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Q&A: Soaker Hoses

What can you tell me about soaker hoses and their use?

Question: What can you tell me about soaker hoses and their use?

Answer: A soaker hose is a black garden hose with tiny holes along its length. Water seeps out through these holes. They are for use in garden beds, not lawns. They work best in level beds, not on slopes.

Soaker hoses are convenient because they deliver water directly to the plants' root zones. They may reduce foliage diseases because they don't wet the plants' leaves.

You can screw several soaker hoses together to make a system that fits your garden. The maximum length should be 100 feet. You can use hose splitters to send hoses in different directions. Specialty catalogs sell short pieces of regular garden hose to connect soaker hoses without wasting water. For example, if you have two beds separated by lawn, you could run a regular hose between them through the lawn. (You'd need to remember to move it before mowing!) It's also best to connect the soaker hose to the faucet with regular hose, unless the faucet is in the bed you wish to soak.

When laying a soaker hose through a bed, snake it so it passes by each plant. Lines of hose should lie about 18 to 24 inches apart; a bit closer together if it is a bed of annuals. The hose should pass 1 to 2 inches near the base of each plant.

Test the hose to see how well the water is delivered. Turn the water on so that the whole hose is seeping, but water is not spraying. Keep in mind that if the water pressure from you faucet is too high, it can burst the soaker hose or flood the bed. Use a flow reducer or open the faucet only partway.Once you've adjusted the water so it's working well, cover the hose with mulch. The mulch will protect the hose from the sun and keep the water from evaporating.

At first, run the hose for about a half an hour twice a week. A little while after turning off the hose, check to see how wet the root zone is. You may need to shorten or lengthen the watering time. You may need to adjust the regimen according to the weather and the age of the bed. New plantings need more supplemental water than established plants.

Disconnect the hose from the faucet between uses, and put a cap on the open end so soil won't clog the hose. Flush the hose twice a year by removing the end cap and turning on the water.

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