There are at least four types of watering devices that could be used to water the vegetable garden. They include soaker hoses, drip irrigation systems, hand-held watering wands, and any of the lawn watering tools such as the oscillating sprinkler.
We don't like the lawn watering sprinklers because if you have a choice, it is better to get water to vegetable plants at the soil level avoiding getting all the foliage wet (yes we know that is what rain does). We also don't particularly recommend the drip irrigation systems for the veggie patch because the plants in a vegetable garden are being moved around all through the season requiring readjusting the drip system many times. Drip systems are great for flower gardens.
So we prefer to use a soaker hose system backed up by the hand-held watering wand and watering cans for spot watering where needed. They are available in virtually every garden center and home center at a very reasonable cost. See the Tool Shed for some examples of outdoor watering products available from Amazon.com.
Using A Soaker Hose
The problem is that none of the labels on soaker hoses that I have seen tell you how to use a soaker hose correctly. Consequently, most people use them improperly and find them wanting. Learn how to use a soaker hose as it is supposed to be used and you will become a believer.
Soaker hoses are black and kind of rough on the surface because they are often made from recycled car tires. Water seeps or weeps out of millions of pores along the entire length of the hose, drip by drip. It waters the soil slowly preventing run-off. Since they are usually covered with mulch, there is little or no evaporation into the air. The water seeps down into the soil in kind of an onion shape covering the area out 8 to 12 inches from the hose depending on the type of soil you have; clay more narrow and sandy wider.
The soaker hose becomes a permanent part of your garden. Once you lay it out so it is accessible to all the plants, you leave it there. You then attach a regular hose from your water faucet to the end of the soaker hose, usually set a mechanical timer for automatic turnoff, and you walk away. You can check your garden's soil with a moisture meter to see when the system needs to be turned on. Click here
Issues In Using A Soaker Watering System Properly
Issue number one -
When you want to cover an area of the garden, as in a raised bed, you want the hose to be 18 to 24 inches apart; 18" is better.
Issue number two
A soaker hose only works properly if the water pressure to the hose is about 10 psi (pounds per square inch). Most home systems are around 50 psi. You need a device that is attached at the head of the hose that will reduce the pressure to the desired 10 psi.
The pressure reducer is located at the beginning of the hose and they are seldom included with the hose (Fiskars now sells a hose with the pressure reducer attached). The better garden centers should be selling pressure reducers. The one illustrated on the right is the one you want.
Issue number three
The label seldom mentions that to maintain an even release of water along the entire length of the hose, no single length of soaker hose should exceed 100 feet from the water source; your outdoor faucet. Most home water systems can handle up to 600 feet of soaker hose, but no single piece can exceed hundred feet. You can find attachments to outdoor water faucets that let you attache up to four hoses on the one faucet.
Issue number four
Soaker hoses work best when covered with organic mulch. That means that possibly next spring, when you go out to dig a hole for a new plant you are sure to thump your shovel right down exactly where the soaker hose is running, cutting the hose in half; very frustrating. The solution is to expose the hose each spring so you can avoid doing such a dumb thing even though I personally have done that a dozen times over the years.
Issue number five
It’s tough to know how long you should run your soaker hose to get enough, but not too much, water into the ground. You want to apply one inch of water each week in the spring from you and the rain; two inches a week in the summer. If you have heavy clay soil you should water just a 1/2 inch twice a week to avoid runoff. Put an empty tuna fish can under each section of hose and time how long it takes to fill the can which is about one inch deep. That’s how long you run your hose each time.
We offer all these products in Yardener's Tool Shed in the Watering Devices for Vegetable Gardens Section