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   Past Articles Library | Summer Lawn Sprinkler Review

Summer Lawn Sprinkler Review

A review of the best and worst water sprinklers for your grass areas

Sprinklers for lawn and grass areas come in many different forms, and while installed underground irrigation systems are ideal (and expensive), today we are going to concentrate on hose-end, water sprinklers.

This is because traditional hose-end lawn sprinklers are easy to use and set up, are less expensive, and even if you have an underground irrigation system, let's face it, there is always that dry spot that needs to be taken care of!

Hose-end lawn sprinklers are very versatile and can apply a high volume of water over large surfaces, or they can fit into those hard to reach nooks and crannies making them indispensable.

That said however, there are some lawn sprinklers that are better than others. Some use water more efficiently than others, some are easier to set up and move than others, and some will last for years and years rather than breaking down and needing to be replaced every few months.

So in order for you to pick and choose which one will work best for you, we are going to review several different types of hose-end lawn sprinklers so you can see the pros and cons of each, and make an informed, cost effective, and water efficient decision.

First, Some Basic Watering Tips

Try To Conserve As Much As Possible

When setting up lawn sprinklers try to be as mindful of water as possible. For example:

1.Try not to use them on windy days because the wind can carry off a lot of the water before it even reaches the lawn.

2. Sprinklers that are set up so the water falls on or runs off onto the pavement is lost and wasted.

3. Try to always water early in the morning to reduce evaporation, and so the the grass dries as the day warms up. Plus, if you water at night so the grass stays wet, there is an increased chance of disease such as rust, mildew, and rot.

How To Tell When It's Time to Water

The best time to water the lawn is as soon as you notice that the grass does not spring back after the lawn has been walked on. This is called "footprinting."

Choosing The Best Lawn Sprinkler

There is a wide variety of portable, hose-end sprinklers that include stationary types that look like rings, oscillating, rotating, and impulse sprinklers; and "walking" or "traveling" types that slowly roll across the lawn area.

When choosing a sprinkler, look for one with a coverage pattern that most closely matches the area that needs to be watered. The sprinkler's package details should list the shape and size of the area which the sprinkler will cover.

How Much To Water

To water effectively with portable sprinklers (or any irrigation system really) you need to know how fast water penetrates your soil and the delivery rate of your sprinklers.

  • For Example:

    1 inch (2.5 cm) of water moistens about:

    12 inches (30 cm) in sandy soil
    7 inches (17.5 cm) in loam soil
    4 to 5 inches (10 to 12.5 cm) in heavy clay soil

    So if you want to water to 12 inches (30 cm) deep you'll need to apply about:

    1 inch (2.5 cm) of water to sandy soil
    2.5 to 3 inches (6.25 to 7.5 cm) of water to clay soil

  • To Figure Ideal Delivery Rate

    Simply place a rain gauge or small can at regular intervals outward from the sprinkler and see how long it takes to fill it with 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water.

    After the grass has been watered the soil should be moist to a depth of 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) which is ideal and considered deep watering.

    Avoid Shallow Watering

    If the soil is only moist in the first 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) you have not watered enough and that is considered shallow watering, which is something you want to avoid.

    Shallow watering only encourages the roots to stay near the surface, making the lawn more susceptible to drought.

    It is always much better to water thoroughly and deeply so that the grass's roots grow down far into the soil where more moisture is likely to be.

    So Do a Simple Check

    Dig a small hole to check that the soil is damp to the needed depth, then make a note of the time it took to water the lawn enough so you have an idea in the future how long you need to set the sprinklers out.

A Word About Hose Timers

Hose timers are very convenient tools that can be used with any type of garden sprinkler or any type of watering system such as drip irrigation or soaker hoses. They fit between the tap and the hose.

Most hose timers turn off the water after a predetermined time, but the more sophisticated computerized hose timers can also turn on the water.

  • Computerized Hose Timer

    These timers allow you to irrigate plants and lawn areas while you are away by programming water times and duration in advance.

  • Simple Water Timer

    These can be set to turn off the water after a preset time, usually from 5 minutes up to two hours.

