Paul James' Favorite Garden and Lawn Watering Cans
Master gardener Paul James explains the intricacies of that common garden tool, the watering can.
E-mail This Page to Your Friendsx
A link to %this page% was e-mailed
When it comes to watering landscape plants, there are all types of devices, from the automatic sprinkler and drip irrigation system to the garden hose. Master gardener Paul James discusses his favorite watering tool — the watering can:
Although watering cans seem to function in essentially the same way, there are some major differences among them — for instance, capacity. There are little watering cans for watering small houseplants like African violets to big cans, which hold a whopping 2.5 gallons and are great for watering trees.
There's an upside and a downside to using each. Small cans are lightweight even when filled with water, but they do require frequent trips to the faucet. Large cans, on the other hand, don't require frequent trips to the faucet, but they can get heavy. Remember, a gallon of water weighs eight pounds, so when filled to the brim, a jumbo can may weigh as much as 24 pounds or more. "Now lifting it might not be that big of a deal for some gardeners, but watering with it can be a bit awkward and place considerable strain on the back," warns James.
A one-gallon watering can is probably the best all-purpose size. If you buy two cans of the same size, you can carry them a lot easier and minimize the strain on your back.
Paul recommends purchasing a can that provides both a handle and a comfortable grip. A wide handle with rounded edges, for example, is easy on the hands even when the can is filled with water. Avoid handles with sharp edges and uncomfortable grips.
Handle placement is important as well because you want a water-filled can to balance perfectly; otherwise water splashes out of the can as you walk. The length and shape of the spout varies on watering cans, and some are better than others depending on how and where the can is used. Standard-sized spouts are ideal for all-purpose watering, but cans with long spouts work best for hard-to-reach spots.
One of the most important parts of a watering can is the section at the end of the spout called the rose or rosette. "While not all watering cans come with it," says James, "those that do can be used to provide plants with a gentle, almost rain-like mist. However, I should tell you that not all roses are alike."
This rose has a fixed position and delivers a fairly coarse shower. But one with smaller holes delivers a finer mist, either right side up or upside down. "One drawback to using roses with really tiny holes in them," explains Paul, "is that the holes can get clogged, especially if you leave the cans out in the open where they can collect debris. Thankfully, however, a toothpick does a great job of cleaning the debris from the holes."
And that brings up another important subject, namely how best to store your watering cans. Paul likes to leave his watering cans outside during much of the year, allowing them to collect precious rainwater, which he then uses on container plants. But he remembers to empty them routinely so that mosquitoes don't get a chance to lay eggs in them. However, during the winter months, it freezes hard in Paul's area, so he either stores them upside down so that they don't collect rainwater, or uses them to add a decorative touch to his porch or barn. If you leave a watering can full or only partially full outside where it freezes, the expanding ice may cause cracks in the seams or welds of even galvanized steel and plastic cans.
Paul has watering cans that are made out of various materials including galvanized steel, copper, zinc and plastic, but he doesn't really favor one material over the other. Plastic is a lot lighter than metal, but it's also more prone to breakage, especially when you drop it. Actually, zinc seems to be the one more susceptible to breakage.
Still, there are plastic cans that look almost exactly like their classic metal counterparts, yet they sell for much less. For instance, the one on the left is plastic and the one on the right is metal.
Master gardener Paul James answers gardeners' questions about pampas grass, seeding lawns, types of garlic, agave and more.