Purchasing a garden hose
A friend called the other day to seek advice about garden hoses. She's giving gardening tools as a house-warming gift to new homeowners and wants to include a hose, but doesn't know what to buy.
I give her a lot of credit for asking. Of all the tools gardeners and yardeners use, none gets more use than a garden hose. But it's nothing more than a long tube that's used to move water from one place to another, so what's the big deal?
Well anybody who has ever spent time wrestling with a tangled mess of kinking plastic tubing that leaks water at both ends will tell you, there's more to buying a hose than meets the eye.
So here's what I told my friend to look for in a new garden hose.
Length is more than a convenience factor. A short hose that gets stretched tight, ends up kinking and putting undue pressure on the connector at the spigot, which stops the water flow and can damage the hose and the spigot. Hoses stretched tight around corners get dragged through foundation plantings, knocking over containers and damaging plants. Also, plants sited beyond the range of the hose end are often not watered properly and are at risk.
To figure out the length of hose needed, measure the distance from the water tap to the farthest corner of the lot. Add extra length to make a wide arc around corners. Hoses come in 50-, 75- and 100-foot lengths. A 50-footer is probably too short for all but a tiny backyard condo garden.
Construction and materials are also important. Today's hoses are constructed of plastic, vinyl or rubber. Top quality hoses of vinyl and/or rubber are made up of several plies of materials that include an integrated reinforcing mesh for increased strength as well as flexibility.
Vinyl jacketing is most resistant to cuts and abrasions and is more commonly available.
However, rubber hoses resist weather damage and remain flexible in cold weather, so if you use your hose in winter, that may be your best choice. Also, if a rubber hose does kink, it will be less likely to develop a permanent crease, as in the case of vinyl.
Connectors are key to preventing leaks. Because most leaks occur at the couplings, heavy duty crush-proof brass hardware is a must. Plastic couplings tend to wear after time and fail to seal properly, resulting in leaks that even a new washer won't stop. However, plastic reinforcing collar may be added to prevent kinking at the faucet.
Diameter size and burst strength are worth considering. Hoses come in 1/2-, 5/8- and 3/4-inches in diameter, the standard being 5/8. The larger the diameter, the faster the water flows. A commercial 3/4-inch diameter hose will carry 65 percent more water than the standard 5/8-inch diameter hose, so that may be your best bet for filling ponds and pools.
Burst strength, the amount of pressure it takes to burst a hole in a hose, is rated from 50 to 600 pounds per square inch. The higher the number, the stronger the hose. A top quality hose will have a burst strength of 500 psi.
Warranties are a quick way to measure how well a hose will perform. Top quality hoses carry a lifetime warranty. I wouldn't settle for less.
Kinking and tangling are key factors to look at when buying a hose. If you step on a hose with your foot or squeeze it with your fingers and it squashes flat, that's a wet noodle that will kink and tangle and be a nightmare to work with. Most hoses, regardless of the quality, will kink under the right conditions, but the stiffer the construction, the less the likelihood it will happen. One hose that for me has lived up to its reputation as being truly kink-proof is the FluidMotion, self-straightening hose by Teknor Apex. This tough puppy, made of vinyl, is a bit stiffer and heavier than other hoses, but I've hauled it all over my yard and never had it kink or tangle.
And that makes it well worth a little extra effort as far as I'm concerned. Available at Tractor Supply, this technical marvel comes with a lifetime guarantee. A 100-foot FluidMotion hose retails for $42.99. To find a retailer near you, check out their Web site at www.teknorapex.com.
If you're looking for a good all-rubber hose, check out the Sears Craftsman line. I keep a hose out so I can water in late fall and winter, and my Craftsman rubber hose stays nice and flexible regardless of the temperatures. A 5/8-inch 100-foot Craftsman rubber hose that retails for $42.99 has all the features of a top quality hose and comes with a lifetime money-back guarantee.
Flat reel hoses and recoiling hoses, as seen on TV, are all the rage right now.
They're lightweight, easy to store and are best used for watering small balcony gardens, patio containers and hobby greenhouses where splashing may be an issue.
The smaller diameter hoses deliver water at a much slower rate than a regular hose and one gardener I know nicknamed her recoiling hose "the dribbler."