Set Spray To
Conserve Water:

Grass Needs Water:

Figure Out How Much
Water Is Actually
Reaching the Grass:

Put Out a Rain Gauge:

Do A Simple Check:

Digital Hose Timer:


As we all know, there are various types of lawn sprinklers to suit a variety of needs, but here are a few with their pros and cons listed:

Standing or Spike Sprinkler

Overview: Is mounted on a spike to push into the ground. Comes in many styles and types. Available in a circular, semicircular, rectangular, mist, or fan shape spray from 20 feet (6 m) up to 40 feet (12 m) in radius. Very versatile.

Pros: Good for lawns, as it gives good even coverage. With the spike it has adjustable height, and the spray is easy to adjust between mist, stream, or spray - so it can be used in other parts of the garden if needed - such as flower or perennial beds. Many have a flow-through spike base so that multiple sprinklers can be connected into a series of sprinklers.

Cons: The oscillating types can sometimes break quickly. Better to buy a standard spray type that does not oscillate.

Cost: Inexpensive and long lasting.

Rotating / Whirling Nelson Sprinkler

Overview: Non-tipping, heavy duty, die cast zinc base. Aluminum top and vane. Series connection base so several can be strung together. Metal swivel coupling. Square spray pattern up to 35 feet (11 m) x 35 feet (11 m).

Pros: Well built construction. Give great, even coverage. Great for lawns as it cover square areas - holds the square pattern quite well - it gets into the corners and spreads the water perfectly for lawn and turf. The distribution pattern mimics rain, very even and good coverage throughout without excessive soaking in one area and dry patches in others. Droplets rather than mist so less evaporation. The droplets are very fine so not prone to harm even tender young seedlings. Another nice feature is the ability to chain several together. To adjust the size of the coverage, just turn the water on more or less.

Cons: The hose connection may fail after many years.

Cost: Inexpensive, long lasting and durable.

Stationary Sprinkler

Overview: Give great, even coverage. Great for lawns. Come in square or round spray patterns - up to 30 feet (9 m) x 30 feet (9 m). Heavy duty, cast iron body with rust resistant, powder coated paint.

Pros: No moving parts to break. Versatile, can be used on lawns and good for small areas or flower beds. Works well even in areas with low water pressure or on wells. Throws fairly large drops so the water falls back onto the lawn instead of blowing or evaporating away. Doesn't take long to saturate an area so watering is done quickly. Flow can be adjusted downward until it's a gentle bubbler.

Cons: With its low profile, longer blades of grass next to it can get caught in the flow and interfere with the spray pattern.

Cost: Inexpensive, long lasting and durable.

Pulse-jet Sprinklers

Overview: A single jet on a central pivot, which swings around in a series of water pulses to deliver water in a wide circle and can cover very large areas. Come in plastic, brass, or metal. Covers a circular spray pattern of 21 feet (6 m) to 48 feet (15 m) or 90 feet (27 m) in diameter.

Pros: Good for large areas. Very good for low water pressure areas or areas on well water. Very easy to adjust to get either a long stream or a shower type of sprinkling.

Cons: Can have unsteady or uneven rotation speed. Water application is fairly even. Have to configure the surface coverage angle, water height, and water distance every time you move it.

Cost: Inexpensive and durable.

Oscillating Sprinkler

Overview: Made from plastic and metal parts. Deliver water over a rectangular area. Variable settings allows watering up to 66 feet (20 m) x 46 feet (14 m).

Pros: Spray pattern can be set to almost any pattern desired by manipulating 2 separate levers.

Cons: Not very efficient. Tend to break often and oscillation feature sticks in one place. Light weight construction makes getting them level on the ground difficult. Inconsistent water flow.

Cost: Quite expensive because must be replaced at least once a season.

Traveling / Walking Sprinkler

Overview: The sprinkler travels along length of attached 5/8-inch (1.9 cm) hose and waters as it travels along the hose on a preset route. To water, the homeowner lays out the hose as desired, taking care to avoid dramatic corners or turnabouts that may result in hose kinks or a derailed sprinkler. A front wheel runs on the hose with the two traction-ready rear wheels bestride. To turn the sprinkler off, place the shut-off ramp on the hose to lift the sprinkler off its "rails." The traveling sprinkler operates at two motor speeds, high and low. On high power, the sprinkler travels approximately 37 feet (11 m) per hour, with a 1/4-inch (.63 cm) water application. On low power, the sprinkler moves at a 21 feet (6 m) per hour rate with a 1/2-inch (1.27 cm) water application. The sprinkler arms adjust for varied spray patterns and arcs, throwing water from 15 feet (5 m) to 56 feet (17 m). Simple installation requires no tools.

