Lawn sprinklers for small lawns

So you've read up on proper lawn care, especially how to water your lawn and as much as you want to pamper your lawn, you just can't find time in your busy schedule to get up before the sun comes up to water your lawn. I know some people who prefer to water by hand, one of whom has an in-ground sprinkler system that he rarely uses. But that's not for everyone.

You might have consider an expensive irrigation system but for many, an in-ground irrigation system is not worth the cost and hassle. With the recent housing boom, many large, new homes have replaced the more modestly sized homes on lots surrounding metropolitan areas. The results of building these McMansions is that there is very little lawn area left.

If your lawn size does not justify the expense of adding an in-ground irrigation system, there are a number of options available to automate watering your lawn that don't involve any digging or plumbing. These sprinklers attach with standard garden hoses and there are timers to control them so you won't have to spend time with hose in hand.

Hose end sprinkler timers

Mechanical Timers

If you don't mind starting the watering process, but don't want to sit there the whole time, mechanical hose-bib timers are a very affordable option. You simply go out, turn the dial and your sprinklers will start running. You control the amount of time, or the number of gallons through the settings on the dial. Once the timer has run its course, it will shut off.

The Gilmour 9200 Mechanical Sprinkler Timer pictured is a great choice and is available for less than $10 by clicking on the photo. Gilmour makes quality lawn and garden tools and accessories and when I've had to contact them with questions they were very helpful. I can't recommend them enough. My local garden center sells Nelson s

For its price, this timer has some very nice features.
  • Measure gallons or approximate minutes
  • Dial can be set for automatic shut-off at any point up to 700 gallons or 4 hours
  • Includes manual on/off settings
  • Slow shut-off feature protects hose and plumbing from damage
  • Attatches to faucet, hose or sprinkler
  • Swivel nut for easy connection
  • Minimum flow rate is 2 GPM for proper operation
  • Flow rate varies with water source and sprinkler used
  • Works with water pressure ranging from 15 PSI to 120 PSI
  • May not work with small drip irrigation systems
The slow shut-off helps eliminate water hammer, that banging you hear sometimes when your washing machine shuts off or when the toilet is done filling. When a water fixture is shut off abruptly, it causes the rushing water to bang up against the valve, then rebound back into the pipes where they rattle if not secured properly. In some homes this can be very noisy, and if you're watering your lawn in the early morning, like you should do, it might affect a light sleeper.

Single Zone Digital Sprinkler Timers

The one problem with the mechanical timer is the need to turn the water on. Fortunately, there are programmable digital timers that will turn water your lawn without any intervention.
Gilmour's 9400 electronic sprinkler timer attatches to your exterior faucet and then you attach your house to the timer. There is no installation other than screwing it into place. The timer is also easily removable so that you can take it indoors when winter comes. The programming is pretty straight forward but I recommend you give the manual a good read first. I purchased this timer last season after reading many reviews. I have no complaints but make sure you check the batteries once in a while or they might die when the timer is on. A set of batteries should easily last you through one season.

Purchasing this timer and a couple of Gilmour sprinklers made a very big improvement in my lawn. Gilmour makes another lower cost version but I liked the flexibility that this timer gave for only a little more money. You can only run one zone through one hose with this timer. Depending on your water pressure, hose size and flow rate (gallons per minute) you might be able to run two or three sprinklers in series. Otherwise you might want to consider buying a second one or purchasing one of the multi-zone timers below.

Another option would be to set attach a Y-connector to the bottom of the timer. Program the timer to water each zone but before the next program starts, go and shut off the valve on one side of the Y valve and switch on the other. You can set the programs up to be a day apart so when you leave your home in the morning, after the sprinklers are done, just remember to adjust the valves. If you're watering once a week per zone, you only need to spend the 15 seconds making the change 2 days a week.

Multi-zone digital sprinkler timers

If one zone doesn't do it for you, there are programmable timers that can control multiple garden hoses.

