Essentials for Getting the Job Done
BY LEE REICH
THE WATERING WAND was no doubt invented by some gardener who was tired of running back and forth to refill a watering can. The tool is, in essence, a watering can with a hose attached to it. Picture a tube with a coupler at one end for attaching a hose, and, at the other end, a so-called “rose” that breaks the flow into fine droplets to create a spray that is delicate enough not to dislodge soil or young seedlings.
A good watering wand should be lightweight yet durable. It should have a reliable shutoff. The rose should be easy to detach and clean. A bright color is a plus, too, if only to make the tool easier to locate. And when it finally does disappear or get run over, it should be inexpensive to replace.
The body of the wand—the tube—extends your reach to pots high overhead or across a greenhouse bench. This tube can be made of impact-resistant plastic, lightweight aluminum, or the heavier but more durable steel. I like ones that have plastic or foam hand grips. This makes watering more comfortable in cool weather by putting some space between one’s hand and the cold running water. Lengths typically vary from 16 to 36 inches. If you’re watering hanging baskets, a wand with a curved handle makes it easy to reach into the pot from below.
Unless you want to be scooting back and forth to the spigot to turn the water on and off, a shutoff valve for the wand is essential. This is often nothing more than an in-line shutoff valve such as you’d put on the end of a hose. There is nothing wrong with such a simple regulator, provided you don’t frequently change the flow rate or mind having to use two hands to do so. If you do, a squeeze regulator is a better choice, preferably one that locks on when desired. Or, even better, one that locks on to varying degrees.
The delivery rate of water through the rose is a function of its diameter, the size and number of holes, and water pressure. The ideal wand strikes a balance between offering a spray that is rapid and one that is gentle. Too strong a spray can clobber young seedlings, as well as splash spores from the soil or from fallen, infected leaves back up onto the plant. Most watering wands come with only a single-pattern rose whose size and hole diameter combine with available water pressure to produce a particular flow. The tinier and more numerous the holes, the finer the spray. The Whisper-Soft Spray Wand, for example, has more than 1,000 microholes in its stainless-steel rose. A variety of different Dramm roses can be purchased separately, which range from regular to ultrasoft.
With my household water pressure of 30 psi (pounds per square inch), most of my wands still deliver a more than adequate five gallons per minute. The water flowing through one of my Dramm roses coalesces into a heavy seedling-disturbing dribble. My Dramm Red Head rose, on the other hand, delivers the desired fine spray.
More elaborate wands offer more than one pattern of spray. The Gardena Multi-Purpose Spray Lance, for example, offers three, and the 9-Pattern Wand delivers them in a range from mist to jet. I use the jet option to clean the soil off used seed flats. Because water exits from only a limited part of such multispray roses at one time, however, they can never completely equal roses with a single function.
Any water wand will need periodic maintenance. Who could have predicted that earwigs would take up lodgings in a squeeze valve, necessitating my periodically dismantling it to restore the flow? Ideally, roses should also be easy to clean. The Gilmour Aluminum Watering Wand has a metal filter screen that helps prevent clogging in the first place. To prevent ice damage to a wand, be sure to drain it when freezing temperatures threaten.
A good wand should be able to withstand being dropped on the brick paving of a terrace, being stepped on, even being rolled over—by a loaded garden cart, at least. A built-in hanger, such as the suspension eyelet on my Gardena Spray Lance, makes a wand easy to put away safely when it’s not in use.
Depending on which model you choose, expect prices to start at around $15. The combination of a multifunction head and squeeze regulator ratchets the price into the $35 range, but for anyone who has even a few potted plants or flats of seedlings to water, even this is a small price to spray. H
For sources of watering wands, turn to page 74.