Mixed Vegetation In Zone

Well my sprinkler system was not planned well to work with the Rachio Smart Features. In fact, I didn’t know Rachio even existed until recently. Anyway, I am limited to the number of zones so I made do with what is available. I have planters built around the perimeter of the house, and then away from the planters is grass. Inside the planters, there are small shrubs, plants, flowers, tomato, herbs, mostly edible vegetation, etc… and watering is via drip and bubbler heads. For the grass, I use rotor heads and fixed heads. In essense, within each zone, I may have drips and rotor heads together, mixed vegetation, and mixed soil. What I did was to convert a few rotor heads into drip manifold for the planters… I know… not an ideal irrigation design.

When it comes to programming zones in Rachio, how can I set it up to recognize this arrangement? I have thought of redoing the entire sprinkler system to separate planters with grass, but that is a major project. Does anyone have a suggestion how to establish an “average” watering schedule for my setup? It’s better to accept compromise in watering than having to redo the entire system. Thanks for your feedback.

Hey @Tinkeringeek!
This sounds like quite the complex set up! I definitely understand not wanting to get into reconfiguring your whole system, that’s a pretty big commitment. One question I would ask is how do you currently water? Have you been able to find a watering duration/frequency that works well for all of those mixed zones?

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Thank you for responding. I basically watered with a rainbird programmed for each zone as fixed schedule. It is not very effective so I went to the Rachio. Sometimes there was more water than it should, and other times, it wasn’t enough. I monitored the areas the best I can and water when I saw the zones dry. One thing I couldn’t program is the number of start and end frequencies that allow water to soak into the soil. The Rachio seems to do that well based on the soil type. Hopefully this is the best I can get to water the vegetation giving the current set up of the system. I will monitor the health of the plants and the monthly water bill. This will tell if I can get away with not having to redesign the system.

@Tinkeringeek I think there are a couple of the smart features you could still take advantage of regardless of your current set up, they may just not be quite as effective.
Your safe option would be to create a fixed schedule with the same frequency and duration as your current set up. With this schedule, you could absolutely use the rain skip, freeze skip, and smart cycle features, which sounds like an improvement from what you currently have when it comes to smart features.
There may even potential to use the climate skip feature or maybe even flex scheduling. It would require some closer monitoring of your landscape health, but you seem to already keep a good eye on that! What I’m thinking is if you were to set each zone up based upon the most sensitive vegetation type in that zone, the smart scheduling would effectively water the plants that need it the most. Your other vegetation types may be overwatered, but that’s better than something being under watered, and as you watch your lawn you may be able to make the zone less sensitive if you think your more sensitive plants can take it. If you want to get into those more complex features, we can work through each zone and decide how to configure it.
Let me know what direction you would like to go!

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You made an excellent point about picking watering scheduling according to the vegetation which needs the most water. And I have done just that with my fixed schedule on my RainBird. What didn’t work so well because I didn’t think about scheduling multiple small sessions consecutively to allow water to soak into the ground. So there was more runoffs than I had planned. The Rainbird has limitations that the Rachio doesn’t. I hope that the smart climate feature will work on my yard because we get rain unpredictably at times.

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I definitely think you will be in better shape with your Rachio controller (I may be a little biased). For the run off issues, just make sure to enable smart cycle on your schedules, and it should resolve that. And for the smart features, you can absolutely use rain skip, I would be a little more wary of climate skip. Doesn’t mean you can’t use it, I would just make sure you think your sensitive vegetation is getting what it needs. Let me know if I can help any more with that set up!
McKynzee :rachio:


Thanks for your comments.

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Two ways to deal with mixed vegetation on a single valve:

  1. Determine the relative amount of water required by vegetation compared to grass. Then chose drippers or spray heads in the vegetation area that have a precipitation rate in the same ratio. For example, if the grass needs 3X the water of the vegetation, then determine the precipitation rate of the lawn sprayers and choose drippers (both number and drip rate) such that their combined precipitation rate is 1/3 that of the lawn. Precipitation rate for vegetation drippers would be total drip rate of all the drippers divided by the square footage of the vegetation area, assuming that there were sufficient drippers to adequately cover the vegetation area.

  2. Run a separate line to the vegetation. By using low precipitation rate spray heads, you can generally avoid trenching to run solid PVC pipe and instead just cut a narrow slit in the ground with a straight edge shovel, and push 1/2" funny tubing down 4-5 inches below the surface level to run this flexible line to the vegetation area. You can generally get away with a 1/2" line if you choose vegetation spray heads with a low precipitation rate since the total flow in the line will be relative low. The yard will be minimally disrupted by installing this flexible line and you will not have to wait 2 months for the trenches to become recovered with grass. Funny tubing is more durable than the usual flexible drip 1/2" tubing that is placed on the surface and into which small drippers are punched. Separating the vegetation with a separate circuit is the ideal method. But, method #1 can work reasonably well.


Excellent point Mark and thanks for your comments. When we first bought our home, there was just grass everywhere and the builder installed sprinkler heads and valves for that purpose. We made major improvements to our home by adding a very large paved patio and raised brick planters around the perimeter of the home. At that time, I had considered the impact to the sprinkler system, but due to time and cost, forego the work… hindsight is that I should have redone the sprinkler first before doing improvements; we only capped off the heads and left the pipes in the ground. Conditions have changed today that watering is much more expensive than in the past, and the temperature is warmer. So the need to use Rachio is ever more in demand; watering smart versus watering hard. At some point, it will bug me enough that I will need to redo the system and add more valves to different areas for a better coverage. In the mean time suggestions from everyone here are helpful with make-do’s.