Set Your Sprinklers To "Cycle & Soak" To Beat Summer Watering Restrictions

Don’t Let Watering Restrictions Ruin Your Lawn.

It is fairly common sense that plants and landscapes prefer a long light rain not a huge downpour all at once. When it comes to irrigating your lawn and landscapes, simulating that long light rain prevents run off and saves you water. The technique we use works exceptionally well – especially during our Central Texas summers when we’re under weekly watering restrictions. It’s easy to set up and essentially just breaking your watering schedule into two cycles on your watering day. It’s called Cycle and Soak.

Use Cycle & Soak.

This technique works very well during the summer when you are allowed just one watering day per week. It’s very easy to set up your irrigation controller to follow this schedule. A few quick changes to the settings and you’re good to go. The following instructions apply regardless of which controller you’re using.

First find out which of your stations have spray heads and which have rotors. (Stations are also called “zones” on some sprinkler systems.) A quick refresher: spray heads are the ones that pop up out of the ground and spray in an adjustable arc, rotors shoot a stream in a partial circle as it rotates – basically the classic turning head sprinkler.

Set Station (aka Zone) Run Times.

Turn your irrigation controller setting knob to “Station Run Times”. If the Program Setting does not say “A” already, go ahead and press the Program button until it gets to “A”. Some controllers set program options using a switch to move from program to program. Now cycle through each station and set your run times. A good rule of thumb is setting about 7 minutes for spray zones, and around 15 for rotor zones (hence why we had you survey your zones first!)

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Total Up The Run Times.

Once you’ve set the proper run time for all of your stations, you’ll need to tally up the total run time. Some sprinkler controllers will tell you the total of all programs right on the panel. But some do not. If yours does not, just add up the run times you just set for each station. You’ll need this number in a minute.

Repeat For Program B.

Now that you’ve got all of your stations programmed for Program A, use the Program button to move to Program B. Repeat the process of setting your station run times but add 5 to 7 minutes to the setting you used for Program A. So if you set a spray zone in Program A to 7 minutes, set that same spray zone to somewhere around 12 to 14 minutes. Repeat for all stations. When you’re finished use the Program button to choose Program A again.

Set Station (aka Zone) Start Times.

Now turn your controller setting knob to “Start Times” (or use the switch or what have you.) You should be on Program A since that’s where we finished Step 1, but if not, use the button to switch to program “A.” If you have watering time restrictions refer to those, and set Program A to begin at the earliest time that you’re allowed to start watering. This is often just past midnight on the morning of your watering day, but check to be sure.

Next use your Program button or switch to change over to Program B. Go ahead and set Program B to begin pretty much right after Program A ends – this is why we had you add up the total run time for Program A in the last step.

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Enjoy Your Beautiful Lawn All Summer Long.

That’s it! Cycle and Soak. Works like a charm to give your lawn a nice deep watering that will keep it in good shape all week long. Feel free to play with the times as necessary. You may find you can get away with shorter run times – especially for the first watering, which is really just prepping the ground so when your second watering runs it all goes into the ground instead of running off the dry dirt and into the gutter.

Variation: Take Full Advantage Of Your Designated Watering Day.

Some community summer watering rules allow you to water two times per day, generally morning and evening, to avoid the midday head just evaporating your water. This is an opportunity to set up a 2nd Cycle and Soak run in the evening. To set up that 2nd run, add these additional steps:

Go back to Start Times for Program A and set the 2nd start time to earliest hour that the rule say you can water again in the evening. Then, using your total run time number again, set Program B to start as soon as Program A is complete. Simple!

Here is a sample set up using the typical home irrigation restrictions for Austin Texas. We’re allowed to water anytime before 5am and any time after 7pm. So we would generally set this up to start Program A at midnight and again at 7pm. Program B directly following Program A.

Keep Dialing It In And Save Money!

Once you’ve got your Cycle and Soak going, play with the run times to find the sweet spot where you’re watering as little as necessary while keeping your lawn and landscape looking good. I don’t care who you are, nobody likes high water bills!

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