How To Use A Soaker Hose: Irrigation Planning And Installation

Ed Wike
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What Is A Soaker Hose?

Soaker hoses are wicking hoses made of soft, durable outer casings and polyester sleeves. Just like any other hose, they water your garden, lawn, or shrubs, and can be adjusted and used to water beds, between vegetables, rows of plants, and trees.

In order to do this, these hoses need to have holes all along their length. The best way to water your plants is to immerse the soaker hoses into the ground, and keep them there for a duration. The holes on these hoses can run up to 50 ft in length. They assist water to soak into the soil, and they won’t get lost unlike sprinkler systems, which usually are prone to malfunction and wasting water.

Soaker hoses can be used in many different locations, but you should know that they are not appropriate for all types of soils. In sandy areas, the soil is easy to compact, and you can fill the soaker hose so full of holes, that water has trouble soaking into the earth. If your soil is mainly clay, you should use watering funnels, which channel water to plant roots.

Soaker hoses can be used for most types of plants. You can use them for vegetables, or for woody plants like grapevines and fruit trees. Fertilizer can be poured on the ground near the soaker hose when you are irrigating vegetables.

Benefits Of Using A Soaker Hose

A soaker hose is a low-pressure watering device that delivers water in a thin, semi-continuous stream. Watering your lawn and garden in such a manner is referred to as “microirrigation.” It’s a very effective way of watering plants, trees, bushes, and flowers, especially in areas with hot summers, and it can be a great way to save water, time, and money.

Soaker hoses are relatively easy to use and are very inexpensive. For many homeowners, the appeal lies in the low price and the ease of installation. They are often less expensive than other comparable watering devices.

Before you purchase soaker hoses for your home, you’ll need to plan carefully, so the hose will distribute water as well as possible. Which plants or trees need watering, how close they are to one another, and what size the hose will need to be will all depend on the type of soaker hose you choose.

You’ll need at least one regulator and several additional components to connect the soaker hoses to your water source. Both a pressure regulator and a timer are required to use a soaker hose.

Soaker Hose Vs. Drip Irrigation

Each type of irrigation has its own advantages. For example, soaker hoses have the advantage of being inexpensive, easy to set up, and easy to move about the garden. Another advantage is that when you use them in the vegetable garden, you can water the weeds and the plants at the same time.

While they are inexpensive, they are often more complicated than drip irrigation, and they have to be installed by an irrigation specialist.

Soaker hoses are installed above the ground along the garden rows and then connected to an air pump. In the spaces between the rows, the soaker hoses need to be connected to the connecting tubes that are placed underground.

When the air pump is turned on, the soaker hoses will emit water. It will then soak the soil and this is one of the main reasons why they are very popular because they use minimal water.

Advantages of Soaker Hose

When a soaker hose is used to water plants, it will emulsify the water, and it will then spread it evenly that will ensure that plants are evenly watered. Soaker hoses use a lot of water and this can be used to your advantage because the evaporation from the plants is reduced. Water then stays in the ground for a longer time and this means that there is a lot of water for the plants.

Soaker Hose Installation

An irrigation soaker hose is a length of plastic tubing filled with water and capped on both ends with interconnecting washers that when squeezed, force the water out of the tubing. These hoses are laid in garden beds prior to planting, set under the soil level and the woven or corrugated material allows for water to infiltrate the soil at the growing zone of the plants, unlike traditional sprinkler systems where the water lands on top of the plants and runs down or evaporates from the surface.

Soaker hoses are a very popular irrigation tool in gardens due to their cost effectiveness and conserving nature. It is quite easy to install a soaker hose once you get through all of the preparation and planning stages needed.

The first step for soaker hose installation is to mark the length of the garden bed to expose where the soaker hose will be laid. This can be done by erasing the soil or using spray paint. Let the paint dry.

Use a garden hose or an extra length of the soaker hose to run water along the length of the bed. This will ensure that the soaker hose will lie flat in the bed and allow for cuts or 3 inch loops along the bed, instead of one continuous soaker hose. Take your time and be sure to monitor the flow to avoid flooding or damaging the clay loam soil.

Soaker Hose Components

With a soaker hose, there are a few different components to consider.

