All garden hoses are basically the same, right? They're just a circular length of rubber that carries water from point A to point B. Well, that's true to a certain extent, but there are also many differences. If you are planning to purchase a new garden hose, here are some points to aid in the search:
- Length. Hoses can be purchased in lengths of 25, 50, 75 and 100 feet. As the length increases, water pressure decreases. If a 50-foot hose will work for most of your watering needs, but you occasionally need 75 feet, you may want to think about purchasing a less-expensive 25-foot hose that can be coupled to your 50-foot hose.
- Diameter. Hoses come in five standard diameters: 3/8", 5/8", 1/2", 3/4" and one inch. The larger the diameter of the hose, the more water it will deliver. For example, a 3/4" hose will deliver nearly three times as much water as a 1/2" diameter hose in the same amount of time. The 1/2" size is useful for smaller chores, such as watering container plants. The 5/8" size is most commonly used by home gardeners for attaching to sprinklers and larger chores.
- Material. Most garden hoses are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride). These may or may not be reinforced with rubber. There are also hoses made entirely of rubber. The advantages of PVC are that it is lightweight and flexible. The disadvantages are that it may kink more easily than rubber and it doesn't last as long. Rubber-reinforced PVC has the advantage of being lightweight like PVC, but also durable like rubber.
- Quality. The better the quality of the hose you buy, the longer it will last. Of course, better-quality hoses usually have higher price tags, too. A good rule of thumb is to buy the best hose that is reasonable for your needs and budget. Many garden centers and home stores rate their hoses as good, better or best quality. When you are buying a hose, pick it up and try to bend it. A good hose should form a U-shape, but shouldn't kink easily. Garden hoses can also be rated by how many "ply" they are. A ply is a layer of material. Most hoses range between one-ply and six-ply. In general, a hose with more layers is more durable. Another determining factor in quality is whether or not the hose is reinforced. The very best hoses have a layer of mesh inside the tubing to prevent the hose from bursting. Most quality hoses will come with a warranty ranging from five years to a lifetime.
- Couplings. A coupling is where the hose attaches to the spigot or sprinkler. The best couplings are made from brass. Galvanized steel is second best. Plastic is usually found in only the least expensive hoses. However, if you have limited hand-strength, you may find plastic couplings easier to attach.
- Color. A good hose can be quite an investment, so if you normally mow over your garden hose every time you cut the lawn, you may want to choose one in a bright, noticeable color, such as orange or red. On the other hand, if you want to leave your hose in place all season, you may prefer a color that will blend in with your landscaping.
- Specialty hoses. If you normally use your garden hose only for watering your landscape plants or vegetable garden, you may want to purchase a soaker or sprinkler hose. Soaker hoses are porous, so they can deliver water all along the length of the hose, right to the roots of your plants. You can even bury them under your mulch and leave them in place for the growing season if you like. Sprinkler hoses have holes on all sides, so they deliver water all along their length, but also spray water upwards. This can be helpful if you need to mist the foliage of your plants, also. A third type of specialty hose is a flat hose. These hoses, just as their name suggests, are flat until the water is turned on. Then they expand to their full diameter. A flat hose can be useful if you have limited space in which to store a hose. They are also easier to roll up and move around. They usually do not have as long of a life span as standard hoses.
No matter which hose you choose, it's important to take care of it. Let all of the water run out of it after you turn off the spigot. At the end of the season, dry your hose thoroughly and store it where it will not be subject to freezing temperatures. Roll up your hose when it's not in use--unless you intend to leave it in place all season, in which case, you should make sure it's not in direct sunlight, which will cause it to break down more quickly. With proper care, your hose should last through many gardening seasons to come.