When it rains it pours! 

You can say that just about any given day in North Texas as of late. If you just moved here from another state, you might be wondering if this is the same hot and dry Texas that you’d heard so much about! Rest assured . . . it is. We’ll be hoping for rain again in the near future. Until then, we need to take a few extra steps to insure that our lawns aren’t becoming damaged due to the effects of oversaturation.

We are dealing with an unusual amount of spring precipitation for our region. Our lawns are beyond wet and have not really had the opportunity to dry out before the next round of showers come through. For sure, we don’t want to add to the problem by irrigating an already saturated lawn. 

Bu don’t our irrigation system rain sensors make sure that doesn’t happen? Well . . . most of the time . . . but these are unusual weather patterns. 

Most of our irrigation rain sensors are attached to our gutters and use an expansion disk sensor (the standard is porous cork). When it rains, the sensor collects the rainfall which causes the disk inside of the sensor to swell. This disk continues to swell until it actuates a pressure switch inside of the gauge, thereby preventing the controller from watering. The expanded disk prevents the controller from watering until the water evaporates and the disk shrinks back to its original, dry size. 

Depending on the air temperature, humidity and continued precipitation, your irrigation system could be active again in as little as 4 hours or as long as many days depending on the weather conditions. With that said, what your sensors do not measure is the amount of water still on (in) the ground. Many times when we have frequent, heavy rains, the disk in your rain sensor can dry out and activate your system while you still have water standing on the ground. If this occurs, it’s best to turn off your sprinkler system until the ground has had the opportunity to dry up a bit. 

Most of us have Bermuda Grass which only requires about 1-1 ½” of water per week for optimal health. Other varieties vary but not by much. On my lawn, I turn our irrigation system off if there is standing water or if the ground feels spongy from saturation and turn the system back on only after the turf has had the change to dry up. Once dry, I let the rain sensor do its job until conditions dictate otherwise. 

Additional Considerations:

Have your irrigation tech check to see if your rain sensor is functional. Many times, these sensors get battered by hail, damaged or even knocked off of the gutter.

Replace your sensor disk every 5 years. These disks become less effective over time.

Don’t mow through standing water of muddy conditions. The rutting from your mower can cause more harm to your lawn than by not mowing for a while. Sometimes cutting your grass with a weed eater is best for these areas.

Set a reminder on your phone or calendar to turn your system back on if you do decide to turn it off during saturated conditions. 

Test your system annually (at least) to ensure that all heads are functioning, positioned correctly and that there are no leaks above or below ground. Our systems generally run at night when we normally can’t detect these issues.

We’ll dry up soon enough and your watering will be something you don’t have to think too much about. Until then, take these few extra steps and your turf will come out just fine on the other side of all of this!

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