Soaker Hoses

Water deeply without wasting water.

By Doug Hall

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How to effectively use soaker hoses in the gardenSoaker hoses offer an efficient way to water plants without waste. There’s no runoff, because the water seeps out through tiny pores along the length of the hose at a rate no faster than the ground can absorb it. And compared with a sprinkler that flings droplets into the air, less water is lost to evaporation. Soaker hoses apply moisture directly to the root zone of plants.

Snake soaker hoses through garden beds of roses and perennials, among foundation shrubs, or in the vegetable garden, where the hoses can be stretched parallel to rows of crops. Leave the soakers in place through the growing season. When it’s time to water, connect them to the nearest faucet with a garden hose.

  • To get the kinks out of a soaker hose that has been stored tightly coiled, unroll the hose and let the sun warm it for an hour or more.
  • Hold soaker hoses in place with wire pins (1) designed for securing landscape fabric or drip-irrigation tubes.
  • A layer of mulch (but not soil) over the soaker hose (2) reduces moisture loss from evaporation. Just remember to check where the hose lies before you dig.
  • The plastic pressure reducer inside the hose coupling (3) protects the hose from splitting under high water pressure. If your soaker hose doesn’t have a pressure regulator, keep the faucet turned low. Water should slowly seep, not squirt, from the pores.
  • As you wind a soaker hose through a flowerbed, make an extra loop around plants with the greatest moisture needs, such as hydrangeas or cannas, but keep the hose a few inches from plant stems (4). Otherwise, space the lengths of hose about 24 inches apart over clay or loamy soils, or about 12 inches apart if the soil is sandy.
  • When several soaker hoses are connected end to end, most of the water will seep from the hose closest to the faucet; less water will reach the far end. Avoid uneven distribution of water by setting up separate watering zones with no more than 100 feet of soaker hose each. Use quick-connect couplings or Y valves to switch the water from zone to zone.
  • Leave the hose running until water has penetrated 6 to 12 inches into the ground (less for shallow-rooted annuals, more for shrubs and perennials). A trowel will help gauge soil moisture and calculate the optimum amount of time for a thorough soak.
  • Once you know how long it takes to water a bed with the soaker hose, automate the process by adding a timer at the faucet.
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