Southern Arizona - Help Setting Up Rachio Efficiently

Hi Guys,

I currently live in Tucson, Arizona and I’ve been reading many of your posts and many of you seem very knowledgeable when it comes to appropriately setting up the Rachio system for the Arizona climates.

I was hoping I could seek out the assistance of the community members to optimize my Rachio system as my grass, trees, and plants are all dying since switching to the “Flex Daily Schedule”.

I currently own the Rachio WiFi Smart Lawn Sprinkler Controller, 8-Zone (2nd Generation).

I have a relatively small patch (approximately 500 square feet) of now Bermuda summer grass which I seed in the fall with Rye. Within the patch of grass I have 3 small palm trees and a couple of bougainvillea along the back wall. At the moment my grass looks brown and spotty especially in the more sun exposed regions. My palms trees are hunched over and yellow and the bougainvillea are drying out. Around the yard, scattered on a drip system with little emitters are various small potted plants such as geraniums and a small gardenia. I also have 2 large citrus fruit trees (orange and grapefruit) in a rocky area near the grass on bubbler emitters that also seem relatively under-watered on this new system.

I have been using this Flex Daily Schedule for 3 weeks now. Currently I have set my settings to water before sunrise (recommended). Zone type: warm season grass, fixed spray heads, loamy sand soil and lots of sun exposure.

Prior to this I was manually watering each zone on a timed schedule, per my landscaper recommendations, with the Rachio system twice a day (AM & PM) and was getting relatively good results but I was afraid I wasn’t watering intelligently or too much (being wasteful). Now I think, the “smart” flex daily schedule is being way too conservative resulting in my grass, trees, and plants to die.

Do you have any recommendations for me to make my grass green and plentiful and prevent my trees and plants from looking like death? Please, keep in mind, I’m a novice when it comes to the art of irrigation (soaking, soil types, root depth, crop coefficient…are all new terms for me).

I would really appreciate any guidance you may have to help me save water while still being able to keep my plants and grass alive during this brutal upcoming souther Arizona summer climate.

Lastly, I have no ties to sticking to the Flex Daily Schedule and would be happy to switch to another schedule if somebody has better recommendations for one of those schedules.

Thanks for the help guys.

First, go back to the scheduling that worked and get your plants some water! Then take a look at this post and the drip irrigation spreadsheet it links too. The member that designed this drip spreadsheet is @azdavidr

I think there may be another more depth post on setting up drip but I can’t find it at the moment. Anyway, I’ve got a small orchard including citrus in California — not severe as Arizona’s heat, granted, but got it working very nicely. There are many resources it seems (one is linked in the spreadsheet) on how to water trees in Arizona. I’ve also come across a crop evapotranspiration chart for citrus in Arizona so you may consider googling for that. Suffice it to say, crop evapotranspiration in AZ is quite high in the summer months.

Get one zone on Flex, perhaps the zone with the least risk involved taking time to tweak advanced settings, and get it dialed in. Then use that experience to more quickly and effective set up another zone.

FWIW, my trees water about every 5 days for 4-5 hours. My mature dwarf apricot has 4 1-gallon emitters. A nice deep watering that I never supplied before Rachio. My trees have never looked healthier.


@Kubisuro has a lot of really great recommendations. There will be some overlap with the drip post, but also be sure to check out this post. Where to start on Flex Daily

It has some starting points for the lawn that aren’t included in the drip post.


Also, now is a bad time to judge your grass. The rye might still be dying out, which might be the brown you are seeing. Now is the time to start fertilizing with some 21-7-14. Haven’t had much luck finding this type at the big box stores, but most nurseries carry it. But, I’m assuming you are using the canned Rachio spray head, which might not match your actual spray heads. Do you know what spray heads you have in your lawn?

As for the zones, are your palms only getting water from the grass, or do they also have drip on them (sorry if I missed that in your post)?


@Kubisuro Awesome, I’ll look into these resources. Thanks!

@azdavidr Thanks David, I’ll make sure to check that out!

@tmcgahey Thanks Troy, yes I’m using some generic spray heads the landscapers placed in my yard. I’ll try to pick up that fertilizer this weekend and lay it on top of the grass - is this a one time thing? On a side note, is Ironite something you recommend - I’ve heard many people talk about that lawn fertilizer.

Yes, my palm trees are getting water from the grass, unfortunately they’re not on their own individual drip system.

If you can shoot a closeup picture of one or two of the spray heads so we can try to identify. You could be putting down a lot more or a lot less water than you think…

Queen palms? These can be really finicky, and chances are what you are seeing is a sign of overwatering. I had one near my grass that the crown started tipping over and I thought it was done for. As a last ditch effort, I capped all but one 2gph drip line and let the very near vicinity grass overspray get to the roots. 3 months later the palm has made an almost full recovery, with just a slight westerly lean.

Ironite isn’t bad at all. It is comprised of mostly nitrogen and potash. Bermuda needs nitrogen, which is the 21 of the 21-7-14 fertilizer mix. N-P-K, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Its recomended by the University of Arizona for desert bermuda lawns, and while I might be partial, I trust the UofA… :wink: