The water hose: A gardener’s best frenemy

“While the hose looks helpful — innocently coiled waiting for you on the shelf or in the yard — there is an inherent evil about it. The thing’s gonna kink.”

— Tom Harvey, “Don’t Fight with the Garden Hose and Other Lessons I’ve Learned,” 2013


This morning I had two things on my to-do list — write my garden column and water my plants — and I chose to water the plants first.

The ensuing hostilities between human and hose turned out to be a good thing because it provided me with a topic that surely must be one of the most important gardening truisms: A watering hose is the gardener’s best frenemy.

There is a dizzying array of garden hoses to choose from and, just as Tom Harvey wrote, they all look so innocent coiled neatly on the store shelf, waiting for the next gullible gardener to wander past. But experience has taught me the saying “kinky as a cheap garden hose” is an apt one — about garden hoses anyway — because I’ve certainly gotten what I’ve paid for. Here are a few other lessons I’ve learned about hoses:

It’s important to buy the right hose for your particular gardening needs. Although rubber hoses are most durable, they are also rigid and heavy to haul around the yard. Hoses made from hybrid polymer materials, such as the Flexilla garden hose, are strong but are more lightweight and flexible. Hoses made with mesh linings are also more durable, but the trade-off is less flexibility.

On the other hand, tasks like watering potted plants on the patio are best accomplished with one of the new expandable hoses such as the hose made by Josy & Co., which weighs just a couple of pounds but is made with triple latex layers, brass fittings, and steel assembly clamps for durability. Be sure to check out the hose fittings before you buy any hose. Plastic couplings won’t last long, whereas reinforced aluminum and brass attachments are more durable.

Also consider the length of hose you need. An expandable hose for the patio should be no longer than 25 feet, whereas a 75-foot hose is recommended for watering plants in numerous locations around a large yard.

The diameter of the inside opening of your garden hose helps determine the water pressure you will have. Most hoses come in ½- to ¾-inch diameters, but I’ve found the 5/8-incj diameter hoses work best for most of my gardening tasks.

Fights with hoses usually stem from the fact that our hoses have better memories than we do. We may forget how we wound up the hose last time, but the hose remembers because of the material it was made with. Look for “no memory” hoses that will lay flat and coil more easily. (Check out my blog this week for tips on coiling a hose without breaking a sweat.)

Thirsty gardeners and their pets should not drink from rubber or vinyl hoses, particularly if the hose has been lying out in the open with water still in the tubing, because lead or toxic plasticizers can leach into the water. Look for hoses that have been labeled “drinking water safe” and keep your hose out of the sun.

Even though it seems like our hoses are out to poison us or at least trip us up, the truth is that most “faulty” hoses are due to human error. We stretch them beyond their limits and throw them down in disgust when they kink, and then we wonder why they break? The next time you find yourself fighting with your “evil” hose, stop, turn your back to the sun, and spray. You’ll make a rainbow, and you’ll feel much better.

— Rhonda Nowak is Rogue Valley gardener, teacher and writer. Email her at

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