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In this article

  • Learn how to program your irrigation controller
  • Understand the basic irrigation controller features
  • Why you should check and maintain your irrigation system regularly

Have you got an irrigation system in your garden, but you’re not sure how to set up the controller so that it runs efficiently? Properly programming your irrigation system will ensure your garden gets the water it needs, without overwatering.

Learn the basics, like how to program your irrigation controller so you’re only watering on your allocated watering days, how to switch it off when it rains, and how to adjust your watering times according to the weather.

Choosing the right irrigation controller

Installing the right irrigation controller will ensure you’re watering your garden efficiently and minimising waste. Irrigation controllers generally fit into one of three categories: Tap timers, standard timer controllers and Wi-Fi or ET smart controllers.

How to find the best irrigation controller for your garden

Read a transcript of this video

You can also check out waterwise irrigation controllers on the Smart WaterMark website. In partnership with Smart Approved WaterMark, we have developed a Waterwise Product endorsement program. The program provides an opportunity for approved products to feature the waterwise logo on their packaging, making it easy for you to find water efficient products.

Basic controller features

Below are some basic features of standard irrigation controllers.

The station controls the valves that release the water to the irrigation zones in your garden.

This is the time at which you want your sprinklers to start watering.

Tip: You should only have one start time set.

This is the time in minutes that a specific valve will stay open and water its allocated zone.

Your run time will depend on the type of sprinklers you have and how long it takes to supply the recommended 10mm of water. Watch our video to see how to check and adjust the run time on a common irrigation controller.

This will stop programs from running until you turn the dial back to ‘run’. Your programs will be saved - a great option when rain is on the way and during winter when you need to switch off.

This button allows you to run a single valve for the amount of time you choose. This is helpful when you want to tune-up your irrigation system and check for leaks, misaligned sprinkler heads or clogged drip emitters. However, there are rules around testing your irrigation, so ensure that you're familiar with these before commencing.

This is where you store all your settings. You can set up stations with specific start and run times.

This setting allows you to easily adjust the amount of water your garden receives without reprogramming your entire system. It generally works on a percentage basis, with the percentage value tied to your run times.

This setting is particularly useful during the shoulder seasons, allowing you to adjust your settings so your garden gets as little or as much water as it needs.

Learn more about recommended settings for seasonal adjustment

4 simple steps to programming

Step 1

Select a program (usually A, B or C) to set up a watering schedule for your stations.

Step 2

Select the ‘schedule’ function and choose your watering days as the days you want to run your irrigation.

Step 3

Select ‘start time’ to choose what time you want to run your sprinklers. Start times apply to the entire program, not individual stations (once the start time is set, the watering cycle will begin with the first station followed by the other stations in a sequence). The best time to water is before 9am or after 6pm.

Step 4

Set the station run times, which is the amount of time each station will operate. Check recommended run times for your sprinkler type.

For detailed instructions for your specific irrigation system, visit the Watershed website to download the irrigation controller manual.

Maintaining your irrigation system

Don’t set and forget! Check your irrigation controller and system often to ensure it’s all in good working order and keep an eye out for leaks and breaks. Replace worn nozzles and broken seals as required to make sure they’re only watering your garden, not the road or pavement. See how efficient your irrigation system is.

Checking your batteries and programmed run times

Power outages can affect your programmed watering times on older systems. Make sure you regularly replace back up batteries and check the system is correctly programmed for your watering days.

Watering on the wrong days because of a programming error isn’t a valid reason for breaching your watering days, so be sure to check your system regularly.

Waterwise specialist advice

Need your irrigation controller set by a professional or if you simply want some advice? Your local Waterwise Garden Irrigator or Irrigation Design Shop can help program your controller and give you expert advice on how to make your irrigation system more waterwise.

Find someone in your area to get you started