Sprinkler Heads

Some sprinkler heads throw water in a round, rectangular, or square pattern; others revolve, oscillate, or pulsate. There’s a traveling sprinkler, which looks like a toy tractor crawling around the grass. You can even get a sprinkler that obligingly rolls up the hose behind it and shuts itself off when done.

If your yard is so large that individual sprinklers won’t achieve adequate coverage, you can opt for an underground system.

Sprinklers are most convenient when used with a water timer (see Faucet Accessories). These devices turn the water off after a pre-set time, freeing you to leave the house or just forget about the watering without over-watering.

There are four basic types of sprinklers: fixed, oscillating, revolving, and impulse.

Fixed Sprinkler

The fixed sprinkler has no moving parts. It is generally used to cover small to medium-size areas. The pattern of holes in the head resembles the rose on a watering can and enables the sprinkler to make a round, rectangular, square, fan-shape, or narrow-band pattern. Some models contain four different heads in one sprinkler; you just dial the desired pattern. A fixed sprinkler is excellent for covering hard-to-reach corners of the yard or small reseeded areas that need more water than the rest of the lawn.

Oscillating Sprinkler

This type throws a long, rectangular pattern from a single, 12 to 20-inch-long tube that contains 14 to 20 nozzle openings. The sprinkler can be adjusted so that the water is thrown in any of three positions: fully, from right to left and back; just from the center to the left or the right; or from a stationary position.

In good oscillating sprinklers, the nozzles are made of brass and they screw into the tube individually. They can be removed for cleaning or replaced if necessary. On less expensive models, the nozzles are permanently set into the tube.

Revolving Sprinkler

Revolving sprinklers have two or more arms that spin because of the pressure of the water. The arms are made of either plastic or brass, although the housing is usually plastic. Some revolving sprinklers have wheels or skids so that they can be pulled around the lawn easily The better models have adjustable nozzle tips on the revolving arms. This feature allows you to vary the height and width of the watering pattern, which ranges from 5 to 50 feet. The long, low pattern permits broad coverage under hanging tree limbs. The arms can also be locked into position to water a narrow strip.

Impulse (or Impact) Sprinkler

This sprinkler, with its familiar “tocka-tocka” sound, rotates when the water strikes a counterbalanced and spring-activated arm. The water strikes the arm and is broken into small particles rather than a solid stream. Then the arm swings out from the force of the water; the spring mechanism snaps it back, causing the sprinkler mechanism to move and change the direction of the water spray slightly. This process repeats over and over.

These sprinklers can be set to cover a full circle or a narrow, fan-shape pattern. Several different sizes of nozzles are available, allowing you to control the amount of water that’s put out. Impulse sprinklers will sprinkle a circle up to 100 feet in diameter, depending on the water pressure and nozzle size.

On some models, the nozzles can also be adjusted for either low or high-level streams. The long, low level is for reaching under hanging limbs of trees.

Traveling Sprinklers

These also use the revolving arm system and are great for people with little time to do their own watering. You can start a traveling sprinkler before you go to work in the morning. It will slowly make its way around the lawn and then shut itself off. There are two basic types: a toy-tractorlike sprinkler that drags the hose, and a sprinkler that looks like a hose reel and rolls up the hose as it moves along.

Both types follow the hose pattern that’s laid out on the lawn. Both are powered by the water pressure, which turns wheel gears. The size and length of the hose and its corresponding weight influence how far these sprinklers can travel—that is, between 75 and 300 feet. Naturally, this distance affects the total coverage, which can be 20,000 square feet or more. Coverage also is influenced by how the nozzles are adjusted; these adjustments can vary the circle pattern of the rotating-type sprinkler from 10 to 50 feet in diameter. For details on individual models, check manufacturer’s specifications.

Soaker Hoses

A soaker hose is a length of hose that seeps water. Most soaker hoses today are made from recycled tires. They are porous all along their length. Like drip irrigation systems, they operate at low pressures, and are left on for hours at a time. The water that seeps from them spreads out a foot or two through the soil all along the hose. They water rows of plants very well, or can be snaked through a flower or shrub bed to water wider areas.