The plumbing system in your home is a lot like the electrical system. In both cases, you have a fixed array of supply conduits that deliver water and electricity to where it's needed most. You deal only with the permanent terminals -- electrical outlets and faucets and drains. Sometimes, though, these fixed terminals are just not enough. When it comes to powering the circular saw in the back yard, you don't think twice -- you get an extension cord. When it comes to bringing water to the driveway for the Sunday car wash, you get a hose.
The similarities don't stop here. Although you may think that one hose is much like the next, you might be surprised at the variations available. In the same way that you choose your extension cord to suit the requirements of a tool or fixture, your hose selection should be based on the job at hand.
Hoses are distinguished by their diameter, length and the material that they're made of. Typical garden and utility hose diameters range from 1/2 to 3/4 in. Although the larger-diameter hoses move more water, a 1/2-in.-dia. model will do fine for watering the garden or spraying the kids on a hot afternoon.
As for length, you can buy a hose as short as 25 ft. or as long as 100 ft. Like the hose's diameter, its length affects the pressure at the end. There's no point in keeping 100 ft. of hose coiled on the side of your house when your garden is only 10 ft. away.
Where hoses really start to differ, though, is in their construction. For ease of handling, light weight and economy, most manufacturers offer a basic vinyl hose, usually reinforced with a radial cord. Serious gardeners, though, look for the addition of rubber in their hose. Although rubber is heavier than vinyl and somewhat harder to handle, it contributes to increased burst strength, durability and longevity. Composite reinforced rubber/vinyl hoses make sense for frequent home and light-duty commercial use, while reinforced rubber hoses handle the most demanding requirements.
Of course, the last thing you want is a hose that leaks. Or is it? Surprisingly, leaky hoses make up a significant part of the hose marketplace. They're called sprinkler hoses, or soaker hoses, and they're designed to leak -- uniformly along the length of the hose at just the right rate. Vinyl sprinkler hoses are generally flat, so they can be laid on the ground with their perforated side facing up. A capped end forces the water through the perforations in a fine spray for watering lawns and narrow garden areas. Soaker hoses, on the other hand, don't spray water, but allow it to weep into the soil at a slow, continuous rate.
In addition to the typical gardening and utility hoses, you'll also find flat hoses for easy roll-up storage and hoses designed for carrying potable water for drinking. Most manufacturers offer a complete line of hose types in a wide quality range.
When gardening on a budget is the priority, a basic vinyl hose is a good choice. Lightweight flexibility makes it easy to handle and store, and tire-cord reinforcing increases burst strength. Vinyl hoses come in lengths ranging from 25 to 75 ft. with a 5/8-in. diameter, or a 50-ft. length that's 1/2 in. in diameter. A typical 25-ft. model costs about $4.
If you're looking for extra quality without sacrificing ease of handling, a lightweight, 2-ply reinforced rubber/vinyl composite hose may fill the bill. A 50-ft. length weighs less than 5 pounds and costs about $22.
If part of keeping up with the Joneses means having the classiest hose around, this entry might fit the bill. Called the Flexogen hose, it's guaranteed for life in noncommercial use and features 6-ply construction and cord reinforcing. The patented design uses foam inner layers for light weight and flexibility, and the outer layer is polished to resist abrasion and prevent marring. It also boasts a 500-psi burst strength, a rigid collar to prevent kinking at the faucet and brass couplings. The Flexogen hose comes in diameters from 1/2 to 1 in. and lengths up to 250 ft. The 5/8-in.-dia., 25-ft. model costs about $18.
Storing a hose when you're done is easier when the hose is flat. This way, it effortlessly rolls up and takes less space. One option is called a Marine and Recreational Space Saver flat hose because it's also safe for drinking water. It features reinforced vinyl construction and brass couplings. This 1/2-in.-dia. 25-ft. hose costs about $14. It's also available on a reel and in a 50-ft. length.
If all you need to do is water your garden, you might want to pass on this one. Otherwise, here is what you get: all-rubber construction with double-spiral cord reinforcing, an abrasion-resistant rubber covering, a rigid collar at the faucet end and machined-brass couplings. What that all adds up to is a hose with 500-psi burst strength and the capacity to handle water up to 200 degrees F. It's also guaranteed for 10 years of heavy-duty service. The 5/8-in. 25-ft. model costs $23.
Other commercial-grade hoses combine materials and features to suit specific requirements. Gardeners might opt for a similar version combined with vinyl for easier handling, or sacrifice the high-temperature capabilities for increased burst strength.
Soak 'n' Spray hose
When placed along your garden bed, this hose generates a fine spray above the ground, while moistening the soil underneath it. The water pressure determines the extent of the aboveground spray, or the hose can be completely buried. The Soak 'n' Spray costs about $15 for a 50-ft. length. If 50 ft. is too long, you can tie a knot in the hose for a shorter length.
