Orbit 4 zone watering system review

Orbit 4 zone watering system review

61uosjyvil-_sl1000_As those of us without an irrigation system know all too well, keeping seed moist during a seeding project with hoses and sprinklers can be challenging, especially if the area is large. The Orbit 4 zone watering system aims to make the process easier by automating the task of watering for up to 4 zones. Since the standard hose bib doesn’t have enough water pressure to run more than one sprinkler, the controller turns on each of the zones one at a time.  But how does it perform in the real world?

The system consists of a battery powered controller (2 x AA), a 4 port manifold and 2 valves. The system can control up to 4 valves, but only 2 are provided in the box.  Two additional valves can be purchased separately if needed. The setup process is straightforward: attach the valves to the manifold, connect the valves to the controller, insert batteries and, after a 3o second period in which the controller tests each valve, the system is ready to be programmed.

The Orbit controller supports up to 3 start times, and each start time can be configured to activate between 1 and 4 valves. The valves are activated sequentially from 1 to 4, with only one valve open at any given time. Turning the programming dial to the “How Long” section allows you to configure how long each zone will be watered – this setting applies globally to all starting times configured. Finally turning the dial to “How Often” allow you to select on what days the program will be activated – either by selecting  between 1 and 7  days of the week or by selecting the every 1 day option. Once configured, setting the dial to Auto will instruct the controller to turn on and off based on the configuration entered.

Having used the controller for two weeks to water ~6,500 square feet of lawn during fall renovation, I have found it to be a huge time saver. I have configured all 4 zones to turn on at 9:00AM, 12:00PM and 3:00PM watering each zone for 30 minutes. So far, it has worked flawlessly. The valves feel sturdy and open/close with a loud thump, with no leaking. At the same time, this system has a few annoyances which unnecessarily cripple what could be a fantastic product.

The Pros

  • Sturdy construction.
  • Works flawlessly.
  • Good battery life  – no sign of batteries needing to be changed after 2 weeks of continuous use.
  • Huge time saver for keeping areas moist during seeding.
  • Manual cycles can be initiated with the push of a button.
  • Clear on-screen indication of how long until the next starting time and how much longer left of the current watering cycle.

The Cons

  • Only comes with 2 valves. Additional valves have to be purchased
  • Only 3 configurable starting times. This can be made to work, especially since a manual cycle can be started anytime with the push of a button , but having up to 7 starting times would have been more suitable for the light frequent watering needed during seeding.
  • The electronic controller features a bracket in the back which allows it to mount onto one of the valves. The bracket is too loose and the controller just falls off, making this mounting system somewhat useless.
  • The clock consistently falls behind by about 2 minutes each day. Not a huge deal, unless you need to synchronize starting time with another device like say a pump.

Overall, the Orbit 4-zone watering system has proved to be a huge time and labor saver and has helped me achieve more even germination with far less effort than in previous years. It is a must-have for anyone considering a renovation project without an irrigation system.

Watering your lawn

Watering your lawn


Proper watering is the most important lawn care practice upon which healthy lawns are built. And a healthy lawn is a great looking lawn. Grasses, like all other plants, require water to stay alive.  Mother Nature provides for a good portion of your lawn’s water needs, but during periods of hot weather or drought, supplemental water is needed in the form of irrigation. The way in which this water is provided will guarantee the success or failure of your lawn.

A lot of homeowners – especially those with an irrigation system –  have been conditioned to water for 20-30 minutes multiple times a week. This creates a vicious circle in which because water is always available at the surface, the roots grow shallow to take advantage of this water. Because the roots grow shallow, water must be provided frequently or the plant suffers. Frequent watering also causes numerous fungal disease problems which typically wipe out large portions of lawns in early summer. But there’s a better way – it’s called deep an infrequent.

Deep and infrequent watering is a simple concept which involves applying larger amounts of water which penetrate deeper into the soil only when the grass shows signs of drought stress. Water penetrates heavier soils like clay very slowly, while others soils like sand drain very quickly. Temperatures vary from season to season. Some areas of your lawn get full sun, while others are in shade. Some grasses need more water than other. All these variables mean that water needs vary from region to region, and even from one section of your lawn to the next. The deep and infrequent method presented below accounts for all these variables by watering to a depth of 6 inches only when your grass needs it. Sound complicated? It’s not, here are the 2 golden rules:

  • Do not water unless your grass is showing signs of drought stress. This means that you may only need to water once a month in the spring, or not at all in the fall. This accounts for all weather and lawn condition – if the lawn is stressed it’s time to water, be it every 3 days in the summer or once a month in the fall.
  • When watering, water until a 6″ flat head screwdriver easily penetrates the soil all the way to the handle. This will ensure that regardless of soil type and sprinkler output, water penetrates deep enough to encourage deep root growth.

What are the benefits of a deep and infrequent watering program?

  • Grasses are encouraged to “seek” water deeper in the soil building a deeper root system which will better sustain them through periods of drought.
  • Allowing the surface of the soil to dry between watering means that weeds will be unable to compete with your grass.
  • A lawn that is not constantly damp is far less susceptible to fungal disease.
  • Deep and infrequent uses less water resulting in money savings.

Ready to jump on board? Great. Keep in mind that if you’re making the switch, the transition will have to made slowly to allow your grass to adapt to the new regime. Once you master proper watering, the grass will always be greener on your side – especially when everyone else’s lawns are crisp from the heat or dead from fungal disease.