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Best Walking Sprinkler

If your yard looks like the scorched earth terrain from a Mad Max movie then you need to investigate the National/Rittenhouse Walking Sprinkler.

This is the creme de la creme of yard sprinklers.


One word. It is solid. Okay that’s three words but you get my drift.

The Rittenhouse lawn sprinkler (National) is one solid beast that stalks irresolutely across your yard watering your lawn as it goes. This is the original walking sprinkler that every other one has been based on since it came out in the 1930s.

The problem with the other designs is they try to cut the cost by using cheap plastic parts. Result – stripped gears and runaway sprinklers. Yard sprinklers are a dime a dozen but you get what you pay for.

Runaway sprinklers?

Yes, really! When I was asking friends and neighbors trying to decide what sprinkler to buy for our yard, I heard horror stories of sprinklers that jumped off their hose (because they’re too light) and headed off down the road sprinkling as they went!

Rest assured, you will never have those sort of problems with this one.

It weighs around 30lbs and this means that it stays on the hose track. No more racing outside to put it back on track – or worse chasing it down the road!

It has both adjustable speed and width of spray so can be used in variety of situations. Width of spray can be set to between 4 to 50 feet which gives you enormous adjustability. I have heard of someone watering their roof two stories up so keep those windows closed until you’ve got your settings right!

It can even manage a slight incline which none of the others can. Note that I said “slight incline” not Everest so keep your expectations realistic here, folks! My yard is completely flat so I can’t test this aspect but I’m sure some of you will!

You can see on the image above that the wheels are cast iron – steer clear of cheap plastic wheels.


High speed is 40 feet an hour and will it put down about half an inch of water.

Low speed is 20 feet an hour and will put down about 7/8 of an inch of water.

This means you can adjust it so that it is putting down the right amount of water for your situation. This model can pull up to 300 feet of hose so by varying your hose length and speed you can adapt it for your yard.

Also, by flipping the drive pawls out of engagement you can use it as a stationary sprinkler.

Sprinkler arms are adjustable and cover from 4 to 50 feet. Make sure when you assemble it that the word “top” is facing upward on both arms

Setting up the hose track

To set up the traveling water sprinkler you simply lay the hose in the middle of the area that you want to water. Make sure all your turns are gradual and the tractor unit can negotiate the bends with ease.

laying sprinkler hose

To get the best results you need to use a 5/8 inch garden hose. The half inch size can be used but might be too small to guide the sprinkler round corners with the result that the front wheel of the unit will jump off the hose. Now the whole point of buying this heavier model is to avoid that happening – the lightweight traveling lawn sprinklers are forever coming off the hose-track.

This is one of those things that you want to set up right and then you don’t have to worry about it again so do make sure you use 5/8” hose.

The National Walking Sprinkler has been made in the good ol’ USA since 1938. Plenty of imitators but nothing matches the original traveling lawn sprinkler.

What other folk are saying about this model

These reviews of the National B3 model are taken from happy buyers from Amazon and other online sites.

“performance has been great, even going up and down modest grades”

“Manufactured from meticulously machined components of stainless steel, brass, and aluminum, sturdily fastened to a rugged, cast iron chassis, drivetrain, and wheels, this is a solid, durable, bombproof sprinkler. It’s built like a steam locomotive. Moreover, in the unlikely event that it does need to be repaired, it comes apart (yes, I could not resist taking mine apart) with basic hand tools, and goes back together quickly and easily. ”

“has proven itself capable of pushing small tree branches out of it’s way”

“You don’t want this Gilmour one or the Nelson Rain Train. They are both plagued with the same problems: stripped gears, inability to go up even the slightest hill, an “off” valve that sticks”

“Not a bit of plastic on this thing, no cheap gears to strip when dragging a lot of hose behind it.”

“Very impressed with how strong this sprinkler is, very heavy duty. Should last forever if proper care is taken to lube the moving parts as directed by owners manual.”

“I got tired of buying a new sprinkler every spring, so I decided to invest in a top of the line sprinkler made in the USA, and boy, am I glad I did! This thing is a monster! Seriously, the Nelson traveling sprinkler (which i bought and immediately returned) was a dainty little thing (full of plastic gears, no doubt), but this beast is SOLID METAL! It’ll probably outlive me!”

That last comment is one that resonates with me. This is quality merchandise. You do get the feeling that it will probably outlast you. Maybe I can leave my walking sprinkler to one of the kids in my will!

And for those who, like me, found it all a bit difficult to picture this above ground sprinkler system in action, this video will give you an idea of what it all looks like..

How To Plant A Lawn

When you get ready to plant a lawn, you need to prepare the ground first. Good soil preparation is the foundation of a quality lawn. It’s part of what determines if your lawn will succeed at all, and how quickly it becomes established.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re planting a new lawn or just replanting an old one; good site preparation is the key to success either way. You also should do a good job of site preparation whether you’re going to seed or sod. Both need that solid foundation.

First, Clean

The first step is to remove all construction trash, rocks, weeds, large roots, old tree stumps, and everything else that doesn’t belong in or under your lawn. If you need to grade the area, take off several inches of topsoil and pile it away from your work area; you’ll need it later.

Then Grade

Now slope the ground away from the foundation of the house. Don’t make a steep grade; the ground should drop about 6 inches for every 50 feet in distance from the house.

