Want to get more bang for your buck from your irrigation system? Start utilizing the cycle and soak method. What is cycle and soak? Cycle and soak method increases the number of irrigation cycles and reduces the time in each cycle. Colorado has heavy clay content in our soil which is more tightly bound….meaning it is prone to runoff and less absorption. Cycle and soak means breaking up your irrigation cycle into two or more cycles with a wait time or rest period in between. If you water 40 minutes every other day, you program a 20 minutes cycle and then cycle back through for another 20 minutes. With this method, you are still totaling 40 minutes overall with a rest period while you are watering the other zones.
Essentially the first cycle is getting the ground wet and breaking surface tension. The second time around, it is pushes the water down into the soil to the root zone. This is so key for so many reasons: less runoff, better absorption, less evaporation, deeper roots, and less heat stress.
Another easy way to determine a proper cycle time for your zones is to turn on a zone and watch for the first signs of standing water or runoff. Set the cycle time to be no more than this amount of time. Watch to see how long it takes for the standing water to soak into the soil, and then use this amount of time as the soak time setting. Sloped areas might need to be broken up into 3 cycles to account for the slope and reduce runoff.
Cycle and soak is also watering deeply and infrequently. Daily watering is a major offense. Customers, who water daily or 2x a day on their water days, have shallower roots and heavier thatch layers (for example, morning and afternoon watering). Did you know that you will probably lose 30-40% of the water you apply if watering in one big long cycle? “The cycle-soak method creates an environment where we get better infiltration of that water into the soil.” Some smart controllers already have these options built in and you just select it! (*Very large properties with numerous zones might not be able to implement this method with water restrictions and designated water days. Consult with your irrigation specialist to see what options are available to you.)