Boat and Camper hose
You may not know it, but not all hoses are considered safe for carrying drinking water. One exception is this model designed for recreational use. It features a nontoxic, FDA-approved core and comes in 25- and 50-ft. lengths, with a 1/2- or 5/8-in. diameter. The 5/8-in., 25-ft. Boat and Camper hose costs about $15.
When it comes to watering, you can stand and move the hose back and forth, or get a sprinkler hose and relax. One model features three narrow hoses attached side by side, with hundreds of small perforations on one face of the assembly. Laid down along a narrow garden or lawn, it sends a fine mist across a 10-ft.-wide area. A white stripe along the hose indicates the side with perforations. Available with a coupling for joining a second length, or with a sealed end, this sprinkler is available in 25- and 50-ft. lengths. The 25-ft. model costs about $4.
Flat hose with reel
This flat hose assembly comes with its own reel and carrying handle, and all of it weighs only 2 pounds. The hose is 49 ft. long and has a 1/2-in. inside diameter. It comes with connectors for attaching it to your faucet and has its own spray nozzle. The flat hose with reel costs about $40.
For getting water to the root of the problem, many gardeners turn to a soaker hose. These are either laid on the ground or buried just under the surface, and they feature thousands of tiny holes that slowly seep water into the soil. The Moisture Master model shown is made of recycled-tire rubber and features UV protection to help prevent cracks. A 25-ft. length of 5/8-in.-dia. soaker hose costs about $12. Complete kits that include all the fittings necessary for your garden watering system are available.
Source: Popular Mechanics (http://popularmechanics.com/home_improvement/gardening/1997/7/garden_hoses)
Since master gardener Paul James installed his automatic sprinkler system, watering his lawn, trees, shrubs and flower beds is a snap. But there are plants all over his property such as hanging baskets, container gardens, vegetable seedlings and young plants that still have to be watered by hand. Even the best sprinkling system won't reach every nook and cranny in his landscape. These gadgets can help to make hand-watering easy and a little faster:
UOne of the oldest and best watering devices is a brass, twist nozzle that allows you to alter the flow of water from a fine mist to a powerful spray. The twist nozzle is James' favorite watering device, and it sells for less than $10. Less expensive plastic versions are available, but they're not very rugged.
UAnother hand-held device that features an insulated handle emits a fan spray pattern only, but the shut-off valve on the handle allows you to control the pressure without having to go back to the faucet.
UThe next generation of watering widgets allows for one-handed operation, with squeeze handles that control the flow of water. These also give you a fair amount of control over the pressure and pattern of the spray, which is great when you're going from a plant that needs a fine mist to one that can handle a more forceful spray.
UWhile the overall design of one-handed watering devices has not changed much, the new models offer more features, such as one with five spray patterns that you control by twisting the head. The spray patterns include full flow, stream, flat, mist and shower. Having so many choices means you can water just about anything and everything without having to change watering devices.
UAnother updated version doesn't have a handle but has a dial that allows you to control the flow of water with your thumb. The best thing about these devices is the ability to water with one hand.
UThe watering device that James uses the most is a watering wand, which makes watering all his container plants easy. The long handle allows you to reach into large containers and avoid damaging plants, and the flow rate is just right -- not so strong that it washes soil out of the containers. The long handle also comes in handy when watering flowering plants at the height of the bee season.
UA gadget known as a water breaker works great for those first few critical months after planting a tree or shrub. Ideally you want to provide a good 10 gallons of water or so a week, but that's not easy to do since much of the water is likely to run off. The water breaker literally breaks a more forceful stream of water into a soft, gentle flow, giving the water a chance to slowly soak into the soil.
UA seedling nozzle delivers a mere half-gallon of water every minute as a hollow cone of spray mist. Tender seedlings require a tender touch when it comes to watering, and while many of the water gadgets can be adjusted to emit a soft mist, this one does that and only that.
UThe fogger nozzle does much the same thing, but delivers twice the amount of water. These are ideal for misting around plants in the middle of summer to reduce heat stress and to increase the humidity around plants.
UIf you need a stronger blast of water, try one of the power-spray nozzles. With these, you can actually power wash the driveway or get dirt out of hard-to-reach places, such as in the crevices of stone walls.
UA fan-type sprayer with a long rubber attachment can be stuck in the ground or bent around just about anything you want. You can also bend it into an upside-down U-shape to make watering hanging baskets a breeze.
UThere is also a clever coiled hose that extends to 25 or 50 feet, then coils up all by itself and takes up very little space.
With all the different watering widgets on the market today, you shouldn't have trouble finding one that suits your watering needs. While James is always on the lookout for and eager to try new water widgets, he admits to sometimes resorting to one of the most trusted widgets of all -- a watering can.