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Water Tips for Gardening

Using a Garden Hose

If not used and stored properly, garden hoses can be cumbersome to use and will not last as long as they should. Be sure to follow the helpful guidelines outlined below to get the maximum benefit from your garden hose.

  • You can tap every downspout around your house for maximum water yield or, if you prefer, just use the downspouts in the private parts of the landscape, the back and side yards.

Spray heads make quick work of watering a garden with a hose.
Spray heads make quick work
of watering a garden with a hose

  • Stretch soaker hoses through the garden to provide water directly on plant roots. Soaker hoses are made of water-permeable fabrics, perforated recycled rubber, or other porous materials. When attached to a hose with the water turned on low or medium, moisture droplets weep out along the length of the hose. Very little evaporates and none sprays on plant foliage, helping discourage diseases. But it may take an hour or more to moisten nearby areas of the garden thoroughly.

    Soaker hoses require a little special attention in order to work properly. Here are some hints:

    1) Run soaker hoses straight through the garden. If set to turn or curve too sharply, they will kink and won't fill with water.

    2) Expect more water to be released from the end closest to the hose and less to be released from the far end.

    3) If the hose is moistening only one side of a plant root system, move the hose to water the dry side before you consider the job done.

    4) To determine if the soil has been watered enough, dig into the soil beside the hose. If the water has seeped 12 inches down, it's about time to turn the hose off. Remember how long this took for the next time around.

    5) For faster results, look for flat hoses that are peppered with small holes. Of course there's a trade-off: These hoses do provide water more quickly, but they are not as gentle on the soil.

    6) If you like soaker hose results, you can upgrade to permanent or semi-permanent drip irrigation systems. Although more expensive, these systems are custom designed for varying soil types and individual plant water needs. They also don't require shuffling around the garden..

  • Wheel hose carts around the yard instead of dragging armloads of hoses and causing wear and tear on your back. Hose carts consist of a reel with a crank that you can use to neatly coil the hose, eliminating tangles, knots, and kinks. This reel is set on a two- or four-wheeled base with a handle for easy pulling. Look for large-wheeled types if you're rolling the cart over the lawn or rough ground. Smaller wheels are fine on a paved path or patio.

  • Place hose guides at the edges of garden beds to keep the hose from crushing nearby plants when you pull the hose taut. Hose guides, such as a wooden stake pounded into the ground at an outward angle, prevent the hose from sliding into the garden. More decorative hose guides (stakes carved like decorative animals, elves, or flowers) can be found at some garden centers, mail-order garden suppliers, or craft shows. You could also improvise by using things like plastic pink flamingos, garden statues, or birdbaths.

  • Save watering time by using self-watering patio planters. These pots aren't smart enough to turn on the faucet and water themselves, but they do have a lower-level moisture reservoir that's available to plants at any time. A wick, which may resemble fabric or rope, pulls the water up into the rooting area when the soil begins to get dry. Many different styles are available -- and more kinds are becoming available every year. Another option is to buy a converter kit that turns regular planters into self-watering pots.

  • Use a water breaker on the end of your hose to change heavy water flow into a gentle sprinkle. This helps prevent soil compaction and spreads the water more evenly across planting areas. Put an adjustable spray nozzle on the end of the hose, watering only with the setting that produces fine droplets in a gentle spray and wide arc. Save the strong blasts for washing the car.

    Or, look for spray heads developed specifically for garden use. Some are set on angled bases, making it easy to reach in between plants. Others are on long poles for watering hanging baskets.

    Water breakers should be put on watering cans, too, especially when watering young plants such as seedlings, which can be broken or uprooted with a strong drenching.
  • Turning on a garden hose isn't the only -- or necessarily the best -- way to water your garden. Check out the next section for tips on alternative water sources.

    Want more gardening tips? Try:

    • Gardening Tips: Learn great helpful hints for all of your gardening needs.
    • Annuals: Plant these beauties in your garden.
    • Perennials: Choose great plants that will return year after year.
    • Gardening: Discover how to garden.