A popular model is the Orbit Yard Watering System. It can control up to 4 valves independently. The system comes with only 2 valves but the extra valves are only around $15 each. I was debating getting this timer or the Gilmour but wound up getting the Gilmour because some of the reviews weren't that great. Turns out some of the reviews might have not been all that correct. At the time, the extra valves were back-ordered so it seems to be very popular. I've been getting away with one timer but I would be happier with the ability to control more.

The issue I have though, is the more zones you have, the more hoses you have running around. In a lot of cases you can run them behind shrubs and other plantings to conceal them, but I think that after 2 or 3 hoses, its time to consider an in-ground system.

I did not see the Claber Aquadue Duplo Dual Hose Water Timer #8410 when I was researching timers. The reviews are a little mixed but it has some very nice features. For one it is about the size and price of the Gilmour but can control 2 different zones/hoses.

One of the things I find most appealing, is that you can buy an optional rain gauge for it. The Claber Automatic Rain Sensor for Aquadue Duplo Water Timer #90915 attatches to the timer and shuts it off in the event of rain so you don't waste water. When the water in the rain sensor evaporates it will resume the program. That's one of the shortfalls of the garden hose timers. While rain gauges are fairly common for in-ground sprinkler controllers, this is the only hose-end timer I've seen that has that option. Between the timer and the rain gauge, it's twice the cost of the Gilmour, but you get two zones and don't have to worry about shutting the timer off when it rains.

Sometimes, too much water can be as bad as too little water for your lawn and this looks like a great timer if it works as well as advertised.

Hose End Sprinklers

Hose end sprinklers attach with a normal garden hose. They are very affordable and easy to use. In conjunction with a timer you can get similar results as having an expensive in ground sprinkler system. I've been happy with the Gilmour products and would recommend them without hesitation. There are a number of options to consider.

Impact Sprinklers

Impact sprinklers are very common and come in different sizes. They shoot a stream of water out as they rotate. There is an arm that moves in an out of the stream to make it pulse. They have a very distinctive sound when running. If you are considering an impulse sprinkler, I would recommend the metal ones over the plastic. For a small difference in price, you get a sturdier product that should last a long time.

The Gilmour Impact sprinklers allow a number of adjustments. First, the knob on the top controls the distance of the stream. Then there are two stops that when hit, make the sprinkler head change directions. This is useful if you don't need to cover a 360 degree circle. There is also a diffusion screw that protrudes into the stream of water to disperse it.


The sprinkler head can be purchased on its own, or mounted on a spike or sled. The spike pokes directly into the soil. A sled sits on top of the lawn and can be easily moved to different locations.

Gilmour even makes an impulse sprinkler mounted on a sled with a built-in timer. The timer is similar to the manual timer discussed above. You have to start the timer manually, but it will shut off automatically after it has completed it's program. As with the other impulse sprinklers, this can be daisy chained, so you can attach another sprinkler in line with this one and use it's timer. Provided you have enough pressure and water flow to support two sprinklers.

One of the most unique sprinklers made by Gilmour is the Pattern Master Impulse Sprinkler. There is a ring that you can adjust up or down, that will control the distance the water stream travels. Since most lawns are not round, this allows you to set the sprinkler in your lawn and have it follow the area you want, without wasting water on patios or driveways or into your neighbor's yard.Gilmour Turbine Rotor Sprinkler

Gear Driven Sprinklers

Gilmour calls their gear rotary sprinklers Turbo Rotor Sprinklers. They don't require as much pressure as impact sprinklers and I believe they put out more water. If I was considering impact vs gear drive sprinklers I might go with the gear driven ones. They are also quieter than the impact sprinklers.

Just like the Impact Sprinklers, they come available in a spike or sled base. The Gilmour ATR5TD Turbine Rotor Sprinkler w/ Built In Timer is a good option for someone looking for a rotary sprinkler on a sled base with timer all in one.Gilmour Pattern Master Oscillating Sprinkler

Oscillating Sprinklers

When people think of hose end sprinklers, oscillating sprinklers are what come into most people's minds. They have a bar with holes that flips back and forth watering a large area. they are portable and easy to use.

Gilmour's Pattern Master line includes an oscillator, which allows you to adjust the spray to fit irregular shaped yards.
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