In this year of epic drought in the West, conscientious gardeners collect dish-washing rinse water for their plants. They take showers with buckets around their feet to catch any excess. And in many communities, if they use a hose, gardeners are mandated to deliver water by hand. Statistics show that hand irrigation can be more efficient than sprinklers or even drip. Here are some hand-watering tips I’ve gathered over years of living with no-rain summers.
Dress your Hose in a Wand
The average garden hose delivers approximately eight gallons per minute. That’s too much. I use a watering wand to reduce the amount yet get the job done easily. When walking between containers you can stop the water flow with a valve on the handle instead of kinking the hose (more on kinks below).
In my experience, all wands eventually leak at the connectors. Stop drips by wrapping a piece of white stretchy plumbers’ tape around the hose fittings before attaching. That keeps stray drops off your feet—or sliding down your arm if you’re watering overhead.
Splitting up is Easy
If you disconnect the hose, you’ll have to reapply the plumbers’ tape. To avoid that, attach y-connectors or splitters to your hose bib. Then you can reserve one side for your designated hand-watering equipment.
When is Enough Enough?
With pots, you can see the water filling up on the surface. However, soil may dry out too much between waterings, especially if containers are in a warm greenhouse. Then the planting mix pulls away from the pot sides, water bypasses the root ball, and pours out the bottom. Soak the container in a bucket of water to rehydrate.
For new plants in the ground, even the most xeric must be watered regularly until established. Depending on your soil type, roughly one inch of water percolates down one foot. Very little water moves sideways. It tends to spread underground in a pyramidal shape, wider at the bottom. To check, dig small tester holes near plants. If dry, apply short frequent drinks until the root zone receives water.
Get the Kinks Out
All hoses kink. But in an unscientific sampling of gardeners’ opinions, these three kink less: Flexzilla, Dramm Colorstorm, and best of all, GatorHyde, invented (hometown bias alert) in Eugene, Oregon. Instead of kinking, it turns in my hands, rather like wrestling with its namesake alligator. But I’d prefer to flip my wand over several times than walk back a hundred feet to locate the kink.