Pros: Useful for large, level areas. Travels for hours without any movement on your part. The adjustable spray wands allow you to regulate the size of the area covered. Once adjusted can provide steady even watering. Waters the lawn without spraying water high up in the air (less chance for evaporation, and not affected by wind as much), and it has hands-off operation once you set it up. It's quiet. The only sound it makes is the water hitting the grass.

Cons: The hose connection is awkwardly placed making connecting the hose difficult. Can have uneven coverage depending upon how the arms are set. The parts that move are plastic and break over time - that said however - there are many makers of this product and some are very well made and have no plastic parts. If interested in this product do a bit of shopping for an all metal sprinkler.

Cost: Expensive.

Noodlehead Flexible Lawn & Garden Sprinkler


The flexible noodles on this sprinkler bend where you point them, and adapt to any shape of garden area. Conserves water by not spraying areas you don't want it to. Covers areas up to a 20 foot (6 m) x 20 foot (6 m) lawn, a 40 foot (12 m) strip, or any irregular shape. Comes with optional stake to raise it above growing vegetation. Can add up to three riser extensions with heights of 8 inches (20 cm) to 16 inches (40 cm), up to 24 inches (60 cm).

Pros: Unique problem solver; great for small or oddly shaped areas. Can constantly customize it into new watering patterns. Can water small to medium-large areas by spreading out the noodles and then adjusting the water output to the desired flow. The same is true when watering smaller and odd shaped areas. The noodles are quite flexible and easy to adjust. Comes with a lawn spike to ensure it stays where put and does not tip over.

Cons: Not good for super large areas. If you wish to water ordinary flat lawn areas, you are better off with another more traditional sprinkler. Each noodle doesn't really spray a lot of water, so be prepared to point three to six noodles at one spot if you want to really cover a specific area. The noodles can bend back up over time and need to be repositioned.

Cost: Inexpensive.

Portable 3 in 1 Sprinkler System

Overview: This portable 18 foot (5.5 m) hose has three in-line sprinkler heads. Each sprinkler head can be adjusted independently and has five separately controlled settings. There are 6 feet (2 m) of hose between sprinkler heads, which can be removed to one or two links to cover a smaller area. Sprinkler heads are mounted on stakes and stay securely in place during watering. Completely portable and can be moved to any area of your yard. Made of ABS plastic and PVC.

Pros: Adjustable settings make it possible to water a variety of areas. System connects together easily.

Cons: Good idea, poor performance for most common usage. Doesn't work well in low pressure areas or for people who have wells. The spray is non-uniform and can spray erratically to the left and right sides. The small diameter hose to connect means less water volume. If you have a large area to water, you will be moving these often. The stakes are pretty large to hold them in place and leave a hole behind.

Cost: Inexpensive.


There will always be a variety of lawn sprinklers to choose from, and more new ones will be probably keep coming onto the market in the future.

I look forward to seeing them, because you never know when something truly wonderful will be invented.

Until then however, we have lots to choose from but only a handful of them are very, very good products. Those are the ones that have been around for years, and those are the ones that most of us keep using. They just haven't been improved upon - yet.

I for one am glad they are still around, because if you have a lawn area that needs some fast watering, and you don't want to go to the trouble or expense of an underground, permanent irrigation system, you can always set out the sprinkler and know your lawn will still look good.

Happy watering, and keep cool this summer!

The writer is a member of the National Garden Writers Association, a nationally published writer, and a certified organic grower. She regularly speaks and writes about all gardening related topics, with an emphasis on making gardening a successful and enjoyable process for anyone who wants to learn. Weekend Gardener Monthly Web Magazine concentrates of giving detailed gardening tips and gardening advice to all levels of gardeners.

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