Is Rachio right for me? Las Vegas resident, drip line, zero gardening experience


#1

Hello All,

Am on the fence about cancelling my Rachio Gen 3 order. When I first placed it, I loved the fact that the Rachio - based on reviews - was extremely simple to setup for people who didn’t have experience, nor particular interest in, gardening. What I would be looking for in a smart controller is:

  1. Allow the controller to determine ideal watering cycle for 2 zones, without any manual calculations
  2. Allow the controller to adjust cycle times and duration based on seasonal regulations and weather
  3. User friendly UI and monitoring

I live in Las Vegas and don’t have a big area to maintain. There are two zones setup, one for the front yard and one for the back. They both have drip nozzles for all plants currently, and they both consist of a mixture of trees and plants / shrubs. Attaching some images from the front on this link, with a similar but smaller setup at the back. No real grass, just artificial.

My question is really, would the Rachio allow me to accomplish the above? If it still requires me to use a fixed schedule and do manual calculations to compensate for the plant mixture and nozzles, then I don’t feel the investment would benefit my setup (I can do all that now).

The other irrigation controller I wa slooking at was the Netro Sprite - perhaps that may be a better fit due to the sensor / whisperer it comes with?

Thanks for your advice!

Fizz


#2

You can totally set up the Rachio in “Flex Daily” so it will automatically adjust with seasons, weather, etc. with minimal intervention…once set up correctly. So Rachio will do exactly what you are looking to do.

You will be at a slight disadvantage because you have all your bushes and trees on 1 zone. This isn’t ideal since bushes and trees really should be watered differently, besides just their needs for different amounts of water. In order to get things to survive, you will need to set it up as if it were all bushes. This isn’t ideal for the trees (they should have a deeper, longer watering), but it should be “OK” as long as the installer at least balanced the water needs correctly with more emitters going to the trees. Do you know what GPH the emitters are on the system, and how many are on each bush/tree?


#3

Thanks for the help. I do know the trees have 4 emitters, as opposed to 2 on most of the other shrubs (some have 1). Does Rachio allow you to setup a drip nozzle though? I didn’t see that option on the video walk-through. If not, what would you select? Unfortunately, I don’t know what the GPH on the emitters is or how to find that out. Would it be better to replace these with non-drop emitters?


#4

Yep, drip is easy, but again, fine tuning the system can be a bit more involved, but we can walk you thru it.

Drip emitters are perfect. If you can snap a picture and post, we can probably figure it out…


#5

Grabbed some shots of two different types of emitters. The red ones are what the landscaping company put in. The black ones I replaced around the trees some time ago because I was worried they weren’t getting enough water. I can switch them all to be consistent as needed.


#6

Red ones are 2gph Rainbird emitter. The black ones are adjustable emitters, and IMHO are worthless because you really don’t know what gph they are putting out. I’d recommend going back to fixed emitters, either 2gph like you had, or possibly bumping some up to 4gph to balance things out.

Since trees and shrubs are both on the same line, we need to try and balance their water usage as best we can. The shrubs can stay with the 1-2 2gph emitters, but the trees we might need to bump up in order to make sure they get enough water in the time that it takes to fill the shrubs tank…


#7

Doesn’t Las Vegas have pretty consistent weather? If so, I expect a “smart” controller like Rachio that adapts to changing weather would be more trouble than an old-fashioned $30 to $50 sprinkler controller.

The black emitters are bubblers, not drip emitters, and they emit a lot more water than the red drip emitters, so your watering will be non-uniform if you randomly mix the two types. The trees need more water than the shrubs, so the bubblers would work there. However, beware that bubblers with adjustable flow rate don’t stay in adjustment.


#8

Hello All!

Thank you for all your help so far! I just received the Rachio and have it setup - but am honestly struggling to make sense of the settings on my own. Appreciate your insight.

Front Yard (Zone 1) [Link to Images]

  • 2 Unidentified types of trees (my neighbor says they are mesquite and privet, but he is not experienced in the subject) - Canopy size from 5 - 6 ft
  • 29 Shrubs ranging between 1 and 4 ft
  • Area approx 346 Sq Ft

Back Yard (Zone 2) [Link to images]

  • 1 Purple Leaf Tree
  • 6 Shrubs
  • Space for 5 more to be planted

General

  • All are fed using drip irrigation with 2 GPH emitters
  • Each shrub has 2 emitters
  • Each tree has 4 emitters

Questions

  • For the above landscape, should I be using Xeriscape or Shrubs?
  • The Soil Web Survey returns ‘very gravelley sandy loam’ up to 16 inches, and ‘stratified very gravelly coarse sand to loamy sand’ for 16 inches +. Is Sandy Loam or Loamy Sand the correct setting in this case?
  • How do you calculate root depth, ?
  • Given that I have shrubs of all sizes, how do you use the calculator to determine the correct gallons per plant to apply?
  • Given that I have a zone of trees mixed with shrubs, how do you determine the custom nozzle PR? Should this just be based on the shrubs and I can assume the trees will get enough because they have double the emitters?
  • Should I leave all other settings at default? (Available Water, Allowed Depletion, Efficiency, Crop Coefficient)
  • If anyone has any idea what plants I have, could you let me know :slight_smile:

With default settings, it schedules watering for 38 mins twice weekly - which seems awfully low given the heat and what I had it set to before.

