A soaker hose is a porous tube that looks a lot like a garden hose, except that it ‘weeps’ water evenly along its entire length. Placed on the surface of the soil or buried in the soil, soaker hoses can deliver water steadily to the plants… but only when they are installed correctly.
Unfortunately many people find it hard to get their soaker hoses to water evenly along the entire length. The reasons for soaker hoses not watering evenly can be variable but in most cases they don’t water correctly for only one of a few reasons.
Soaker hoses will not water evenly if the pressure inside the hose is too high or too low. When the pressure is too high soaker hoses tend to either split randomly or they will seep heavily near the front of the hose and less heavily near the end of the hose. When the pressure is too low they will usually underwater the areas near the end of those hose where PSI is lowest.
The key to getting the pressure right has everything to do with your home’s outside pressure as measured by PSI and the length of hose you are using.
Longer hoses will absorb a lot of pressure as water is able to seep out of a lot more surface area. Shorter hoses frequently have to have pressure regulators installed to limit the amount of pressure inside the hoses. Alternatively many people will simply open the spigot part way to a soaker hose so as to not send too much water into it.
In my garden a couple of my soaker hoses run on 25 PSI regulators that are usually easy to find in big box stores but for the smaller beds that only use 50-foot length hoses or less I run all my soakers off of 10 PSI regulators exclusively. These 10 PSI regulators result in very even water distribution.
This is the exact pressure regulator I use in 7 of my 9 beds.
There are of course more reasons for hoses watering at an uneven rate, quality of the hose comes into play here, so let’s get to that next.
Other Reasons Why a Soaker Hose May Not Water Enough
Most soaker hoses are made from some combination of rubber and polyethylene plastic, but some BPA-free, polyurethane models are now available. Soaker hoses can provide reliable water delivery at ground level, especially when connected to a hose timer, helping the foliage on your plants remain dry and free from fungal growth.
The pores that make up the best quality soaker hoses are less likely to clog or to split in the summer sun. They are more likely to water evenly even with varying water pressure.
You can see which soaker hoses I typically recommend here if you like.
Soaker hoses can also provide an efficient way of irrigating plants without wasting much water which is helpful for people who live in areas with irrigation restrictions.
Unlike other hoses, soaker hoses are usually narrower along their length and they are made with tiny pores which permit a small amount of water to seep through. The water that comes through can usually be seen as small beads of water that should look uniform from the front to the back of the hose.
If your water is coming from a well or a municipal supply that has lots of calcium or minerals in it then it’s possible that some older hoses can calcify in spots causing places where the water can’t or won’t seep out. In plastic tubing vinegar is a common product used to break up calcification but with a garden hose this just isn’t as easy.
Soaker hoses that get clogged with calcified hard water deposits are usually doomed and will most likely have to be replaced although small clogs can be repaired if you really want to clear them.
Because I regularly have to swap out my soaker hoses near the PSI reducer I have also started including quick connect and disconnect fittings just after my pressure regulators in my garden beds. Most people don’t think about adding quick connect fittings to a soaker hose system but whenever I have to redo my layout (due to changing my bed’s plants around usually) the quick connector makes the job noticeably bit easier.
I tested four high end quick connect fittings out to find out which was the best. Check out my finding here.
How Soaker Hoses Work & How It Can Go Wrong
In ideal scenarios water from a soaker hose goes directly into the root zone of a row of plants at a very low pressure which eliminates runoff problems that are common with overhead sprinklers.
The most important benefit of using a soaker hose is that in most cases, they come with an inexpensive start-up cost. Additionally, the installation is rather simple.
Enjoying these benefits of soaker hoses requires that one find the best soaker hose in the market. Also, knowing how to properly to install and use the soaker hose will help to forestall problems associated with the use of soaker hoses, for instance, why the soaker hose is not watering evenly.
How to Get an Even Flow in Your Soaker Hose
Knowing how to get even flow in a soaker hose and applying this knowledge is very important for home owners.
In explaining how to get even flow it is important to discuss why a soaker hose is not watering properly.
The most common reasons for poor coverage include:
Clogging of the Soaker Hose
This problem is way more common than it can be believed. Mineral water, otherwise known as hard water, may not play nicely with hoses. Minerals contained in tap water may calcify and clog the pipes causing unimaginable inconvenience.
The first step of avoiding or rather preventing this problem is by testing your water for hardness, if you notice that you have hard water, mitigate it before it becomes a problem. Mitigation can be through using a water softener or other methods. This should dissolve all the minerals preventing clogging of the pipes.
The Length of the Hose
Ideally, a soaker hose should be within 100 feet in length. The longer the hose, the more pressure it requires, and the harder it becomes for it to actually work properly. Ideal soaker hose sizes are mostly maintained, but sometimes, these calculations are neglected, and that’s precisely why you still find larger ones out in the market.
Water Spraying Out
If the water is spraying out, it is a clear indication that the pressure is too high. You might want to reduce the faucet a little so that you can get the right amount of pressure as required by the soaker hose. It is also important to note that too high pressures can actually make the hose explode.
Supply of Water
You need to make sure that the hose is properly connected to the faucet. You must also be sure that the water isn’t coming out where the connection is. It is also important to be sure that the faucet is actually supplying the soaker hose with enough water. Soaker hoses might not work at all if there’s not enough pressure except for the no-pressure hoses.
If all these are taken into consideration, the water in the hose will definitely flow evenly.