Try to avoid creating a steep slope or a hill if you can. However, if you do have a steep hill, a swale, or another area where soil erosion may occur, plan to plant sod, not seeds, in this area.

Once you have the site graded, return the topsoil to the area and rake it smooth. If there are any weeds growing in it, now is the time to apply herbicide to kill them.

If you’re planting seeds, the level of the soil should be even with or slightly below any hard surfaces such as sidewalks, driveways, etc. If you’re going to lay sod, the soil level should be 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches below those surfaces.

Soil Samples

You should always take a soil sample before you to go the trouble of planting a lawn. Use a garden trowel to get 10 to 15 samples of the top six inches of soil. Use locations scattered evenly about the lawn area.

Mix the samples and let them air dry. When they’re dry, submit about 1 cup of the mixture to the state Extension Service soil testing program in your area. The results will tell you whether you need to add fertilizer, and how much. Follow the recommendations of the Extension Service, based on the results of your soil sample and the species and variety of grass you plan to plant.

If you want to save money and do this yourself, try something like a Digital 4 Way Soil and Light Tester for Plants and Lawn which tests for pH, moisture, temperature and light level.

Install Sprinklers

If you’re going to put in an irrigation or sprinkler system, now’s the time. This is not entirely a do-it-yourself project; although you may be able to handle the installation, you need to get an expert to help you design it. A badly designed system won’t ever do what you want it to do, which is deliver the amount of water your grass needs, uniformly spread over your lawn, while conserving water at the same time.

Soil Amendments

This also is the time to apply any pre-plant soil amendments. You want your soil to be in the best shape possible in terms of organic matter, fertility, water-holding ability and drainage. All of these are affected by the amendments you add to the soil.

You may use organic or inorganic soil amendments. Organic soil amendments include compost, manure, and peat. Inorganic or mineral amendments include fertilizer, lime, sulfur and other chemicals that affect the fertility or pH of the soil.

Rely on the results of your soil sample tests to know exactly what to add in your situation. Every site and every lawn is different, and you need to know your own site conditions to add the correct amendments.

Till the Soil

Once you’ve added your soil amendments, run a tiller over the site. This loosens the soil and encourages grass to root quickly.

Grade Once Again

Just before you plant, grade the site one last time. You can hand rake, or use a drag such as a metal doormat. Follow that up with irrigation to “settle” the soil before you spread seed or lay sod.

How To Lay Sod

When you get ready to plant a new lawn, you have three choices: seeds, plugs, or sod. Which one you choose depends on several factors, including the species of grass you’re going to plant, the price, and whether or not seed is available of the species you’ve chosen.

For some species, such as St. Augustine grass, sod is the only really practical alternative. For other species such as Bermudagrass and Bahiagrass, it’s one of several options.

One thing is clear, however: using sod is the fastest and easiest way to establish a lush, green carpet of grass in your yard. Even those species for which seed is readily available will take most of a growing season to become established and spread, but sod—when put down correctly—will give you a beautiful lawn in just a few weeks. Best of all, you can lay sod any time during the growing season if you’re prepared to water it enough to help it get well established.

Begin With the Soil

If you want your lawn to be successful, you need to do some preparation before you actually start laying the sod. This means preparing the soil so that you have a good foundation for your lawn.

Start by removing any existing grass and weeds, and then spade the soil to loosen and aerate it. You also need to take the thickness of the sod into consideration, so when you rake the soil, its surface needs to be approximately an inch and a half below any sidewalks, driveways, or other hard surfaces.
Then apply a “starter” fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus, and rake the soil again to distribute it well. Now you’re ready to start laying the sod.

Laying Sod

Once the sod is harvested, you need to lay it as quickly as possible so it doesn’t dry out and die. If it’s a big job that’s going to take several days, store the sod in the shade so it stays cool and moist.

Choose the straight edge of a hard surface as the guide for your first row. Place each piece tightly against the last piece so there aren’t any gaps between the pieces of sod, and put the rows tightly together as well.

When you start the second row, cut a piece of sod in half crossways for the first piece in the row. The point here is to stagger the seams like a bricklayer lays bricks. If you’re laying sod on a hill or slope, turn the pieces of sod so they’re perpendicular to the direction of the slope.

As you work, if you need to stand on the sod you’ve already put down, lay a board on top of the sod so your feet don’t dig into the sod you’re already laid. Trim or cut pieces as necessary to go around odd-shaped flower beds, sidewalks, or other obstacles; not everything in your yard will have straight lines, and you want the sod to fit tightly everywhere it can.

When you have all the sod laid down, use the back of a rake to tamp down all the edges so the roots are in firm contact with the soil underneath. The object of this is to get rid of any air pockets that will cause the sod to dry out.

The last task in this process is to water the sod. Plan to water long enough to get the top 6 to 8 inches of moist; this encourages the grass to put down deep roots. Do the same thing each time you water, but space out your watering days so the soil doesn’t get soggy.

Watch it Grow

Try not to walk on the lawn until the sod has rooted well and it starting to grow. The way to tell if it’s getting established is to lift up on the grass. If it “sticks” down, it’s rooting into the soil.

At the end of a month, the sod should be starting to grow well. Apply lawn fertilizer according to the needs of whatever grass species you have chosen, and start a regular schedule of watering and mowing. Enjoy your new lawn!