Buyer's Guide For Garden Hoses and Sprinklers
Learn what to look for when purchasing water hoses and sprinklers. Plus, how to maintain your watering equipment so it lasts a long time and a few quick repair tricks to save yourself in a pinch.
The Green, Green Grass of Summer
If you spend a lot of time and sweat equity in your yard, make sure you've got good equipment to keep it well hydrated.
A Hose Dissected
You may be tempted to buy the cheapest hose you can find, but just like anything else, you get what you pay for. A reinforced hose with a limited life-time warranty will last a lot longer than the ubiquitous and generic “green” garden hose. Of course, color doesn't determine hose quality, look for hoses that are reinforced on the inside (generally with nylon) and on the outside, referred to as the jacket. In this photo, you can see the multiple layers of the hose. The frayed bits around the edge are part of the nylon reinforcement, which is wound like webbing in between the inner hose and outer jacket.
It's All About the Layers
A six-ply (number of layers) hose will be sturdier than a three-ply hose, and is often referred to as “kink-free”. A utility hose – generally white in color –is only to be used for light-duty jobs such as on a boat.
Buy brass couplings (the end of the hose that connects to a spigot or another hose). The plastic ones can crack and break, particularly if you happen to step on them (it happens more than you think). Brass couplings are stronger and are sometimes referred to as “crush-proof”. Quality couplings and an increased ply count will cost more. You can expect to pay about 50 percent more on these hoses, but they will last longer and hold up better to whatever use you may dole out.
Invest in a hose storage box or a reel loop to protect your garden hoses and keep it from knotting up or getting kinked. They come in very attractive free-standing or wall-mounted styles.
A storage reel box makes putting away a hose simple and fast. Simply wind the crank and the hose is wound around a center hub.
It's a good idea to have a good all-purpose spray nozzle for odd jobs and another nozzle with various spray patterns. Pictured above (left to right) is a twist nozzle, an all-purpose nozzle and a rotating spray pattern nozzle. The twist nozzle and all-purpose nozzles are good for everyday jobs such as washing a car or rinsing off lawn and garden tools. The rotating spray pattern nozzle can be used for these jobs and for watering the garden.
An additional type of nozzle is a watering wand, which can also have rotating spray patterns. Get a wand if you do a lot of gardening, particularly if you have a lot of containers or large raised beds. With all types of nozzles, be sure to look for high-density plastic or metal (preferably brass) components.
There are three basic types of sprinklers: whirling, impact, and oscillating. The whirling type has a small coverage area, so it is best used for a specific area like a vegetable garden. An impact sprinkler is inserted directly in the ground with an attached spike. It can reach a broad area and is most often fitted with an adjustable-height tripod to increase the range. An oscillating sprinkler rotates back and forth, putting water out in a fan pattern. When buying a new sprinkler, look for its coverage area rating – usually in square feet – and match it to your desired watering area.
Reel It In
Roll up or place your hoses in storage after each use. Don't allow hoses to sit in the yard when not in use. Exposure quickens hose decay, and leaving a hose stretched across lawn will kill the grass underneath it.
Empty It After Use
It's best to fully empty a hose before storing it. Remove the sprinkler or nozzle and allow the hose to drain. If you keep the nozzle attached, depress handle when turning off the water. Water kept in a hose can freeze, or become scalding hot if it's kept in a spot with a lot of exposure to the sun. While it's easiest to keep a nozzle attached, it's a good idea to go ahead and remove and put it in storage if you won't be using it for a while, particularly over the winter.
Just like with plumbing around the house, there are repair parts for garden hoses. You can buy kits with parts to repair the hose and faucet ends of a hose, repair the middle of a hose, join two hoses or simply replace the washer.
How To Repair a Split Hose or Connect Two Hoses
Use a utility knife to remove the bad area of the hose or to make a clean cut off the end connectors. Insert a metal hose mender into each section of hose and tighten the clamps. Place a little dish soap on the ends of the mender to make them easier to insert.
Repairing a female or male end of a hose is just as simple. Cut the hose ends, insert the parts and tighten the clamps. If it seems the female end of the hose doesn't connect quite as well and is leaking at the connection, you may simply need a new washer. These are available in kits as well.