How to Lay Out a Soaker Hose System
In order to lay out or install a soaker hose system, the following steps must be taken:
- Hire an irrigation specialist to run a water line from the main water source at the house out to the yard. He or she will use a mechanical trencher to dig a deep furrow to the required depth for the geographic zone. This supply line will terminate in a valve box, which is buried just below grade.
- Install a water shut-off valve, This master valve controls all the water going to the garden. The valve allows you to shut off the water in winter to keep the supply lines from freezing. Paying special attention to the water flow direction, connect the shut-off valve to the PVC pipe.
- Install the zone control valves, irrigation systems have control valves for each zone. This plan calls for two main zones, the left and right sides of the garden. Cement a 3″ piece of 3/4″ PVC pipe to the open end of the main shut-off valve. Attach a two-zone manifold with control valves. These valves open and close electronically based on signals from the programmable timer.
- Run the supply lines, this is done by connecting two PVC pipe supply lines to the control valves. These lines should be long enough to reach the far end of the gardens. Run the lines down a trench to the garden. Using a saw, cut the main supply lines in front of each garden bed and cement in place a “T”. From every “T”, run a bit of PVC pipe long enough to succeed in the periphery of the garden bed.
- Attach the bed spigots, Having spigots at each bed allows the gardener to control which beds get watered when the system comes on.
- Then attach the soaker hoses. Attach one finish of a typical 25′ soaker hose to every garden bed spigot. Make sure the other end is capped off. Arrange the soaker hoses around the base of the plants within the garden beds.
- Finally, cover all of the trenches with dirt and tamp them down.
At the initial supply of the water line, attach the programmable timer. This controls when the zone valves open and close, sending water out to the soaker hoses at each bed.
Common Soaker Hose Problems
It’s the worst feeling having everything set up only to run into a bunch of soaker hose issues. Here are a few common ones and how to avoid them.
The most common problems associated with the use of soaker hoses include:
The Pressure Distribution Problem
The first thing any critic will point out that due to its great length (most soaker hoses vary from 25 to 50 feet), they do not have an equal pressure distribution system and are thus, rendered ineffective if you plan on watering a relatively large garden.
One consequence of this is that plants at the ends of the hose will grow much shorter than the rest. The most effective answer to the present soaker hose downside is obtaining a pressure reducing system. Most houses average water pressure of 50 psi, but this should normally be
reduced to around 10 psi. Just fix it at the beginning of the hose and let nature work itself out.
The Evaporation Problem
A soaker hose exposed to direct sunlight will suffer from great evaporation losses, especially in summer. This could lead to plants failing to grow to sufficient heights, weak roots and discolored leaves.
A common soaker hose can perform best once lined with organic mulch.
Be careful not to forget exactly where you’ve buried it. All too often, someone will go to garden in the same area, only to drop their shovel right atop the hose, puncturing it.
Simple solution: Expose the hose each spring so you avoid such a dumb move. Don’t worry; everyone has to go through it one time or another.
It’s common for beginners to not know exactly how long to keep the soaker hose running. This is a solution better learned sooner than later. The specifics will have to do greatly with what you’re soaking. Do your research. This is not something you’d want to wing.
Remember that you need to water only enough amount of water to your lawn as overwatering or underwatering can lead to unwanted lawn growth patterns.
It is so necessary that you just have your soaker hose running for a preset, adequate amount of time.
Just to mention, one inch of water per week and two inches of water per week for summer and spring respectively are enough. Determining this amount is the biggest challenge. The time problem can be fixed by using a can of tuna, and timing how long it takes to fill approximately one inch.
Clogging of the Hose
This also another common problem caused by minerals found in tap water may calcify and clog the pipes causing unimaginable inconvenience.
The Length of the Hose
A problem that affects the working ability of your soaker hose. This perhaps lies more in ignorance rather than deficiencies within the system itself. As mentioned before, the soaker hoses length range between 25 to 50 feet. Factually, they should never exceed 100 feet.
There is a direct link between the length of the hose and water pressure issues. Certainly, you may have seen some homes supplying water for 600 feet or more without any problem.
This is possible; but, long hoses particularly versatile models, suffer a good pressure drop over an extended distance.
Are Water Pressure Regulators Necessary?
The pressure regulator limits the inlet pressure to the soaker hose.
A pressure regulator is a must since the soaker hose is designed to work on low pressure.
This is one of the best selling regulators on Amazon, you can see just how affordable they can be!
Can You Bury a Soaker Hose?
A soaker hose can be used on the top of the ground surface or covered with a layer of mulch for best results also decreasing water evaporation. Watering before sunrise also helps in this matter. You can bury the hose up to 4 inches deep if you wish, but this makes it harder to monitor and can lead to damage from roots or digging.
Burying the soaker hose in 2 to 3 inches of mulch protects it from sunlight and external damage. Soaker hoses are not effectively buried in dirt, as the small particles can clog the hose.
Applying these preceding guidelines and tips should ensure the best soaker hose experience for your yard or garden.
Here are a few more articles that may be interesting or helpful for you. Check them out!
► A Comparison of Drip Irrigation and Soaker Hoses.
► Can You Use a Soaker Hose Connected to a Rain Barrel?
► How to Measure Garden Hose Diameter?
► How to Stop a Hose From Kinking?
► How Can I Increase My Outdoor Water Pressure?
► Is it Safe to Drink Water From a Garden Hose?