The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Exploring Different Ways to Water

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

Ok, my first ritual (washing my car) literally bit the dust several weeks ago. I tried a rain dance and only managed to scare the dog. I sacrificed a few virgin beers, yet rain still didn't arrive. You remember rain. It's that liquid stuff that once fell from the sky. The last time I wrote about how to water, it rained. So here goes.

Watering cans come in all sizes, shapes and materials. Plastic ones are the cheapest, but won't last as long as galvanized metal. Metal cans are heavier. Also keep in mind that a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. For general watering I like the plastic slender profile watering cans.

I love having rain barrels because even a light rain will fill the barrels. Many nice designs are available for purchase or you can make your own. Just remember to either screen the top or use mosquito dunks in the water to keep mosquito larvae from developing. Mosquito dunks contain the bacterial insecticide Btk. It is a safe product that specifically kills mosquito larvae and is found at most garden centers.

I have a definite "love-hate" relationship with hoses. I love that I don't have to haul so much water by hand, but I hate dragging them around.

Generally you get what you pay for in hoses. Hoses include several layers of material and usually a reinforced mesh. The thinner the hose the more apt it is to kink. 2-ply vinyl is not very flexible and is notorious for kinking. The higher the number of plies the better the hose. 4-ply is great but 3 is not bad if the reinforcing mesh is thick.

Hoses are made from plastic, rubber, nylon or vinyl in ½, 5/8 or ¾ inches in diameter. Rubber hose are more durable and resist sun and cold damage, but they are heavier to carry. Hoses are rated to the pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure that it takes to bust them. Generally the higher the psi the better the hose. 500 psi is a good hose. Larger diameter hoses deliver more water in less time so 5/8 or ¾ are good diameters. Hoses come in various lengths so try to fit the length of the hose with the area.

Generally leaks happen at the coupling or at the connection when the rubber washer falls out. Couplings may be steel, brass or plastic. Plastic couplings are more susceptible to damage.

The flat roll-up hoses are easy to store but they tend to kink. The permanently curled types are nice in small spaces, but the water flow will be less due to the smaller diameter of the hose.

Soaker and sprinkler hoses are very efficient methods for watering. Little water is lost to evaporation and run off. With soaker hoses the water sweats out pores. Sprinkler hoses have many holes on one side of the hose. It can either be set to sprinkle or set toward the soil. Add a timer for regular watering.

Both of these need some manipulation around the beds to insure plants are well watered. I like the efficiency of these, but I don't like the way they look in a flowerbed. They are great in vegetable gardens and strawberry beds, but in ornamental beds I bury them under mulch.

Sprinklers are great for lawns, but are the most inefficient method. Generally they wet the leaves too much in vegetable and flowerbeds.

Trickle systems are labor savers especially with containers. It's basically a network of small hoses that water containers/plants individually. Tricklers take more time to set up initially, but may be worth the added cost and time.

Remember to water efficiently and use grey water when possible and appropriate. Consider plants such as native prairie plants that tolerate drought. Let's hope for rain. I'm running out of rituals.

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