The garden hose might be the most important tool you own. Every plant needs adequate water to live and thrive, and the hose is what gets the water there–by filling watering cans and pails, running sprinklers or dripping the water directly to the plant. Hoses serve other uses as well: getting water to livestock or pets, spray washing the car, the patio, or the deck, and cooling off kids on a hot summer day, just to name a few.
Here are a few things to consider when looking for your next garden hose:
- Vinyl hoses are the least expensive and easiest to haul and store but are also the flimsiest and can be prone to tearing and deterioration if left outside.
- Rubber hoses, on the other hand, can last through several years of hard duty but they are often heavy, stiff and hard to store.
- There are also composite vinyl and rubber hoses as well as vinyl hoses reinforced with a layer of mesh to make them more resilient, and either of these types can serve as a happy compromise for most gardeners.
Be aware, however, if you or your pets plan to drink from your hoses, you’ll want to look for one specifically labeled “drinking water safe” to make sure it’s not leaching unsafe chemicals into the water.
Standard hose lengths are 25, 50, 75 and 100 feet (8, 16, 24 and 32m). While a longer hose may seem like the best idea, the shorter lengths are easier to maneuver and store. If you need to reach further than 25 feet (8m) from your spigot, consider buying extra hoses and linking them together.
If you’re using your hose for anything rather than light hand watering, you should look for a burst pressure, that is the psi above which the hose will rupture, of 350 or better.
Drip Irrigation Hoses
Some hoses are constructed to leech water slowly into the soil at the plant’s base, the watering method preferred by many experienced gardeners. These hoses can’t be used for anything else.
There are a few garden hose accessories that are almost as important as the hose itself. These include:
These are the pieces at either end of the hose that connect it to the spigot or two hoses to each other. It’s important that connectors are sturdy so as not to crack and leak. Plastic is a poor choice for that reason. Look instead for metal, particularly brass. And invest in a hose with octangle-shaped or quick-connect couplings. These will make the job of hooking up and extending your hoses much easier.
Hose Storage Units
You’ll want to have somewhere to store your hose when you’re not using it. This can be anything from a simple wall holder that allows you to loop the hose around it to a wall or cart mounted reel. For outdoor storage, there are attractive boxes that can protect and hide hoses.
A hose swivel is a connector, often made of brass, that allows the hose to twist at the spigot to avoid kinks. A hose splitter allows you to hook two (or more) hoses up to the same nozzle and control each with a switch, especially convenient if you’re setting up multiple sprinklers.
Spray nozzles attach to the hose end and allow you to aim and squirt water. Many come with numerous spray patterns and pressures, so you can use them for everything from gently watering container plants to spraying off the patio.
Pro tip: For bigger cleaning jobs, purchase a power washer to attach to your hose, but make sure you use a hose with a psi high enough to withstand the pressure such devices need.
Test Store Displays
If you’re still unsure what hose to purchase, use the gut test: Visit your local garden center and pick up a few hoses, feeling them out for weight and flexibility. Look at the storage reels and see if there’s one set up you can try. Couple and uncouple some hoses, experimenting with different sorts of connectors, and feel the heft of a spray nozzle and its fit in your hand. And finally, consider how and where you plan to use the hose. You’ll know when you hit on your perfect garden hose.
What feature must your garden hose have? Share it with us in the comments!