5 mistakes everyone makes with garden water sprinklers

Don't make these common water sprinkler slip-ups

Gardena Oscillating Water Sprinkler
(Image credit: Gardena)

The hot summer weather is now here and that means that many people will be thinking of buying or using a garden water sprinkler to keep their garden plants and lawns in top condition.

As T3's gardening expert I've reviewed and rated many of the best garden sprinklers on the market today and accrued a little expertise in how they should be used and the mistakes people can make with them. So I thought I would pass on what I've learned.

I'm currently operating an oscillating Hoselock Rectangular Sprinkler mostly. This type of sprinkler is the most common on the market today, so the mistakes listed here are primarily based on that type. However, these mistakes apply to all sprinkler types.

So be sure to read these 5 common sprinkler mistakes before attempting to water your own lawn or garden with one.

Spear & Jackson BWF22 Oscillating Sprinkler in use watering a garden

(Image credit: Spear & Jackson)

1. Using your sprinkler at the wrong time of day

I'd say this is the one mistake that I see most from people. But, to be very clear right out of the gate, you should never use a garden sprinkler in the heat of the day.

Turn on your sprinkler when the sun is beating down on the turf and plants and the majority of that will evaporate before it can actually seep down into the soil. You'll end up wasting water and not adequately watering grass or flowers.

When you should use your garden water sprinkler is in the early morning and late evenings. Water will be dispensed and absorbed by organics quicker and more effectively, setting them up for healthy growth in the sun when it returns.

ENJSD rotating water sprinkler in use in a garden

(Image credit: ENJSD)

2. Using your sprinkler too much

Another classic mistake I see a lot is a sprinkler being used too much. I've passed people's houses where front lawns are being watered at 9am and are still being watered at 2:30pm.

To be clear – watering anything too much is a bad thing, including grass. More water does not equal more growth, it isn't that simple, and actually overwater can arrest growth, lead to fungal problems and issues like root rot and root de-oxygenation and, in the worst case scenarios, actually kill plants.

In addition, watering plants too much can make them reliant on the manual watering, arresting deep root growth and making them less hardy.

The amount of sprinkler action your garden should receive will of course change depending on the season and what is being watered, but always fight against the urge to make watering sessions to frequent and to use too much water.

Kärcher garden water sprinkler in use

(Image credit: Kärcher)

3. Not adjusting your sprinkler's water distribution

Most water sprinklers will come with adjustable distribution sliders. These are included for a reason, so make use of them. I've seen many people set up a water sprinkler on their lawn with it only watering a portion of it due to a tight water arc, despite the fact the sprinkler could be covering a wider area with a bit of adjustment.

Again, don't be suckered into thinking that you need to see glistening pools of water all over your grass or soil for it to be considered well watered. As a general rule I always tend to lean towards a wider spread and less water per square meter, as the truth is if you water at the correct time then you don't need any more.

So make use of those adjustment sliders on your water sprinkler, they'll save you money (due to watering a larger area with the same amount of water).

Gardena impact sprinkler in use in a large garden

(Image credit: Gardena)

4. Using the wrong type of sprinkler for the job

Oscillating sprinklers are the most common type of sprinkler on the market, and they are good for watering lawns especially. This is because they throw up a arc of water droplets that drop in a quite consistent area, which can be controlled with slides. They distribute evenly, too.

However, other types of sprinklers exist as well, such as impact sprinklers and rotating sprinklers that also have their own benefits. Rotating sprinklers, for example, tend to emit smaller water droplets, which are good when needing to water smaller, more delicate plants, while impact sprinklers have a far larger range than oscillating which makes them good for watering wide open areas.

Basically, make sure you're using the right sprinkler for the job, as the last thing you want to do, for example, is turn on an impact sprinkler in the heart of an allotment of delicate young plants.

GRÜNTEK blue colourway garden water sprinkler in use

(Image credit: GRÜNTEK)

5. Leaving your sprinkler out

There's multiple reasons to take your sprinkler inside once it has been used. These include not leaving it covering an area of grass that is therefore being blocked from the rays of the sun (hello ugly patch of pale, withered sward!) and not allowing its internals to dry out effectively between uses (hello gunged up, limescale-ridden interiors).

In addition, in climates where the night time temperature can plunge to minus numbers, then you can say hello to ice damage and goodbye to a working sprinkler.

In my experience sprinklers will not have a long shelf life unless they are treated well, and making sure one they've been used they are cleaned and dried through is a great way to keep them in perfect working order.

I tend to water my plants in the morning with sprinklers and - especially with my oscillating types - then look to leave them in the sun to dry out before storing them away until their next usage.

This is the garden water sprinkler I'm currently using

If you want a rock-solid oscillating sprinkler all-rounder that doesn't cost a lot then I recommend the Hozelock Rectangular Sprinkler. I've got this listed as the "best mid-priced oscillating sprinkler" in T3's best garden sprinkler buying guide, as it is easy to use, versatile and affordable.

Robert Jones

Rob has been writing about computing, gaming, mobile, home entertainment technology, toys (specifically Lego and board games), smart home and more for over 15 years. As the editor of PC Gamer, and former Deputy Editor for T3.com, you can find Rob's work in magazines, bookazines and online, as well as on podcasts and videos, too. Outside of his work Rob is passionate about motorbikes, skiing/snowboarding and team sports, with football and cricket his two favourites.