Garden Hose 101

Brush up on the basics of garden hoses—and discover how to choose the right hose for your yard and garden.
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Colorful Rubber Hoses

Colorful Rubber Hoses

Add some color to your garden chores with brightly hued rubber hoses.

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Add some color to your garden chores with brightly hued rubber hoses.

Gear up for gardening by purchasing the best hose you can afford—and one that fits your garden needs. Investing in a quality garden hose transforms the everyday chore of watering into a pleasant experience. The right hose also eliminates daily headaches of wrestling with a kink-prone, leaky hose. Garden hoses have three distinguishing features: length, diameter, and material. Master these basics to take the guesswork out of choosing the right hose.

Start with length. Hoses usually come in 25-foot increments, most often topping out at 100 feet. The right hose length is the one that makes the most sense for your setting. If your garden is 15 feet away from the spigot, a 25-foot hose should work fine. If you need a hose to reach halfway around your house to a flower bed, you’ll need a longer hose. Use a flexible tape measure to determine the right length for your use. Keep in mind that longer hoses have less water pressure at the non-spigot end, so it’s best to buy the shortest hose that can do the job.

Hose diameter usually varies from 1/2 to 3/4 inches. A larger diameter moves more water per minute. A 3/4-inch hose delivers roughly three times as much water as a 1/2-inch hose in the same amount of time. Choose a larger diameter hose when you’re requiring water to travel uphill. If you’re connecting two or more hoses, make sure that each is the same diameter to avoid reducing water pressure. The same goes for quick-connect devices or other hose-end attachments.

Garden hoses come in a variety of materials. The cheapest hoses are typically vinyl without any reinforcing material. They cost anywhere from $5 to $25 and offer a lightweight choice for lugging around the yard. A cheap vinyl hose can be the best choice in a warm-weather climate (no freezing winters) where water needs are limited to a small space.

Rubber garden hoses are more durable than vinyl and cost more, such as $70 for a 50-foot length. A rubber hose resists kinking and cracking, but it’s heavier, especially when filled with water. Store rubber hoses out of direct sunlight because they’re prone to UV-light damage. Rubber hoses reinforced with polyester or nylon tire cord boast greater weather resistance.

Combination hoses bring the best of vinyl and rubber together in a package that’s durable and lightweight. These blends typically include tire cord reinforcing to enhance durability. Some rubber and vinyl-rubber hoses include a kink-resistant cover.

Like most garden tools, you get what you pay for when selecting a garden hose. Cheaper hoses usually feature thinner construction materials that have a tendency to kink. The kinks lead to cracks and holes, which lead to leaks. In short, cheap hoses spring leaks and fail sooner than their pricier counterparts.

Experts don’t typically recommend drinking from a garden hose. But if you’re concerned that your hose delivers water to vegetables or herbs that’s safe enough to drink, look for one that’s labeled “drinking water safe.” If ordering hoses online, look for this phrase in the product specs.

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