Our plants can’t survive without water. When it doesn’t come from the sky, we have to provide it. We can use sprinklers, but they need to be moved around. We can also stand over our plants with a hose. Both are time and labor intensive.
Mulch is another way to keep moisture in the soil, and usually it works fine. However, if there’s a period with no rain, mulch can dry out to the point where it actually repels water and becomes hard to rewet.
There is, however, another solution: soaker hoses.
Soaker hoses are made of porous rubber. The tiny pores allow water to seep into the soil around a plants’ roots, drenching the area inches deep. These low-flow hoses put water right where it’s needed. They use much less water than spray hoses or sprinklers, plus almost nothing is lost to evaporation. This means savings on your water bill.
Easy to set up and use, soaker hoses are available in 25, 50, 75 and 100-foot lengths. They also come in rings that can be set around trees and shrubs. Many are made from recycled rubber. Depending on the size of the area to be covered, you can connect multiple hoses. And they can be placed on a timer.
When setting up soaker hoses, first unroll them and let them lay in the sun for an hour or so to soften up. This will make them easier to handle and prevent kinking.
Before you place them, make sure the area to be covered is weed-free.
Lay each hose close enough to plants so that water reaches the root zone, but not so that the hose touches the plant’s stem, because this can cause rot. Use wire landscape pins to hold hoses in place.
When turning the faucet to start the flow, turn it slowly. Water should seep out in drops. If it sprays from the hose, the pressure is too high. Run the hose until water has penetrated about six inches into the soil.
Soaker hoses are a big time and water saver, but they aren’t the most attractive tool in the shed. The way to use a hose so it isn’t an eyesore is to set the hose where you want it, and then spread two or three inches of shredded bark, wood chips, or straw over it so it’s covered. Never cover it with soil or compost because those will clog the holes.
One caveat: Soaker hoses do not work effectively on steep or hilly areas, because gravity will send all the water to only the lowest part of the hose.
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By Gibbs Gardens
Photographs courtesy of Gibbs Gardens
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