Rain and Irrigation Misconceptions

Working in Florida as an irrigation contractor I have seen rain create a lot of misconceptions in watering schedules for landscapes. Fortunately technology has produced devices that take the guesswork out of managing your landscape after a rain. We previously outlined 5 features you should have in a smart controller in an article that’s linked below but here are some of the misconceptions that may show why consumers should lean on technology as opposed to absorbing the responsibility themselves.

Do I need a rain sensor if it doesn’t rain that often?

Yes. Per code in Florida every new irrigation system must have a rain sensor installed, which makes sense because small rains in FL consist of 1-2 solid inches of precipitation. The landscape or turf has received ample water and depletion rates have been met. California doesn’t have a governing body to oversee most small irrigation sites (ahem). Rain sensors seem useless to most California residents because it hardly rains, yet these residents are the first to install rain barrels. Do you see the irony? Rain sensors are extremely important in California for a couple reasons:

  1. Dense soils meet their depletion rates during rains and run out of storage capacity; additional water can lead to erosion issues. A sensor is going to make sure that additional water from your system doesn’t water an area that is already at capacity
  2. Drought tolerant landscapes require very little water and irrigation water after a rain may compromise the livelihood of these plants

Do I need a rain sensor in addition to my ET sensor or smart controller?

Ideally yes. With ET based irrigation systems (“smart controllers”) rain sensors play a vital role in shutting down irrigation controllers immediately in the event of rain. Most sensors have thresholds that need to be met before interrupting a watering cycle; this insures that depletion rates can be met before a landscape is deprived of irrigation water. Rain sensors help eliminate this redundancy and keep systems off during rain. The analogy I like to use is: If you are really thirty and point your face at the sky during a light mist, are you fulfilling your thirst?

If I don’t have a rain sensor what can I do during events of rain?

Turn your controller off for a few days. Keep a visual on more demanding areas of your landscape like turf or annuals and keep the system off until you see signs of strain. Keep in mind precipitation that falls during the night is much more valuable than mid-day rains. The misconception that any rain is a good rain is not always true when irrigating landscapes. In drought tolerant regions this practice is even more important to acknowledge. To avoid the legwork of constant irrigation system adjustments do yourself a favor and read the previously mentioned article on smart controllers. Follow me @MDSavesWater on Twitter for more water ramblings and sign up for our Jain water blog to stay on top of everything in landscape irrigation news.


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