Choosing and using lawn and garden sprinklers
Come summer, the grass, plants, and shrubs around your house need plenty of water to fight off the heat. But sometimes waiting for Mother Nature to oblige means risking the health of your landscape. That's where sprinklers come in.
Short of standing around with a hose in your hand, sprinklers are the simplest and cheapest way to keep growing things quenched. Which type to choose depends on your climate and greenery, the shape of your lawn or beds, and the texture of your soil — whether it's porous sand, dense clay, or absorbent loam affects how fast you need to put the water out. Unless you have a small, square plot of grass, most likely you'll need a couple of models to reach all the areas that need watering.
Sprinklers are relatively inexpensive — from $15 to $35 for the more common oscillating, pulsating, or rotating varieties — so choosing a few is easy on the wallet. On the following pages, you'll find out how to pick the best sprinkler for your landscape, plus tips for proper watering.
Watering speed: Slow to very fast
Reach: 50 to 60 feet in diameter
Good for: Watering very small lawns or isolating garden beds in a drought. Adjusts from a gentle mist for seedlings to heavy rain on established grass, at all water pressures. Look for wheels or a sled base so you can move it without getting soaked.
Watering speed: Fast
Reach: 70 to 80 feet in diameter
Good for: Large yards that need a lot of water in a short time. The mechanism is concealed inside the head, which muffles the chugging-train noise many sprinklers make. Works well with low water pressure.
Watering speed: Slow
Reach: 10 to 35 feet, depending
on water pressure
Good for: Small, oddly shaped yards or plant beds, especially in drought areas since hose heads can be directed to minimize water waste.
Oscillating, Pulsating, and Walking
Watering speed: Fast
Reach: Up to 70 feet long
by 60 feet wide
Good for: Square or rectangular lawns and gardens. Most have size and direction adjustment, and some have a built-in timer with automatic shutoff.
Watering speed: Slow
Reach: 85 to 90 feet in diameter
Good for: Large yards and beds, especially newly seeded lawns and clay soils, which are best watered slowly. The flow can be adjusted to suit the absorbency of the soil; and because the spray stays close to the ground, there's less drift on windy days.
Watering speed: Slow to medium
Reach: 4 to 50 feet on either side of a hose up to 200 feet long
Good for: Large areas with turns or hills where other sprinklers water unevenly. Guided by the front wheel, the two-speed sprinkler crawls in one direction along a hose, covering 20 or 40 feet per hour. Sometimes shaped like tractors, trains, or earth movers, walking sprinklers weigh 22 to 32 pounds (to pull a full hose) and cost $100 or more.
Soaker and Sprinkler Hoses
Watering speed: Very slow to slow
Reach: Length of hose
Good for: Watering plant beds invisibly and keeping them hydrated in a drought without evaporation waste. Snaked through a garden, a soaker hose drips water directly onto the soil through dozens of perforations. A sprinkler hose emits low 1- to 12-foot sprays from small heads. Both can be masked by mulch or shallow soil.
How Much Should You Water?
Every lawn or garden is different, but the guidelines below offer some advice based on your weather, soil, and greenery. A sprinkler should only supplement the natural rainfall, though any lawn is ready for watering if the soil is dry 6 inches down. One important rule, according to This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook: Try to water only in the early morning. The midday heat will evaporate all your efforts, and plants watered later don't dry before nightfall, leaving them vulnerable to fungal diseases.
FOR ESTABLISHED LAWNS
Clay Soil: 1 inch in 2 applications every 7 to 14 days for temperate climates; 1 inch in 3 applications every 3 to 4 days in hot and dry climates
Loam: 1 inch in 2 applications every 5 to 10 days in temperate climates; 1 inch in 3 applications every 2 to 3 days in hot and dry climates
Sandy Soil: 1 inch in 2 applications every 5 to 7 days in temperate climates; 1 inch in 2 applications every 2 to 3 days in hot and dry climates
Clay Soil: 1/4 inch 3 times daily in both temperate and hot and dry climates
Loam: 1/4 inch 3 times daily in both temperate and hot and dry climates
Sandy Soil: 1/4 inch 3 times daily in both temperate and hot and dry climates
TREES AND SHRUBS
Clay Soil: 1/2 inch in 2 applications every 7 to 14 days in temperate climates; 1 inch in 2 or 3 applications every 4 days in hot and dry climates
Loam: 1/2 inch every 5 to 10 days in temperate climates; 1 inch in 2 or 3 applications every 3 days in hot and dry climates
Sandy Soil: 1/2 inch every 5 to 7 days in temperate climates; 1 inch in 2 or 3 applications every other day in hot and dry climates
Clay Soil: 1/4 to 1/2 inch every 3 to 4 days in temperate climates; 1/2 inch every 3 to 4 days in hot and dry climates
Loam: 1/4 to 1/2 inch every 3 to 4 days in temperate climates; 1/2 inch every 2 to 3 days in hot and dry climates
Sandy Soil: 1/4 to 1/2 inch every day or two in temperate climates; 1/2 inch every day or two in hot and dry climates
Clay Soil: 1 inch once or twice weekly in both temperate and hot and dry climates
Loam: 1 inch 2 or 3 times weekly in temperate climates; 1 inch 2 or 3 times weekly in hot and dry climates
Sandy Soil: 1 inch 3 or 4 times weekly in temperate climates; 1 inch 4 times weekly to daily in hot and dry climates
Where to Find It
N54 Rainswirl 45 sprinkler, $10
LR Nelson Corp.
Metal Oscillating Sprinkler with Low Profile Design #07179058000, $30
Sears, Roebuck and Co.
Spike Base Model #967S, $26.50
Advanced Turbine Rotary Sprinkler Sled Base Model #ATR5D, $21.50
Noodlehead Sprinkler N101B, $17
Model JD, $125
National Mfg. Division of TMCO Inc.
Simple Soaker, $40
L.R. Nelson Corp.
Professional Series Soaker Hose
Fiskars Garden Tools
Sauk City, WI