Shrubs and grass on same zone?

I have a small yard in Colorado and my backyard is split into two zones. Had I known what I know now when we built the house I would have added a zone or two in the backyard to avoid my current dilemma, but here I am. We have added a row of shrubs and small trees along the very back of the yard that we have been hand watering, but they have floundered a bit. When they installed the sprinkler system they ran the pipe so that I could easily add drip emitters for shrubs, which I am planning on doing soon. That would mean this one zone has spray nozzles for the grass, and drip emitters for about 7 shrubs/trees. If I understand correctly if I set that zone to grass, the shrubbery would be under-watered, and if I set it to shrubs the grass will get over-watered? Am I thinking that through correctly, or is there another option I am missing? Thinking I can play with both options to see what will work better. Haven’t even started to dig into the more advanced settings (just installed and setup my Rachio today), but would they be out for this zone? Something hiding in there that might solve my dilemma?

Boy, not an ideal situation at all…

Your best bet is to take the known run time of the grass, and frequency of watering at the peak of summer, and find drip emitters or bubblers that will deliver the needed water in that weeks time. Biggest issue you are going to have is frequency of run. Grass might be as much as a couple times a week. Not ideal for plants, especially trees.


Ha! Dang, I knew it was less than ideal, but now you’ve got me rethinking my whole plan here. What you describe was my rough plan, but if I’m following that would lead to the correct amount of water being distributed in a given week, but actually coming up short for the shrubs since it would be divided across several waterings? The Colorado sun can be brutal in my back yard, so if it is coming up short it kind of defeats the purpose.

Sounds like I should abort and stick with hand watering.

I had the same dilemma. Solved it by using Rotary or Rotator type sprinkler heads instead of the spray type. The rotary type put out water at a much lower rate and therefore must run much longer to give the same amount of water. Also helps because it allows the water to soak in. An example is the Rain Bird 24RNH which puts out 0.60 in/hr. I have a zone which has a mix of drip and rotators and it seems to work well.


That is a great way to get the run times of the grass up enough to give drip emitters more time to distribute more water. Problem still comes in with frequency of run. Grass with a 6" deep root needs watering much more frequently than 18-30" deep shrubs or trees…

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Frequency really is your frenemy here. You can get the right gallons/per week OK by fiddling with your emitters & sprinklers, but if water trees the way you water grass, they will surface root. Once those roots start moving up to the water you could be in a world of hurt. The radius of the tree root pattern is roughly equivalent to it’s crown (if it’s a round-top) or height (like a cedar).

If you’re going to have trees, your best bet is to pony up the $$ to have add another zone or two for those trees and shrubs. You’ll want those tree to root deep so they don’t rip up your house foundation over the course of several years, and don’t fall over on your house about the time they get to a decent height.

Not a pleasant task, to be sure, but not too horribly expensive either.