Mixed Zones with New Setup

I just installed the Rachio 3 yesterday and walked through the setup. There were a bunch of things that just didn’t look right and I have a bunch of questions.

Some background

  • I live in AZ
  • I have very few zones and many different plants/trees on same zone
  • My old system worked just fine, I was looking for something that was more efficient with Rachio
  • I realize ripping up my entire irrigation system and starting over with proper zones would be ideal but that isn’t an option

The 2 zones in question are my front plants and back plants.

Front Plants (set to Shrubs):

  • Mostly Buses (10+)
  • 2 trees
  • handful of cactus

Back Plants (set to Trees):

  • Mostly Trees (7)
  • Few bushes
  • No cactus

When I first set up the flex daily, the system was running for 6 hours at a time which seemed excessive. I have a number of questions since I finished the setup.

  1. Rachio Support told me the watering duration is a MONTHLY number not an individual runtime number. Well my system ran for 5.5 hours last night so it appears he was wrong with that info. Can someone confirm that watering duration is the amount of time that water runs at each point in your schedule?
  2. Support also told me that the cycle and soak plays into that number meaning that it may say 5 hours but 4 hours may be in the soak cycle. I thought I read an article that says the exact opposite. So 5 hour watering duration means that your water is running for 5 hours. Do I have this right?
  3. Everyone says CLAY here in AZ. I followed this resource (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwuNWbi9blyialJzSWxRQnRTcDQ/view) and it says very gravely sandy loam for my area. Based on the description, my soil seems more clay than sandy. So I think I put the soil type to Loam which seems like it would be the middle of the two. Should I set it to what the map says or what all the landscapers/locals say?
  4. I calculated the monthly for my old zones and the new projected monthly looks to be double to triple the amount of water I WAS doing with my old system. How should I go about dialing this back to get more in line with what we were doing but still take advantage of the “smart” features of the Rachio.
  5. Are there setup techs that will come and do the heavy lifting of the initial setup?

As I understand it, the total water duration for a cycle and soak Flex Daily schedule is if all zones ran and that time includes soak time. Often zone(s) won’t run in a multi-zone Flex schedule because they have enough soil moisture (assuming Flex daily schedule is in use). Temporarily turn off cycle and soak for your schedule(s) and see what happens to total run time. See also (particularly the FAQ at the bottom):

If you went through the effort of finding the Available Water Content value using NRCS’s website, you should consider entering the Available Water Content value into your Advanced Zone settings. I write “consider” since local knowledge is often better than what the NRCS has mapped and lab tested, though AWC is a concept that I never knew about before Rachio and finding the AWC at the soil website was a revelation for getting closer to ideal irrigation.

Does this value you calculated include soak times or just run times? If you’re using the default Advanced Zone Settings, making adjustments there can be helpful. Adjusting the parameters of the smarts such as Available Water Content and root depth are the main “levers” for adjusting durations – and across many zones that can add up. If frequency of irrigation becomes a concern, double checking your crop coefficients or making small adjustments (±5-10% increments) to it may help. Crop coefficient largely dictates frequency. All these settings play together to create your flex schedules. Since we’re not soil and crop experts, it can take some guess and check with those advanced zone settings. But once you dial in those settings and your plants are loving life, it’s auto pilot. Takes a little bit of research and learning but is well worth it. Always monitor your plants to see if settings need adjustments!

Support page on advanced zone settings: