Hose attachment sprinkler devices

There are many types of tools that can be attached to a hose for watering the lawn. Each one has limitations and features that allow it to perform poorly or well, depending on how it is used.

Oscillating sprinklers operate by rotating left and right, back and forth, putting out streams of water high into the air. They can be adjusted to cover a large rectangular area, or smaller area that is half the size of the larger one. Some models also feature pulsating action or "center-top" delivery, which are mostly marketing gimmicks.

Impact sprinklers deliver water by rotating in a circular fashion, dispensing horizontally. They have a small screw or deflector which intentionally distorts the spray pattern to produce both large droplets and mist. Impact devices can be adjusted to water in a full circle, or any part of a circle, allowing them to be used on small lawns with odd shapes. Both impact and oscillating sprinklers can allow a substantial amount of water to drift off the lawn, especially if you water on a windy day.

photo lawn sprinkler

The third common type of watering device that are attached to a hose is a rain train. This is a relatively larger unit which travels in a straight line over the lawn, directed by a fixed steering piece that is guided by the hose. Rain trains are the most efficient type, delivering large droplets of water close to the ground. They are moved through the lawn by large toothed drive wheels, designed to operate slowly along the length of hose. Though efficient, rain trains are limited to use on relatively flat, rectangular or square lawns.

Automatic in-ground sprinkler systems

By far, the most popular and convenient watering system is the in-ground automatic type. Automatic systems offer impact, geared or stream rotors, and fixed spray heads. Geared rotors rotate back and forth horizontally, driven methodically by a set of gears in the unit. Stream rotors are similar to impact heads in that they operate in a circular fashion, and like oscillating types that deliver a stream of water.

Fixed spray heads pop out of the ground, and deliver a fine spray of water in either a circular, half circle, quarter circle or narrow strip pattern without rotating. They are good for small tight spaces as well as entire lawns and ornamental beds. They should not be used on windy sites, because the spray is easily carried off the lawn. Some lawn sprinkler systems utilize several types of heads to account for various features of the landscape.

  • Avoid the all-too-common mistake of setting the controller once and letting the system run for the same time every time you water in each month of the year.
  • Learn how to operate the system, and let it work for you. If the controller is confusing, simply operate it in the "manual" mode, watering until the adequate amount is applied.

Scheduling Irrigation to Conserve Water & Save Plants

sprinkler hitting a mailboxDo you take water for granted, or do you carefully manage your water to benefit your yard and garden plants as well as your pocketbook? Improper water use and irrigation scheduling waste millions of gallons of water.

Water-saving methods for lawns and turf >>

Timely Tips on lawn and turf irrigation topics >>

Whenever water restrictions occur, homeowners become concerned about the survival of their trees, ornamental shrubs, flowers, gardens and lawns. Not only does limited water threaten their survival, but water-stressed plants are more susceptible to insects, diseases, and winterkill than healthy plants. Since landscape plants gain in value over the years, both sentimental and monetary, no one wants to risk losing them. 

Tips on turf care under the hot sun >>

Side yard ornamental rain gardenIf you decide to decrease lawn watering, you should not discontinue watering trees and shrubs. They cannot go dormant during the growing season. Trees and shrubs need moist, but not saturated, soil in order to grow well, resist insects, diseases and winter injury, and to produce flowers and fruit.

Shrub and tree watering tips >>

More water-saving methods for trees and shrubs >>

Gardens should be soaked once a week rather than watered frequently. Timing water applications is important.

Ornamental garden watering tips >>

More water-saving lawn & garden tips >>


Information presented within the Lawn & Landscape Irrigation section of this Water Web site has been reviewed by University of Nebraska - Lincoln Educator John Fech.

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