The first is the main supply hose with a brass fitting that allows you to attach the hose to the spigot and irrigate your plant beds or garden area.

There is also a variety of inline emitters included with the main supply hose. The emitters are inserted into the supply line to provide a water application directly to the plant bed or garden

Soaker hose systems can be installed manually or automatically. Manual installation is how the system is used if it is not attached to a soaker hose controller.

An auto system is connected to a controller that is capable of turning the water on at a set time. This type of automatic controller usually works by pushing a button to create a set time delay, usually in one hour increments.

Faucet End Components

A faucet end will have a faucet thread for attaching a hose to a spigot; a female threaded port for attaching a male threaded end of a soaker hose to a female threaded port of a mainline or other soaker; and sometimes a female threaded cap, which may be for a hose or a quick connector.

Many soaker hose faucet end adapters and faucet end kits come with a rubber washer, or a filter gasket, with a rubber washer built into the gasket. The washer or gasket is designed to let water out even if the system is frozen, but to prevent dirt from entering the faucet when the soaker hose is installed.

When selecting a spigot, be sure the fixture is suitable for a full flow, whether you are using an additional soaker hose or not.

Layout & Planning

Layout:

A common layout for soaker hoses is discussed below:

  • Outdoor landscape water supply
  • Location of meter and valve
  • Down the driveway if more than 10 meters
  • Along plants and gardens
  • Around the house if more than 10 meters
  • Along perimeter
  • Through the orchard

You can lay the soaker hose along lawns, under ground, or above the ground on stakes, etc. With a flat, neatly arranged water supply, you can easily detect any leaks that occur.

Planning:

In planning your soaker hose system, here are a few points to consider:

  • Garden orientation
  • Soaker hose sizes
  • Selecting the most efficient irrigation technology
  • Soaker hose layout
  • Hand watering
  • Using sprinklers

Hand watering:

Hand watering your plant and garden is the first step in planning for a successful soaker hose system. Generally, you can water either your plants or the garden bed. If you choose to water the bed, the soaker hose will need to be turned every 3 days.

Hand watering is a 2 step process:

Step 1: Initial water application

Apply an adequate amount of water to wet the root area.

Step 2: Flooding the bed

Repeat over the entire area to ensure groundwater at the root level.

Buying The Parts And Installing

Soaker hoses can vary in length depending on your needs. If you need a long watering system, consider going green and getting a semi-permanent soaker hose. This type of soaker hose can be installed inside a garden hose to make it more sturdy.

You can also install a bio-control system to use as a permanent soaker hose. This involves filling a special hose with perlite, which is a volcanic glass. The hose is then buried in the soil so the hose is sitting right next to the roots. The perlite sucks moisture out of the soil and keeps the hose moist without having to be hooked up to a pump. To install one of these, dig a trench and bury the hose. It will need to be pushed into the ground about six inches.

After you’ve bought and installed your soaker hose you can go about designing the watering system. To do this, you need to calculate how long you want your soaker hose to be and how wide it will be. This will help you with the spacing of the holes in the hose. Once you have that figured out, it’s time to lay the hose. Lay the hose out on the garden or lawn in the pattern you want.

Kit Or DIY?

A kit can seem like a cost efficient most of the time. But, before you settle on one, you need to think about the cost of the individual components.

Sometimes you can find the components cheaper coming from different stores; sometimes the kits are the way to go. You need to look at the whole picture and consider the costs of the individual components.

This is especially important with kits if you only need a few selective components. Buying a kit when all you need is the sprayer head, hose, and wand can be a waste of money. Shop around and compare to see if adding together the costs is cheaper than a kit.

Installation

Making effective use of a soaker hose requires planning. You can't just dig a small shallow trench and string the soaker hose in it. It must be properly arranged, located, and maintained in a mat of pipes or other irrigation system. If you try to string the soaker hose alone, you will have to water every day or your soaker hose won't reach the same level of effectiveness.

Find a level spot next to a fence, wall, or building and install a soaker hose loop. The spot should receive regular and consistent measurements of sunlight remaining for several hours every day.

Trench the soaker hose with additional pipes parallel to each other on the ends of the copper line. The pipes will catch any seepage from the soaker hose and can be moved to different sections of the lawn for optimal use.

