaptive management to protect your trees. I would say keep the trees on drip and see that the emitters aren’t right up against the tree trunks (they should be positioned closer to the driplines). If they are ponding, reduce the # of emitters so that the soil can keep up but lengthen the watering time accordingly (if using Fixed schedule, you’ll have to lenghthen watering time manually. If you use Flex, removing an emitter would change the inches/hour precipitation rate (which you’d change in Advanced Settings) and Flex would automatically calculate a new watering time).

Post on calculating precipitation rate and finding your soil’s AWC (a good start/primer; has really good introduction text and I pilfered the formula to calculate in/hr for emitters at my trees using my own spreadsheet):

My favorite crop evapotranspiration tables for California:

Hope this helps. It’s a journey of learning but is worth it! Ask questions at any time — we’re here to help every step of the way!


After spending many hours toying with the settings, I think I’ve finally settled on something. I selected trees for my zone, input my AWC based on previous data I knew about my soil, but adjusted the root depth to something much more shallow --closer to 10 inches instead of the usual 2-3 ft. When I select scheduling based on flex monthly, I looked ahead into the June, July, and August months to see the total duration of watering per month. It’ll be watering roughly every 3-5 days, but the total monthly duration will be roughly similar to what I’m already doing during those months. It’s somewhat equivalent to my 20 min x 3 per week over a whole month during the hot summer months. I’m in my orchard daily, so I’ll be monitoring stress level closely. Summer months are usually the most stressful periods for my trees given my climate in southern California. I’m ok with the less frequent irrigation during the rest of the year as I’m be monitoring closely. Thanks for your input


Dear all,

I am unable to force cycling even if I select manual (instead of smart cycling). I understand based on past threads that smart cycle is deactivated if I have a drip irrigation. However I am still unable to force manual cycling. Since my orchard has been used to seeing cycling with its drip irrigation for 18+ years, I’d rather continue that pattern for the foreseeable future until I can get a better grasp on Rachio’s smart features.

Does it seem silly that it ignores my request to cycle even if I select manual cycling?

I think the only workaround is to change the nozzle type to something like rotary, then go to advanced zone settings and change your “Nozzle Inches Per Hour” to whatever you had for the drip setting. I would then verify that your minutes haven’t changed, and if they have adjust them back. To have the calendar refreshed you will also need to change something on the schedule (e.g. the schedule name) and then cycle/soak should show up. A “pull to refresh” on the dashboard won’t hurt :wink:. Hope this helps.


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Is this considered a bug? I can understand if Rachio doesn’t want smart cycle incorporated into drip irrigation, but a manual override should be able to overcome this. I don’t mind using another nozzle head setting for now, but I’d like to eventually transition over to daily flex for my orchard after a few seasons. The thought of using a completely different nozzle setting, I’d imagine, would dramatically alter the advanced algorithms for daily flex and zone calculations.

Thanks for the input!

I would consider this a defect. I believe @mckynzee @laura.bauman Can you track? Manual cycle/soak should ignore nozzle settings. What are your thoughts?