I interrupt my three-part series to give you this special bulletin … FLASH! Hose care is important for gardeners, homesteaders and farmers!
Frustrated by the failure of a garden hose? Who isn’t? But, there’s quite a bit you can do to reduce your chances of bursts, leaks, and damage. How does this fit into this blog? Well, the concept of thrift — critical to the agrarian mentality — is also an important stewardship principle. Good care for any of our equipment is just good stewardship of what God has provided.
Similar to any other equipment you use on the farm, homestead, yard, greenhouse, garden, etc., a hose will last longer if used property and treated well. Some things to avoid all seem like common sense, but we all violate these and should take the extra steps not to.
Avoid plastic and vinyl
Like most things, you get what you pay for. What I have observed regarding garden hoses is this: never buy poly or vinyl, only buy rubber hoses and gaskets. There are some hybrids out there that are good too, but the key is high-grade rubber hoses. A “contractor” grade or commercial 100-foot hose in my area will cost you about $50 retail price. Don’t buy light-duty hoses. You may not want to spend $50 for a hose, but three cheap vinyl hoses later and you’ll have spent the same amount and added frustrations to your life.
Avoid hoses with plastic fittings. Brass fittings are better. However, sometimes people have a hose with plastic fittings and they connect them with the brass fittings of another hose. Both are soft materials, but the plastic is easily damaged and then the threads begin to wear and leak. Remember, brass is also soft and easily damaged. With the very course threads used on fittings, even minor damage can cause fittings to leak. End reinforcements, whether solid or spring-like, are important to protect the hose ends, but also make it easier to better tighten two ends together.
Rubber gaskets are important as well. Keep an extra set on hand because gaskets in the female end of your hose sometimes can fall out and it’s a simple thing to pop a new one in, but only if you have them on hand. Vinyl or poly gaskets aren’t as good, but a new vinyl gasket is better than no gasket at all.
Crimping, pinching, binding
Rubber hoses withstand crimping and binding better than poly, but eventually this will cause the hose walls to break down and eventually fail. Never drive over your hoses with equipment or vehicles. The pressure of a tractor, truck or mower may seem insignificant because it only happens for a second, but this is a bad idea and will break down your hose walls. Remember, a hose is stronger when its cross section is round, not oval.
I have a need to run my hoses across my gravel drive quite a bit. Yet, people using the drive aren’t going to get out of their cars and pull the hose out of the way. I buried about a 12-foot length of 6-inch diameter exterior-grade PVC as a mini culvert across the drive. I can run hoses or even outdoor extension cords through this tube under the gravel. I graded it so rain water empties out.
Also, if you hang your hoses, be sure the object they hang on doesn’t cause the hose to crimp due to the hose weight pulling on it. We think because we’re hanging our hoses that we’re prolonging its life. This is true as long as we’re not crimping them on the object we’re hanging the hose on.
Twisting is hard to prevent, but do your best to ensure your hoses aren’t twisted. Many come with linear stripes so you can tell when they are twisted. I bet every one of our hoses are twisted right now no matter how carefully we handle them. It’s common. A little twisting isn’t a tragedy. But, work hard to ensure twisting isn’t a problem. Keep an eye on the strip in your hose. Here’s the problem. Twisting eventually deforms the circular shape of the hose and introduces weak spots, much like crimping. The most common cause of this is pulling the hose straight out from your nice neat hose coil. If you pull it out from the end, it will twist it. It only takes seconds to simultaneously uncoil and untwist as you pull out the hose for use. Hose reels are a good way to prevent this; though, I don’t like how tightly hoses are coiled on a hose reel. Find the biggest diameter hose reel you can.
Yeah, I know. You have to use hoses in sunlight because that’s where the need is. But, hoses don’t have to be stored in sunlight. Even rubber experiences ill effects from the various radiations of the sun. Now, no one is going to build a special shed for a $50 hose. But, a throw-away piece of tarp is a two-second solution to cover your hoses. If you are using a hose real, you can toss something over the reel, such as a decoration.
My rubber hoses are black. This creates significant heat in direct sunlight. I often have to be careful about 200 feet of hot water shooting out the end of the hose when I first turn on the water. Keeping the sunlight off them reduces these drastic temperature variations and no wasted water waiting for it to cool off. If you don’t cover your hoses, at least coil them in the shade.
Everyone pulls in their hoses with a variety of techniques. But, dragging fittings over gravel or concrete will contribute to failure such as at the end fitting. I make a practice of walking to the end of the hose, grabbing it and walking to the point where I will coil the hose. That way, the brass end fitting never is dragged.
Do you have good hose-use tips to share? Include them in the comments below.