Use a timer to operate the soaker hose system so that only certain areas of the yard are watered during the day. This is going to save you time and energy and keep your soil properly watered.

How To Use A Soaker Hose

A soaker hose is a water-efficient way of irrigating a large area like a golf course, a lawn, or even a playground. You don’t have to turn the water on and off many times during the irrigation period or run back and forth to turn it on and off. Irrigation hoses are also useful for applying chemicals to plants such as pesticides.

What you need to know to use a soaker hose:

Remember that the water exits the hose at an even rate of discharge, not from just one point like a regular hose, so the water will spread out over the area instead of falling in one concentrated area.

Once you have decided on the area to irrigate, you need to determine the length of hose you need. It doesn’t matter exactly how long it is, just a general idea. One 1000 foot roll of 5/8” hose will cover 10,000 square feet, which will be 100 feet out from the end of the hose. Three 1000 foot rolls will cover 8800 square feet, and five rolls will cover 10,000 square feet.

How Often Should You Water?

Depending on where you live, you may need to water every day, every other day or once a week. Here are some drying times for different soil types:

  • Sand can be dry in two to six hours
  • Loam can be dry in two to eight hours
  • Silt can be dry in two to six hours
  • Clay dries as quickly as sand but will need to be watered again sooner

Because the sun won’t dry the ground as fast as rain or watering can, it’s important to remind yourself that although the ground may look dry, the soil below is still wet. If you have a lawn and you took care of it this Fall, next summer you’ll have a healthy lawn that needs watering.

One of the best ways to remember how often to water is to stick a finger in the ground to check the moisture. The more times you do this gets you more in the mindset of what should be done. This will help you become a better irrigator. If you don’t have the time for that, invest in a soil moisture meter – it will serve you well. You don’t have to check every inch of your yard to make sure it’s properly watered …. just check the parts that you can visibly see.

Do You Need A Timer?

If you use a conventional soaker hose or drip irrigation, then the absolute best item you can have on hand is a timer. Here at DripWorks, we have a fantastic drip irrigation timer and a soaker hose timer that will help you keep your system working like clockwork. If you are on a watering schedule, it is possible to be away from your garden and still keep it fully watered without having to worry about it. Both timers are important if you want a well-maintained garden, but it is especially important if you have a schedule or have a lot of garden beds.

The only way to ensure that your plants get the water they need is to have your drip system turned on and off at the times that water is needed. A drip irrigation timer does just that by using some pretty simple machinery to turn your system on and off when it is needed. If you go without a timer, your system will idle and waste water and will not be at its most efficient.

Non-Plant Uses

Hanging baskets and baskets are great for adding living color to your deck or porch. But since hanging baskets don’t get any water from above, they need to be watered from the side. The best way to do that is with a soaker hose.

Hang your baskets from the soaker hose and then you can run it along the deck or porch railing and set your console sprinklers to water for 10 minutes. This is also a great way to water large hanging plants or those planted in large pots on your porch or deck.

Hanging baskets are the perfect way to add some color to your deck or porch. You can even create a colorful display by hanging multiple baskets with a soaker hose. Another benefit of hanging baskets is that they don’t take up much room. The only downside to hanging baskets is that they don’t get any water from above so you have to water them from the side, and soaker hoses are the best way to do that.

Soaker hoses are not just for the garden. They are great for your lawn, too. Rather than watering the whole lawn, a soaker hose unit can be used to water specific spots like around tree and shrub roots, to water around your foundation, or around your walkway.

Soaker Hose Tips

For many plants, one of the most effective ways to keep them happy and healthy is with irrigation drip lines, also known as soaker hoses. These hose lines are basically a tube made from three different layers:

The inner layer is a higher-quality rubber that keeps the inner core from succumbing to the same processes that will break down the outer layers.

The middle layer is simply yellow rubber. The outer layer is the thick protective material that is the outer layer of a typical soaker hose.

When the liquid that is a mixture of water and some sort of fertilizer such as a mixture of water and some fertilizer is poured into the tube, it slowly transfers its way through the various holes until it exits the other end. While the water exits these small holes at a slow trickle, the fertilizer exits at a higher concentration to ensure the desired plant growth.