Soaker Hoses: What Are They And How To Use Them In The Garden

soaker hoses

Here’s the deal on soaker hoses… They are a very efficient way to irrigate plants without wasting of water.

Water slowly seeps out through tiny pores along the length of the hose at a rate the ground and plants can absorb.

There is no runoff and compared to the overhead sprinkler method, and less water is lost through evaporation.

What makes soaker hoses an excellent watering solution in landscape and gardens beds?

The water is delivered low to the ground, close to the plant roots. This keeps the foliage dry, reducing the chances of fungal infection to the plants.

Drip irrigation is different from soaker hoses. Drip irrigation uses flexible plastic tubing with tiny holes or emitters which drip or spray water slowly on the soil.

Soaker hoses on the other hand are made as a porous material that seeps or leaks water all along the length of the hose.

How To Use A Soaker Hose System In The Garden

“Soakers” save time and gallons of water. Some of the items below are not necessary but help making the irrigation process more efficient.

  • Soaker hose
  • Pressure regulator
  • Mechanical timer
  • In-line water filter

Once you have these equipment the following steps should be followed for best results:

Lay out the hose in your garden bed to reach as many plants as possible. This may require making spirals around plants and trees. Hoses can be attached together, but don’t exceed 100 feet in length in any part of the garden.

Attach the pressure regulator where the hose connects to the water source. This helps keep water at a constant pressure [around 10 psi] consistently through the length of the hose.

Attach the soaker hose to the pressure regulator and turn on the water. Check whether everything is working as required and the soaker hose is thoroughly wet.

Water should be seeping out through the small holes and not squirting in the air.

Turn off the water and place the soaker hoses “more permanently” in the selected location. They work efficiently when buried under mulch. DO NOT BURY under soil.

Turn on the water. Around 2 inches of water in a week will work for most plants, unless it is extremely hot or the soil is very sandy.

How longer does a soaker hose need to run to deliver 2 inches of water? Using 5/8′ inch hose you can approximate the following delivery rates:

  • 200 minutes delivers 1 inch of water
  • 150 minutes delivers 3/4 inch of water
  • 100 minutes delivers 1/2 inch of water
  • 50 minutes delivers 1/4 inch of water

Once you’ve figured out your delivery rate, use a timer at the faucet to turn the water off. Otherwise, you’ll need to manually turn the off and on.

Place a container under a section of the soaker hose and turn on the hose to measure the amount of time it will take to fill two inches of water.

Remove the end of the hose from the spigot and attach the mechanical timer. Set the timer for the amount of time that was calculated to fill two inches.

Things To Consider When Using Soaker Hoses

Use Them In The Right Location – Soaker hoses work best in garden beds. For lawn watering, sprinklers work best, while for steep slopes drip irrigation is the way to go.

Start At The Faucet – A back-flow preventer should be attached to the faucet first unless you have one that has a built in prevention device.

Connect the timer to the water source to deliver just the right amount of water every time. Add a pressure regulator which to keep water pressure at 10 psi before attaching the hose.

Too Long Is Wrong – For soaker hoses to perform optimally they should have a maximum length of 100 feet. Make sure to purchase the length that fits your garden. Use a garden hose to connect the soaker hose to the faucet.

Keep The Hose At The Right Level – Soaker hoses deliver water most uniformly on level ground. Water does not seep out effectively on vertical positions such as rockeries or slopes.

If the level beds are at different heights, snake the hose through the beds. Use solid hoses to connect soaker lengths together to form a continuous line which is no longer than 100 feet.

Use Correct Spacing – In sandy soil the hose lines should be 12-18 inches apart and 18-24 inches apart for loam or clay soil.

Hoses should be set at 1-2 inches from the base of established plants. New plants or annuals should be placed closer.

Slow Down The Water Flow – Turn the faucet on to allow just enough water to run through the hose to ensure it seeps and not spray. Amounts may vary from one faucet to another. Try turning a quarter turn and adjust up or down as needed.

Ensure Perfect Timing – Try running the soaker for 30 minutes twice a week in landscape beds. For vegetables and annuals, they may need watering daily.

After watering, check whether the moisture has penetrated several inches (about 2”) and adjust accordingly.

Keep in mind that too much water can cause plant health issues just as too little water can.


More Tips For Perfect Water Delivery

Kink Free Hose – Always ensure that the hose is kink free as this will block water flow. Uncoil the soaker hose and allow it to “lay out” before installing it in the garden bed.

Mesh Water Filters – Use 150-200 mesh filters to keep particles from clogging hose lines. There are two types of filters, the T and the Y filter.

The T filter is used for small systems and they feed water in a 90 degree turn. Y filters are larger are large with water traveling straight through them. NOTE: Well water has more particles in suspension.

Flush Lines –  Flush hose lines when first installed and several times throughout the season. Remove the end cap and allow water to flow through to remove debris.

Cover Hose – Cover soaker hoses with 2-3 inches of mulch. It helps retain moisture and protects the hose from sun damage.

Do not bury it in the soil and always move it before digging the garden. (Some experts recommend burying with soil – you choose!)

Outdoor Faucets Are Temporary Connections – Turn water off  and disconnect hoses between uses for water quality protection. Make sure to cap open end!

Made With A Variety Of Materials –  Soaker hoses are flexible to use and arrange to fit any garden layout and they are available in several different grades:

Plastic or vinyl soaker hoses – An affordable option, lower quality and price. Easily affected by exposure to heat and split easily.

Fibrous Hoses – Made of sturdy porous rubber and long lasting. Tolerates being buried under mulch.

Summary

If you have garden beds or grow in raised beds soaker hoses are a great, efficient solution to water plants and not waste water.  No runoff, less water lost through evaporation. And plants get the water delivered to them right at the roots.

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