Wildly Inaccurate Moisture Levels and Watering Times

Rachio has been waiting all week to water, readjusting due to recent storms. I thought that it would be another day or two before it watered, but it surprised me by running the backyard early this morning. Thankfully I heard it and went outside to monitor. Because even with cutting all three backyard stations off mid-cycle, the runoff has created a significant mud pit. Now I know I have a drainage problem because the backyard runoff collects instead of flowing out to the street in the front. But there shouldn’t have been that much runoff to begin with, right?

So, the first question is about soil moisture percentages. I see in the app that it’s calculated significant depletion (as low as single digit percentages) even though we had several inches this week. What adjustments can I make to help Rachio more accurately calculate how much moisture is left in the soil?

The second question is about run times. Before Rachio, I watered each station daily for three minutes twice in a row (so 3 minutes, soak while other stations run, then another 3). Grass wasn’t dying and water wasn’t running down the street. The only time I had accumulation in the backyard was when it rained. After setting everything up in the app, Rachio had hour-long run times. Because (3 minutes X 2 runs X 7 days) is 42 minutes a week, I immediately adjusted the soil type to bring the run times down to 20-30 minutes. This seemed like the most obvious miscalculation I could have made during setup. But honestly, I can’t imagine a condition where my yard could handle 30 minutes of straight watering. So this is where Smart Cycle and Flex Daily come in, right? But I’ve just watched Rachio try to water my backyard for an hour straight. What should I adjust to keep Rachio from trying to water for such long periods? Are my soil settings wrong or do I just need to override Rachio’s calculations and reduce watering times on each zone?

Other potentially relevant info: I’m in the greater Houston area, in a neighborhood where the developers basically scrape the earth, build, backfill with sand, and then cover with sod. My lot is a year old and was graded to funnel all water around the house towards the street in the front. I set up my yard map, complete with coverage zones and each sprinkler head. And I’ve adjusted every one of my sprinklers to maximize coverage and minimize overspray.

I can try to help with the moisture levels – if you’re in the Houston area, and you’re using Weather Intelligence Plus without selecting a weather station, try selection a nearby reliable weather station. That should provide more accurate, real world rain data than WI+'s interpolated data.

As for over watering, others will hopefully have better ideas, but I’ve heard changing the slope to steep can help increase soak times. Selecting straight clay may also help. More info here:

If there’s hardpan under your sod, you may consider reducing the root depth by a few inches (this is in Advanced zone settings). There’s a good chance the default root depth is too deep, especially if water just runs off right away. Maybe try 4".

You may consider going back to a Fixed schedule that you know works – and then ease back into Flex Daily (check out Rachio’s support page for lots of great info and ask questions here). Fixed schedules have plenty of smart features such as saturation, rain, wind, and freeze skips.

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Yes, the default root depth was WAY deeper than reality. Updated those numbers and Rachio brought my watering times down.

There were two weather stations within blocks of me so I made that update. Unfortunately, I dont know what this thing is doing. I checked the schedule before going to bed and all zones showed they were 110% full with the next watering being days away. It is soaking wet outside from rain. All good. Then I woke up this morning to a notification that it had watered. Rachio just turned my wet backyard into a swamp again.

I’ve been checking this thing every. single. day. for a month and it is still making watering my yard harder. I wanted it to be easier.

Hmm; sorry to hear that. Perhaps the weather station you chose didn’t record any rain? You can investigate what’s going on by looking at the soil moisture chart. Sometimes PWSs either miss the rain (it just didn’t rain there) or their rain gage is not properly maintained. May need to switch to another PWS if the soil moisture chart doesn’t show any precipitation in the last three days. There’s lots of hidden rows so be sure to click the tiny grey sideways triangles.

But if you’re tired of messing around with Flex, it’s totally fine to revert back to a watering schedule you’re used to. There’s still lots of functionality Rachio provides for fixed schedules, so you won’t be wasting the device at all.

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