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How To Use Soaker Hoses in a Vegetable Garden

Whether you’re a subsistence gardener or you raise a vegetable garden for fun and to add variety to your summer menu, chances are you will need to find an effective way to deliver water to your plants. You can hand water, water with sprinklers, water with soaker hoses or use complicated drip systems. If you’re like many gardeners, you love your garden, and you put a lot of time and energy into it to keep weeds at bay and your plants thriving. There are other things that still require your attention and money. For most gardeners, the basic soaker hose is a perfect compromise between the time required to hand water, the mess and inaccuracy of overhead watering, and the fussiness and expense of emitter-based drip systems.

How Do I Set Up a Soaker Hose System?

The first question about using soaker hoses is always: “How do I use a soaker hose in my garden?” Using a soaker hose watering system is simple. Most gardeners who use soaker hoses will lay them out along the rows of plants they wish to water and leave them in place for the growing season rather than disturb the system and the plants between watering. If you’re a fan of mulch gardening, you may cover your soaker hoses with mulch.

How Do I Run My Soaker Hoses Through the Garden?

A single soaker down the center of a narrow, raised bed, or between two fairly close rows of plants works very well. For larger, high-demand plants like indeterminate tomatoes, you may wish to loop the soaker hose around the base of the plant for more even irrigation.

If you have a sizeable garden and use multiple soaker hoses, you can simply attach a regular garden hose to whichever hose you want to feed and move it to each soaker in turn, or you could choose to get a little fancier and install a manifold with an individual valve for each connection.

Do I Need Special Equipment To Use Soaker Hoses in My Garden?

Soaker hoses work best with a pressure of around 10 pounds per square inch, so your home system should provide more than enough pressure to service multiple soaker hoses at once. Some gardeners use an external pressure control while others simply turn back the main faucet to reduce the flow of water. If you purchase quality soaker hoses with restrictor washers, you won’t need to reduce your line pressure. Restrictor washers are simple disks found in the female end of the soaker hose. They feature a small hole which only allows a small quantity of water to enter the hose at any given time, naturally reducing the water pressure to the desired rate of flow.

How Long Do I Run My Soaker Hose?

Right after questions about setting up a soaker hose system, this is the next question that comes up: “How long do I leave the soaker hose on in my vegetable garden?” There are two different schools of thought on this one, but neither of them really answers the question the way you might expect. The short answer is that “your mileage may vary.” Let’s see what that really means in terms of how long you need to run a soaker hose in order to adequately water your vegetable garden.

Soaker Hose Watering in Inches

In theory, there are two ways to measure how much water your garden is receiving and whether it is adequate. The first is to know how much water your garden is receiving in inches. Generally, it is agreed that the average vegetable garden needs about one inch of water per week in the spring, and one and one-half to two inches in the summer.

In order to know how long you need to run your soaker hose in the garden based on the “watering in inches” method, you need to know two things: How long does it take my soaker hose to put out an inch of water? And how much rain has my area received?

Once you know your rainfall total, you can calculate how much water you need to add to get your desired weekly total. To know how long it will take you to distribute the additional water you need through your soaker hose, you can use a shallow vessel such as a tuna can placed under your soaker hose to time how long it takes to deliver an inch of water through the hose. That will allow you to figure out how much time it will take to apply the water you need using your soaker hose.

The Depth of Moisture Method of Soaker Hose Irrigation

This method works very well for many gardeners, especially those who practice deep bed intensive gardening methods. To test the depth of water, you will simply start watering and periodically dig a spade of dirt out to see how deep the water has soaked in. Most gardeners desire a depth of 8 to 12 inches with some variation for soil type. In most cases, you’ll be able to assume that the same depth will require a similar irrigation time so that you’ll know how long to let your soaker hose run.