When I moved into my home almost 15 years ago, I tore into the garden – or, more literally: tore up my garden. The lawn went, shrubs were dug up, trees were felled, beds reconfigured. And I installed all new irrigation with the latest timer (with the very generous help of my very kind sons!) and irrigation heads.

New plantings were installed – and then added to, and then added to…and the plants all grew; it was a Marvel!

About five years ago, I found that my growing plants were blocking heads, the timer became “iffy” -maybe because I had fiddled with it often to adjust to the weather and the ever-changing plant palette (O.k., I’m a plant lover. I fall in love instantly with any new leaf, flower or branching structure that comes along!). The result was that I was marking my calendar to remember to manually turn the system on and off. And I will admit here that there were times when I forgot to set the egg timer and left it running far too long. And times when I forgot to turn it on at all – and lost plants.

With this background, you can easily see why I was instantly charmed by the promise of a new irrigation controller & weather station that arrived at Roger’s Gardens recently. It promised to do all this by itself. I listened carefully as Ron Vanderhoff, our V.P. extolled its virtues (Roger’s Gardens’ has one that has been up and running, taking care of Roger’s Gardens landscaping for over a year). Yes, I agree that it took me quite a while to do what was obviously to my best benefit. I am slow to go with new technology, being sure that it will be beyond my understanding. I studied art in college…’nuff said! Then another fact was factored in: Money. The Metropolitan Water District has a very generous rebate program going now for as long as the funding lasts. The system I bought from Roger’s Gardens is called X-Core Residential Irrigation Controller and the Wireless Solar-Sync by Hunter Industries. The Controller and the Weather Station (more about this in a minute) will be nearly fully rebated. They are almost free.

Then the Elephant In The Room – the drought has made it exceedingly important to be responsible with my use of water.

So I overcame my fear of electronics and called my son. He was busy. I got brave and did it myself (the programming, that is – he did the electrical).

It was actually very easy to do. The instructions are clear. Even though there are many options regarding start times, station run times, split runs and days, each option is well laid out and explained. I have 6 valves, some on flat land, some on a steep slope and one takes care of most of my potted plants. The garden has a variety of needs and I was able to address all of them within one program (there are 3 programs available in the one I purchased).

One very nifty feature is called Cycle and Soak. It is a new feature and is very useful for gardens with heavy soil or steep slopes. I have both, of course! Using this feature I have divided the run time in two with an interval of time in between. To illustrate: I have decided that my slope needs 10 minutes of watering, but after 5 minutes, the water is not soaking in well and is starting to run off. So I set the program to run 5 minutes, wait 30 minutes and then run 5 minutes again. This allows for much deeper watering – encouraging deeper root systems, no run-off and less water loss due to evaporation.

I also use the Cycle and Soak feature for the valve that waters my potted plants. Soil in pots naturally drains very well due to gravity and light potting mix. I have found that by splitting the watering time in pots, more water is absorbed by the potting medium and less water runs out the bottom of the pots.

Then, as though all of the above weren’t good enough, there is another very useful feature: the Wireless Solar-Sync ET Sensor, or as I call it, my weather station. There are 3 parts to the weather station; the Wireless Solar Sync Sensor, the Wireless Solar Sync Receiver and the Solar Sync Module. This last is now being built into the programming of the compatible irrigation X-Core Controllers and does not need to be installed as a separate component. The Receiver is a small antenna which is mounted near the Controller and wired to it. The Sensor is installed where it can receive the maximum amount of sun and rain. This can be up to 800′ away.


The Sensor responds to two types of information: rain and temperature. The rain feature will override the controller if it wants to water during a rain. It will allow the controller to resume when the collector dries out. This is adjustable. The other temperature feature shuts the system off in the event of a freeze. Irrigation will be activated again when the temperature rises above 37 degrees.

Though this blog is about the controller system, I would like to comment on a companion to this water saving, efficient device: Multiple Rotating Stream irrigation heads. And these are also rebatable – but more about that in a moment. The very efficient water delivery of these low-flow devices is really wonderful. I also switched out all my irrigation heads to these MP Rotators. I now have evenly delivered water to my slope where I used to have very wet areas and not-so-wet areas randomly over the soil surface. And they use less water to do it. And they’re quiet.

About Rebates

Rebates are being offered by the various water districts. The most efficient way to find out about yours is to go online to SoCalWaterSmart.com. There will be a place to enter your zip code and it will direct you from there. The rebates are generous as long as the funding lasts. If you find that funding has run out for your district, don’t give up. Register and get in line anyway, it is highly likely that the program will be re-funded very quickly. The rebates are good for approved controllers, weather stations and nozzles, such as those offered by Roger’s Gardens.

In conclusion, my system has been up and running for a month and I have received my first water bill for that period of time. Please note the difference between last year at this time and this year, with my new X-Core Controller and Solar Sync weather station and MP Rotator irrigation heads. A whopping 42.1% savings! Yea!!!