Garden hoses are a staple item in almost every garden, found hanging on a wall in the garage, coiled neatly by the hose bib, or in one of those mysterious, mind-numbing tangles through which not a single drop of water will pass. What is the story on these simple, yet indispensable, garden tools?
Garden hoses come in a variety of materials, sizes, and lengths for almost any purpose and pocketbook.
- Hose Materials: Garden hoses are usually made of either vinyl, polyurethane or rubber, with rubber hoses being heavier, more durable, and also more expensive.
- Construction: Garden hoses may be made of one or more layers (plies). Usually the more plies or layers there are, the stronger the hose. Hoses often have reinforcing mesh between the plies to prevent bursting, and may have an outer covering to prevent wear, cracking and avoid kinks.
- Size: Garden hoses are usually available in 1/2″, 5/8″, 3/4″, and 1″ diameters, with 5/8″ and 3/4″ hoses being the most common sizes. The larger the hose diameter, the lower the resistance as water moves through it, resulting in greater water flow and higher pressures. All things being equal, the larger the hose diameter, the greater the cost.
- Lengths: Hoses are usually sold in increments of 25 feet, with 100 foot hoses the longest commonly seen in garden centers. In general, the longer the hose the more resistance water encounters as it moves through it, resulting in less pressure and water flow at the end.
- Couplings: Garden hose couplings are either plastic or brass, with brass couplings wearing longer but being more expensive. The couplings of standard garden hoses all have the same threads, regardless of the hose size. Inside of the female coupling (the end that connects to the hose bib) is a removable gasket to ensure a tight seal. These are inexpensive and easy to replace. You may also buy adapters to join two hoses together, or replacement male or female ends if one becomes damaged.
- Specialty Hoses: These include commercial-quality hoses that, while expensive, would be a good choice for hot water or severe service. Flat hoses expand under water pressure, and are more compact and easier to store. Soaker hoses have tiny perforations that allow water to slowly trickle out so that plants are watered in a gradual manner.
What garden hose you buy should be based on the length you need and how much water you want. If you only need a 50 foot hose and not a large amount of water, then an inexpensive 1/2″ hose might do the trick. But if you need a very long hose, or a great deal of water, then a larger 3/4″ diameter hose would be a better choice.
The table below is based on information from the University of Idaho, WSU and OSO Extensions Garden Hose Flow Rate and Time Calculator. All the calculations use a supply pressure of 40 pounds per square inch (PSI), with GPM equaling gallons of water per minute.
|Hose Size||50 Foot Hose GPM||100 Foot Hose GPM|
|1/2″||12 GPM||6 GPM|
|5/8″||22 GPM||11 GPM|
|3/4″||36 GPM||18 GPM|
You can see that a small increase in hose size makes a large difference in the water flow. For example, going from a 1/2″ hose to a 3/4″ hose (a 50% increase in size) triples the water flow through the same length of hose.
Here are some tips on how to protect and maintain your garden hoses:
- Keep it out of the sun.
- Coil it after use, removing any kinks.
- During winter, drain the hose and store it out of the elements.
- Never tug on the hose when trying to eliminate a kink. It may make any tangles more difficult to undo and loosen the hose coupling.
- Remember that sharp bends weaken the hose.
- Keep your hose away from strong chemicals, such as fuels, solvents and acids.