Thanks for your help!


#9

Hi @FizzaFarian. Congrats on having your installation complete. Have you seen this drip calculator ? It is intended to walk you through the process of pretty much your situation.

I encourage you to walk through it step-by-step. Don’t skip anything and you should end up having a lot of your questions answered. The included link to ‘Water-Use-It-Wisely’, for example, has charts for estimating root depth based on canopy size, and also tells you how many gallons to deliver. There is also a link to show you how to go beyond picking just your soil type, and getting to an ‘Available Water’ number that goes into your settings. After those two steps the calculator gives you the values to use in your settings. Take a look, and let us know what follow-up questions you might have.


#10

Hi @azdavidr .

Thanks for this, and putting that together. Honestly, I have tried - but am not confident using the calculator tool. There are so many variables to take into account. Here are some stumbling blocks:

  1. The area where my house is located is not included in the web soil survey. The adjacent area is, so I just used numbers from there. In this case, it returns ‘very gravelley sandy loam’ up to 16 inches, and ‘stratified very gravelly coarse sand to loamy sand’ for 16 inches +. Is Sandy Loam or Loamy Sand the correct setting in this case?

  2. The web soil survey says my available water capacity is 0.06, which is less than half of Rachio’s default for Sandy Loam. Given my area is not well represented on this survey, can I count on this number?

  3. Do I pick xeriscape or shrub for the type of landscape? And does it make a difference or is it only used to set the defaults?

  4. My local nursery says my root depth for my tree, biggest plant i have (the purple leaf) is no more than 6 inches or so. So this seems to fit the xeriscape default. But the water-use-it-wisely says i have to irrigate between 18 and 24 inch depth. Which is correct?

  5. How does Rachio come up with the inch / hour setting that I need to plug into the calculator? Right now it only shows 0.3 for one of the days.

  6. Most importantly, my zone is composed of a mixture of trees and shrubs of different sizes. How do you use the calculator to determine the correct nozzle/PR in this case, as it assume the GPH and gallons to apply per plant is consistent?

Thanks and sorry for all the questions. I honestly had hoped the Rachio would be more plug and play in this respect, asking me questions and taking it from there.

Fizz


#11

It is quite likely that the soil at your house is similar to those in the web soil survey — especially if that map unit surrounds your area or the geology (parent rock of soil) is the same. It‘ll be a judgement call in this case.

You could split the difference or try the 0.06 and see if the plants are happy with that. It‘ll be a bit of an experiment initially until you get the response you want from plants.

Purple leaf plum tree or a shrub? The tree will be deeper than 6 inches and if watered properly as it grew (and there isn‘t hard pan clay constricting its roots or other impermeable soil condition), should be in the range of 18 and 24 inches. I‘ve got an apricot and have root depth set to 24 inches.

This is a difficult one. Whoever set up the drip system initially may have had something in mind — such as providing more emitters or higher volume emitters on the largest, most water hungry plant, and then using fewer or lower volume emitters on the smaller plants. So in that case, you might consider watering according to the largest plant (using the precipitation rate of emitters at that plant and root depth at that plant) and the smaller emitters (or less emitters) elsewhere would by nature water less and not water as deep. Generally it is best practice to have similar water needs on one drip zone to avoid this conundrum. It‘ll be more experimentation.


#12

You have the right approach. Since you’re all drip choose either Sandy Loam or Loamy Sand. As long as you put the ‘Available Water’ (AW) in that you found in #2 (0.06) the soil setting doesn’t matter much. With AW set the soil type only affects cycle-soak, which drip doesn’t do anyway.

I would start with whatever the Web Soil Survey says. If your schedules don’t seem right when you’re done you can always tweak it.

If you have all drought tolerant plants, choose Xeriscape. Otherwise choose shrubs. Xeriscape will water less often.

6" seems pretty shallow, but what do I know? We have a great member here that really knows her vegetation. Hopefully @sunny an chime in. Do you have any trees other than the Purple Leaf Tree you mentioned ? I don’t know if this is the tree you have (Purple Leaf Plum), but the write-up suggests 3’ for a mature tree. There’s also a lot of discussion about how many gallons you should deliver via drip. https://garden.org/frogs/view/47522/

The in/hr is an output of the calculator. You just input the items in green (GPH per plant, gallons you want to apply, and inches of water applied in the flex daily schedule.

That’s a tough one. I would recommend you fix your irrigation to be more uniform, and separate the trees from the shrubs (hire someone put them on separate valves). Otherwise you have to find a happy medium, which means that you’ll likely be over-watering something. If you choose to optimize for trees, you might water more deeply, but not often enough for shrubs. If you don’t want to fix your irrigation setup, you probably want to set up the mixed zone for shrubs, but then change your shrub emitters to 1GPH or 0.5GPH. That way for the same runtime you’ll deliver more water to your trees, which likely need more water than your shrubs.


#13

I have a separate circuit for planters vs in ground watering. Planters can be filled in a few minutes where as in ground might take a much l0 her time.


#14

Same here. Not only do the planters fill more quickly but they dry out quickly too!


#15

True if you have them on a separate circuit you can run them shorter and more frequently.