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How to Irrigate a Lawn

The best practice for irrigating a lawn is to use landscape pop-up sprinklers. The rotator nozzles attach to the pop-up bodies and give you the best and even coverage for your lawn. If you have a larger area to cover, you can move up to the Gear Rotor sprinklers, like the PGP Ultra. The reason we go for pop-up sprinklers over drip irrigation is that though drip is very effective, it becomes very hard to see faults and make repairs.

Have a look at our recommended products for irrigating a lawn

Other important guides to assist you in setting up your lawn irrigation. We will be referring to these guides throughout. 

Measure the Area

The first thing to do is to measure your area that you would like irrigated. This can be either a quick drawing with pen and paper, printing out a google maps image or using software available. This drawing needs to be to scale, have your water source/taps  shown and any objects that may obscure the irrigation, decks, sheds, veggie garden etc

I have created an example plan for us to work through together.

landscape pop up house size
landscape pop up house size

Figure out how much water is available

This can be done with a bucket test or with a flow meter. The Bucket Test is an estimate and not 100% accurate. Flow meters can be expensive though so for us we will do a bucket test. How we avoid the problem of inaccurate bucket tests is to use around 50% of what the total is. If the test gives you 20L/min, you would spec your irrigation to 10 L/min.

(60 / Time) x Litres

Let us say you filled your 10-litre bucket in 15 seconds.

Time = 15 (in seconds)
Litres = 10
So through the equation,

(60/15) x10 = 40

40 L/mn is the total estimate. therefore we will work off of 20 L/pm


Place the Sprinklers

Using the technical sheets provided, you can start placing the sprinklers on your plan. The tech sheets for both Rain Bird and Hunter offer you with the Distances and L/min for each Nozzle Arch.

Using the distances, place markers on your plan where you think the different nozzles should go, aim for good head to head coverage.
Our goal is to cover the whole lawn area, without throwing onto the house or concrete areas. (imagine there is a fence around the property as well, that we need to avoid).


For the example plan, I have used the Rain Bird R-Van Rotators and placed them where I think I can get good coverage. For educational purposes, I have added the spray areas to try and demonstrate the water coverage. Try to get as much of the lawn consistently covered as we can, without throwing into the house, paths or fences. You can't be perfect with every area of the lawn, but the aim is to try and cover the lawn consistently and completely.

landscape pop up spray pattern
landscape pop up spray pattern
landscape pop up spray pattern

For the example below, I have removed some sprinklers from the plan to show the comparison. You can see dry patches throughout the lawn, with grass that would end up dying, leaving a patchy, ugly lawn.

Have a read of the Head to Head Sprinkler Spacing Guide for more information on sprinkler spacings. Link above.

landscape pop up spray pattern
landscape pop up spray pattern
landscape pop up spray pattern

A common question we get is, why so many sprinklers? Can't I just put a strip down the middle doing the whole lawn? Below you can see the disadvantage to doing that. You may save money, but your lawn will die, you'll waste water throwing into the house or on the path (if you have iron in your water this will stain) and you'll end up having to fix the mistake later.

landscape pop up spray pattern
landscape pop up spray pattern
landscape pop up spray pattern

Zone the Sprinklers

Here is where it gets tricky, so if you are having troubles, call our experts on 0800 130 905

In this example, we have given ourselves 20 L/min of water to irrigate the lawn. Each sprinkler requires a certain amount of water to operate optimally. You can see this in the Tech Sheets above.

We have in our plan

  • 17 x R-Van 14 - 90 Degree
  • 20 x R-Van 14 - 180 Degree
  • 1 x R-Van 14 - 270 Degree
  • 5 x R-Van 18 - 90 Degree
  • 5 x R-Van 18 - 180 Degree
  • 5 x R-Van 24 - 90 Degree
  • 2 x R-Van 24 - 180 Degree
  • 1 x R-Van 24 - 360 Degree

R-Van 14

  • 17 Nozzles x 1.06 L/min = 18.02 L/min
  • 20 Nozzles x 2.12 L/min = 42.40 L/min
  • 1 Nozzle x 3.18 L/min = 3.18 L/min

R-Van 18

  • 5 Nozzles x 1.89 L/min = 9.45 L/min
  • 5 Nozzles x 3.82 L/min = 19.1 L/min

R-Van 24

  • 5 Nozzles x 2.46 L/min = 12.3 L/min
  • 2 Nozzles x 4.92 L/min = 9.84 L/min
  • 1 Nozzle x  9.54 L/min = 9.54 L/min

Total Water usage for all the sprinklers is 123.83 L/min
We may need to split the sprinklers into seven zones to get under the 20 L/min limit.

Let's break it down to make it easier to understand and just work on the front lawn, as seen below

Tip: It's best to use the open flow of the nozzle when calculating, even when not throwing that Radius. It is normally bolded in the tech sheet

Front Lawn

  • 3 x R-Van 18 - 90 Degree @ 5m radius = 5.34 L/min
  • 3 x R-Van 18 - 180 Degree @ 5m radius = 10.32 L/min
  • 6 x R-Van 14 - 90 Degree @ 4m radius = 6.36 L/min
  • 2 x R-Van 14 - 180 Degree @ 4m radius = 4.24 L/min

Total = 26.26 L/min

2 Zones are required as we can't run all the sprinklers at once with our 20 L/min. Think of where the pipe will go and what work easiest for you.

landscape pop up zoning

Zone 1 Nozzles (Red)

  • 2 x R-Van 18 - 90 Degree @ 5m radius = 3.56 L/min
  • 2 x R-Van 18 - 180 Degree @ 5m radius = 6.88 L/min
  • 1 x R-Van 14 - 90 Degree @ 4m radius = 1.06 L/min
  • 1 x R-Van 14 - 180 Degree @ 4m radius = 2.12 L/min

Total = 13.62 L/min


Zone 2 Nozzles (Blue)

  • 1 x R-Van 18 - 90 Degree @ 5m radius = 1.78 L/min
  • 1 x R-Van 18 - 180 Degree @ 5m radius = 3.44 L/min
  • 5 x R-Van 14 - 90 Degree @ 4m radius = 5.3 L/min
  • 1 x R-Van 14 - 180 Degree @ 4m radius = 2.12 L/min

Total = 12.64 L/min

Our sprinkler will now work within our range, provide room in case of spikes or shortages. I choose these zones to have the pipes not cross the middle of the lawns and keep the trenches straight lines. We would have to dig under the path to connect the sprinklers, so it was easier to zone the sprinklers close by in one zone.


landscape pop up zoning