Why are Irrigation Zone Charts Important?
The “set it and leave it” convenience of an automated underground sprinkler system is a great way to save you time and effort (and water) caring for your lawn. But sometimes that convenience leads to a problem: you forget which zones/stations on the controller actually water which sections of the lawn! Whether you need to troubleshoot a sprinkler problem, re-program your controller (timer) after a battery failure, or put down a little extra water in a particularly dry area, eventually the time will come when you need this bit of information.
Thankfully you don’t need to simply remember this information forever. Instead, you can create what is called a zone chart!
Zone charts can also be helpful with manual sprinkler systems, but for different reasons. Since you are manually operating those valves multiple times a week, you would naturally be more familiar with those watering zones than with an automatic systems that runs before anyone is even out of bed. However, if you are getting a neighbor to run your manual system while you are on holidays or getting an irrigation technician to work on your sprinklers, a zone chart for a manual system is indispensable!
What is a Zone?
First, a bit of background: what is a zone? A zone is a collection of sprinklers that run together to water a specific area when an irrigation valve (either manual or automatic) is turned on.
While a zone refers to the sprinklers controlled by a single valve, a station actually refers to the valve(s) controlled by an automatic controller. Typically, one controller station runs one sprinkler zone, which is why “station” and “zone” are often used interchangeably. However, some special controllers on large commercial systems can run multiple valves/zones at once through a single controller station.
Most irrigation systems are made up of multiple zones, and this is done for a variety of reasons (check out our Designing Irrigation Zones [coming soon] article for details on how to plan these zones properly from the very beginning!)
Most of the time, the water supply to the irrigation system cannot provide enough water to run all the sprinklers for the entire landscape at the same time. Therefore, all of those sprinklers are broken up into smaller groups (zones) that only use as much water as the supply can offer. These zones then turn on one at a time, in sequence.
Different areas of the landscape can also be zoned separately due to their different watering needs. As discussed in our Timing Is Everything article, how long you run a zone depends on the sun exposure, vegetation type, sprinkler type, soil type and more!
What is a Zone Chart?
So, what is a zone chart and how can it help you keep track of your sprinkler zones? While zone charts can take different forms and vary in their complexity, a zone chart is basically a record that contains:
- the station number on the controller
- the area/zone of grass being watered
- the type of sprinklers in the zone
- the watering schedule for that zone
(our articles Timing is Everything and Programming Your Controller [coming soon] cover everything you need for setting up this schedule)
The simplest form of zone chart can be just a handwritten piece of paper listing these details. Most automatic irrigation controllers even come with a card that you can fill out to keep things organized.
However, with a satellite image from Google Earth and little bit image editing, you can also make a visual zone chart that shows which areas are being irrigated by which zones.
Some newer systems controllers even have options to enter zone details right into the program itself. One example is the Toro Evolution controller, which allows have a description of the zones on the display itself. Some WiFi controllers, such as the Hunter X2, even let you enter pictures of the actual zones right into the app!
Even still, it never hurts to have a physical zone chart as a backup!
With automatic systems, it’s best to have the zone chart located close to the irrigation controller for easy access when adjusting programs. For manual systems, having the zone chart by the actual valves being operated is typically the most convenient. In either case, if the zone chart will be left outside, it is best to laminate your zone chart to protect it from the elements
Also, its best to update zone charts whenever modifications are made to the system, such as adding new zones, changing sprinkler head types, or even just fine-tuning watering times. If you have room, you can also include any seasonal adjustments to be programmed into the “Seasonal Adjustment” section of the controller [coming soon].
As you can see, zone charts are a great way to keep the operations of your irrigation system both simply and accurate. To help get you started, we’ve put together our own zone chart that you can print off (and laminate) for your own system! We even made it a “fillable form” so you can type your details into the form right from the computer! There are 3 different sizes of charts, depending on how many valves you want to list on a single chart: