Smart Garden Tips: Water-Wise Hoses & Sprinklers

Last week I wrote about ways to reuse household water for plants, but for larger gardens or during drier times of the year, you might need a little backup. Hoses and sprinklers seem like simple enough devices, but there are actually several factors to consider before turning on that spigot.

Water conservation is an increasingly significant environmental concern, especially in arid parts of the country. Using more water than necessary not only wastes resources but it puts a burden on your water bill as well. Do your part by following these tips:

1. Choose a durable hose from recycled material: It's not hard to find hoses made from recycled rubber or polyethylene. Like any eco purchase, buying a durable product that will last is an important first step - look for hoses that offer UV protection.

2. Find a hose with a flow restrictor: Built-in water restrictors control the pressure, saving up to 50% more water than a standard hose while reducing overwatering and soil erosion.

3. Look for lead-free: We've all drank from a garden hose at some point in our lives, but did you know the fittings could contain lead and other contaminates? Look for products that are 100% non-toxic.

4. Go with a soaker hose instead of a sprinkler: Sprinklers are fun to run through, but they waste water on overspray, runoff and evaporation. Soaker hoses allow water to seep directly into the soil and straight to the root zone. Soaker hoses work best if they are less than 100' long, installed on level ground and placed 1-2 inches away from established plants. Covering the hoses in 2-3 inches of mulch also retains moisture and helps protect against UV rays. (For large or sloped yards and gardens, a drip irrigation system might be the better choice.)

5. Time it: Install a timer at the hose bib that regulates how long the hose is on, guarding against human forgetfulness!

6. Take advantage of the rain: It goes without saying that plants don't need to be watered if it rains, but if you have an existing irrigation system that's on a program, try installing a rain censor that will automatically shut off sprinkler valves as it absorbs rain water (when the water in the censor has evaporated, the sprinklers operate as usual without any reprogramming).

7. Don't water in the middle of the day: Minimize evaporation by watering early in the day or late at night. Also avoid watering if it's windy out.

8. Choose the right sprinkler for your yard or garden: Look for sprinklers that have a spray pattern that works with the size and shape of your space. Use rotating or oscillating lawn sprinklers, not fixed sprays (except for properly designed, installed and maintained automatic irrigation systems).

9. Fix any leaks: Even a small leak can have a big impact on water usage. Inexpensive repair kits are widely available and could keep any older hose from going to the landfill.

10. Learn how much water your plants actually need: Check out this handy guide that teaches you how to properly water new plants.

(Image: Flickr member Live From ActivePhilippines, licensed for use under Creative Commons)