Lawn turning brown

I’ve been using my Rachio 3 for about a month now and the lawn is turning brown. I have 6 zones (front shrubs, rear shrubs, front lawn, right lawn, back lawn, and left lawn).

At first I was all excited to see the rachio skipping watering using the Flex schedule. I just received and installed my flow meter. Because the lawn is turning brown and with the help of the flow rates and a spreadsheet, calculated the nozzle inches per hour to be 0.25 instead of 1.00. After changing the nozzle IPH in advanced settings, the scheduler said I needed to be watering 16 hours per day - 4 hours x 4 lawn zones instead of four hours @ 1 hour per lawn zone (not going to happen-i bought the thing to save money on watering). I manually forced the schedule from 4 hours per zone to 1 hour.

I manually emptied all the zones to force the rachio to water overnight. After the sprinklers ran this morning, I looked at the moisture level and it said 70%, with is the same level as when the nozzle inches per hour was set to 1.00. I would think if the controller knew that it needed 4 hours to fill a zone but only ran for 1 hour that the moisture level would be 17.5%

What type of lawn do you have? Where do you live?

I have read threads on here that it takes a period of time for the lawn to adjust. Most people are overwatering with traditional controllers.

I live 30 miles northwest of Boston. The lawn is 97% bluegrass (3% weed grass) spread over approximately 15,000 square feet. I planted the lawn 5 years ago and am pretty familiar with how much water it needs to keep from turning brown. A couple of years ago we had a serious drought and I refused to water more than 3 1/2 hours x 3 times a week. I thought it would burn out, but when the cooler fall weather hit and we got some rain, it all came back.

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The bottom line is I would think if I changed a setting for a zone that said the sprinklers were only adding 0.25” of water instead of 1.00”, the controller would adjust the moisture level of the soil by a proportionate amount given the same watering duration.

Side tangent: I was actually vastly underwatering with my old controller. I’m OK watering more with Flex, though, since I was tired of my lawn browning out by late May and not giving it another thought. I’m not a big fan of my rear lawn and want to get rid of it some day but until then, Rachio is keeping it in much better condition without me fussing. I never cared to put much effort into that lawn. So Win-win. I just want more fruit trees but my spouse wants to keep the lawn :-p

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I’m with you @Kubisuro. We had to part of our rear lawn reworked a couple of years ago. I wanted to get rid of the grass and my wife wanted to keep it. We went with artificial turf, mostly for the dog, and it’s worked out great.

How did you manually force the schedule duration change? If you did it using the Watering Duration screen, I think that doesn’t change anything at all with moisture levels. They stay the same as if you didn’t make that change.

Have you gone through all of the settings to determine that you have the right soil choice, root depth, etc. ? If not post a screenshot of your zone settings, including the advanced settings.

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Yes, I went through all the settings.

Just adding a little more context and I’ll stay out of this discussion. I did notice that your flex daily was setup for a 3 day interval (Wed, Fri, Sunday). Flex daily works much more efficiently when it can run “any” day for full optimization. I don’t think this is the root of the issue but could be one reason why you are not getting expected results.

I’ll let the other folks chime in on duration and frequency settings.


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Yes, I changed them there.

What’s the reason for ignoring the information? The system thinks it should take four hours to achieve 70% saturation and I throttled it back to one hour. I’m not a rocket scientist, but that tidbit of information might be useful.

Otherwise I have to do what I’ve been doing which is empty the moisture levels manually for each zone every day to get it to water the grass.

Did you get your soil and available water settings from somewhere or just take your best guess ? I would start with that. If you haven’t looked into it, you might try this:

The next part I would consider is your root depth. It could be that the 6" is too deep, so you’re not watering frequently enough, and the irrigation is deeper than it needs to be. I have Bermuda and don’t have experience with Bluegrass, but check out this thread, and the specific comment here:

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I didn’t get the soil tested but was present when the contractor spread the loam and it was loamy clay. The roots are around 6” because I tore out a section to put a small garden in and I removed very thick clumps of sod. I also had to move a sprinkler head located on an inside corner of my driveway to the outside corner so it didn’t water my truck instead and those roots were deep too.

Even if the roots are less than 6”, wouldn’t changing that setting will only increase the watering time. Like I said in the original post, I’m not going to allow the system to water more than 3 1/2 hours at a time. I just don’t want it skipping watering because it thinks the soil is moist enough.

That’s actually kind of opposite of what I was getting to. If you lowered your root depth, you would water more frequently, but not as deeply, so that run time that you’re worried about would go down. The available water of 0.2 is also getting up there. That also leads to deeper watering that is less frequent. Given that you’re pegging the scale on both I would consider dropping one or both of them a bit. Maybe try an Available Water of 0.15 and 5" on your roots? Your call of course, but I can tell you that those would lead to watering more often, which your lawn probably needs, and for less time each run, which it seems that you believe is closer to what your lawn requires.

By the way, this isn’t quite how it works. The algorithm applies the same amount of water every time it irrigates. Since you cut the precipitation rate by 4, it increased the watering time by 4 such that it still delivered the same amount of water when it irrigated. What is throttled based on the weather is how frequently the water is delivered. It might deliver 1" of water every couple of days in the peak heat of the summer, but once every 4 or 5 days when things cool down.

It’s not my job to engineer the system, but intuitively if I tell the system when it waters based on my nozzle output 0.25” of water is applied to the zone per hour and the system knows it ran for an hour, it would be smart enough to use that information. For the system to think it ran a cycle, therefore there moisture level must be at 70% is strange. If my PWS says I received 0.5” of rain what’s it going to do.

It does use that information. It adds it to the moisture tables and together with the evapotranspiration data determines when it should water again.

That’s not quite how it works. Note that the Flex Daily algorithms are based on standard irrigation methods used by the agriculture for decades, so it’s not some new thing that Rachio dreamed up. Here’s a brief description:

After taking a glance at that, dig in here and it will be a lot more clear.

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Those were good articles. I didn’t know that setting the depletion at 50% was 50% of the allowable range. But still using the analogy of the gas in the tank. My car doesn’t automatically assume because I pulled into the gas station and took off the gas cap that I filled the tank.

I’m not quite sure that I get the analogy. The algorithm ‘fills the tank’ when MAD is at 50%. It knows how big 50% of the tank is so it applies that amount every time that 50% is reached. How does that relate to your analogy?