Understanding Cycle+Soak and your Rain Bird Smart WiFi Controller
When sprinklers come on, they can apply water to your landscape at a high rate. Depending on the landscape, the soil may not be capable of absorbing the water as quickly as the sprinklers are applying it. In cases where there are sloped areas or compacted soils like clay, you may notice water pooling in some areas, running onto hardscapes or potentially even running into a gutter and storm drain. The easiest and best solution is to take advantage of the flexibility of scheduling features in your Rain Bird controller.
For ESP-ME3, RC2 and ARC8 models there is a feature built in called “Cycle+Soak.” When you open a controller in the Rain Bird App and enter the “Edit Schedule” screen, you will notice each station (or zone) has the option for Cycle+Soak. Toggling this on for a station will effectively break up your watering time into smaller cycles allowing the water ample time to soak into the ground. Moisture deep in the soil promotes deeper roots, which contributes to a thicker, healthier, greener lawn.
Understanding the Cycle+Soak feature in your Rain Bird controller is critical to not only saving water, but also improving your lawn’s health. With rising temperatures, your landscape may require more water. The problem with watering in long durations is you may start to get runoff or pooling if you have heavy soils or a sloped zone that is easily oversaturated. Knowing this, your controller can automatically break the watering up into multiple “cycles” with a period of “soak” in between. Typically, the first cycle will penetrate the surface of the soil and saturate the top layer. The second cycle then infiltrates the soil more efficiently and deeply after the first cycle. A third (and sometimes fourth) cycle is beneficial if a slope is involved or if runoff occurs after the sprinklers run for just a few minutes.
For example, a home front yard has a watering zone (Zone 1) that contains clay soil and has a 4% slope. When watered, the soil takes in as much water as possible, but with extended watering time the water typically runs onto the sidewalk and down into the storm gutter. Rather than watering that zone for 24 minutes straight, your controller can automatically break the duration up into smaller watering “cycles” with periods of non-watering in between. This will allow the water to better penetrate the soil by not oversaturating it.
To get started, open the Rain Bird App on your mobile device and navigate to your paired Rain Bird controller. When in the Controller Card, click on the appropriate watering program and toggle Cycle+Soak to ON for Zone 1. While there, also indicate the maximum cycle run time (eight minutes in our example) and minimum soak time, or 15 minutes.
With the next programmed start time, your controller will first “Cycle” (i.e., water) Zone 1 for eight minutes. It will then wait the minimally specified 15 minutes to allow the water to “Soak” into the ground. During the “Soak” period, the controller will continue running other zones, in order, and then circle back to Zone 1. It will then “Cycle” Zone 1 for another eight minutes, then wait 15 minutes (minimum). If there are other zones within your program that have yet to be watered, the controller will move on to those and then come back to Zone 1 for a final eight minutes. So a total watering time of 24 minutes.
By breaking up the total watering time into smaller durations, the water can more effectively penetrate deep into the soil, avoiding wasteful runoff or pooling and promoting deeper roots for a thicker, healthier landscape. Note that you will want to avoid long periods of “Soak” time between each cycle, as your soil surface will dry out and will not allow the water to go down deeply into the root system.
While it may seem odd to see the same zone come on multiple times in in a short period, it is a good thing. By doing this, you are preventing run‐off and saving water.
Rain Bird controller models with the Cycle+Soak feature include ESP-ME3, RC2 and ARC8.