Gardening gives grown-ups license to play in the dirt and mess around with the garden hose. Yet the magic begins to wear off once the dog days of August arrive. Dragging heavy hoses through the garden is nobody's idea of fun; especially with the high temps we've been experiencing lately.
It's hard to avoid this chore — even if you have an automated irrigation system, there's still going to be some hand-watering required for most yards and gardens.
In spite of my sprinklers, the programming of which still baffles me at times, there are situations where I have to haul out the hoses. Watering container gardens, establishing new plantings, keeping newly sown seeds moist (it's time to sow seed for fall veggies) and those tricky spots that the spigots miss — all require closer attention.
I was leery when my father-in-law gave me one of those "as-seen-on-TV" expandable hoses. I'd read the reviews; there were hundreds, of which few were favorable, and so I almost didn't bother to try it. Sometimes called a pocket hose, due to its compact packaging, it's hard to imagine you can water with what appears at first to be a wrinkly, floppy green ribbon. But I have to admit I'm now a big fan.
Turn on the faucet, and it springs to life; I can't believe I'm remotely fond of anything so snakelike. However, I love that this hose is so lightweight. It's easy to move around, and to turn corners, and it doesn't break plants like the heavy rubber ones. It doesn't kink. Best of all, when you turn it off and the last bit of water trickles out, it shrinks back into itself for storage. Goodbye to wrestling unwieldy tangles.
These new hoses do have some drawbacks. They are prone to bursting when left under high pressure. So if you like to control the flow of water with a lever on the handle, another style might be better. In addition, they might not be practical for larger properties. I have hooked lengths of 25 and 50 feet together for certain jobs without problems, however, success may vary with individual water pressures.
With the mesh fabric covering, you do need to be more careful pulling the hose over and around rough edges, gravel and thorns.
If you you're looking for a more conventional hose that's still easier to handle, Flexilla may be your choice. Made of a polymer material that has no "memory," it resists twisting. Artist Donna Hamilton, my Minneapolis neighbor, who maintains beautiful gardens at her home and business, has purchased this hose for both locations and can't say enough good things about the innovative product.
"It absolutely doesn't kink," she said. "I find most hoses annoying, but this one is soft and has a good feel to it. It rolls up easily. The fittings never leak."
And for those who like to quench their thirst on the spot, Flexilla is advertised as drinking-water safe.
What you've got on the end of your hose matters, too. Nozzles can make or break your watering experience. After trying various configurations throughout the years, I've become a watering wand convert. There are lots of styles and features to choose from. For my kitchen garden, I use a Dramm shower-style wand with a padded handle; I find the single "speed" nozzle has just the right pressure and coverage for watering delicate seedlings but enough "oomph" for supplemental watering of thirsty mature crops. The wand helps save water since its length places water more accurately where needed. Additionally I like it for watering containers; it doesn't disturb potting soil or flatten plants but definitely gets the job done. (Tip: Group containers together, when possible, for more efficient watering, as well as prettier displays.)
I use an adjustable spray wand or fire-hose nozzle for my front garden where I water containers but also need a forceful jet to clean off our walkways, especially this time of year when squirrels are mucking about in the big oak tree and making a mess with acorns. (Be a good water steward, and send that overspray into planting beds where it's useful, not into the gutter.) Fire-hose nozzles are powerful but simple to control and easier on arthritic fingers than most trigger styles.
Rhonda Fleming Hayes is a Minneapolis-based garden writer who blogs at thegardenbuzz.com. She is the author of "Pollinator-Friendly Gardening: Gardening for Bees, Butterflies and Other Pollinators," available at Amazon.com.