Marianne Ophardt: Tips for buying a garden hose

July 4, 2013 

Garden hoses can be vexing things. They are heavy and a nuisance to haul around the yard, plus they can kink. Nevertheless, they are an essential gardening tool. Last year when we needed a new one, I did not do much research and bought what seemed to be a long-lasting quality hose. The problem was that it weighed a ton and became a chore to move.

I should have taken more time to do my homework. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Garden hoses typically come in two diameters, 5/8 inches and 3/4 inches. You even can find hoses that are one inch in diameter. Many gardeners find that a 5/8 inch hose is adequate for their purposes. The 3/4 inch hoses tend to be more expensive and heavier.

Garden hoses also come in different lengths, from 25 to 100 feet long. Of course, the longer the hose, the heavier and the more costly. (Notice the trend?) The longer the hose, the lower the volume of water per minute that it delivers. To calculate this, go to: http://bit.ly/1aDRygL.

The material a hose is made out of also greatly influences its price. As with any garden tool, the better the quality, the higher the price. Rubber and PVC reinforced hoses generally are more expensive and more flexible. High-end reinforced hoses are more resistant to abrasions, punctures and bursts. You also will find that the more a hose is reinforced, the higher the cost and the heavier the hose. The best-quality hoses will have hexagonal or octagonal brass couplings.

There also are coiled hoses. These are typically 3/8 inch diameter and usually come in 25- or 50-foot lengths. They are made out of polyurethane. They are lighter, easy to get out and use on the patio for watering containers, but they tend to kink when extended and often tangle when coiled.

Quality garden hoses can be pricy. To keep your hose in good condition, here are some tips:

1. Store your hose where it will be protected from degradation by ultraviolet light.

2. Don’t leave the hose where cars or bikes will run over it.

3. Don’t let your hose kink, causing a spot that will be weak.

4. Drain and coil your hose after every use, coiling it into loops about 24 to 36 inches in diameter. Store the coiled hose flat and off the ground in a container like a hose pot. Hanging a hose from a single hook can damage the walls of the hose, so use an arched hose rack. There are also hose reels that can be used to coil and store hoses.

5. Drain the water from the hose before it freezes in the fall and then store it in your garage or storage shed over the winter.

Safety note

Many garden hoses, especially older types, have been deemed unsafe for use for drinking water because of harmful chemicals and heavy metals that they contain. While many of the new hoses today are labeled as safe for drinking water, it’s still best not to make a practice of drinking from them because germs, molds and bacteria can build up inside.

Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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