Soaker Hoses — Good, Bad and Ugly

Soaker hoses can be an effective and efficient watering tool for beds, shrubs and trees. But use them incorrectly and you may be blindsided with a huge water bill.

Soaker hoses are a great way to water perennial beds, shrubs and trees. They’re so inexpensive you can buy several and leave them snaked around throughout your landscape.

However, connecting more than two of them together will cause a loss in pressure as the hose extends, rendering it ineffective. Most importantly, it’s not necessary to cover every foot of your bedding areas with soaker hoses. If the hose is within a few feet of established plants, the water will move horizontally within the soil and find the plant roots.

The most common mistake in using soaker hoses is turning the water on too high. We often hear from homeowners surprised by a large water bill because they left a soaker hose on for several hours at full water pressure. It’s more effective to turn the faucet only partially. This allows enough water to flow through the hose so it will slowly seep out into the soil.

Test how long to run the soaker hose by digging down after about 45 minutes to see if the water penetrated at least four inches down. Adjust your run-time to let water seep past mulch and deep into the soil.

Here are a few suggestions for effective soaker hose use.

Step 1 – Lay the soaker hoses no closer than 24 inches apart in beds and use only one for shrubs and trees.

Step 2 – Run on your permitted day, during permitted time.

Step 3 – Turn the faucet only a quarter turn.

Step 4 – Run until the soil is moist 4 inches below the soil line.

Step 5 – Store the soaker hose in the garage when not in use.

The major problem with soaker hoses is that they’re composed of reconstituted rubber and will degrade over time, especially if exposed to sunlight. Expect them to fall apart in a year and a half to two years, at most. An old soaker hose will exhibit small water fountains all along its length.

When used correctly, soaker hoses can be an effective and efficient watering tool, but like any tool, can be abused. Use them wisely and save water.

Picture of Karen Guz
Karen Guz
Karen grew up taking family vacations to national parks and scenic rivers. A one-time kayak river guide in her home state of Pennsylvania, she got herself to Texas as fast as she could. Now as the vice president of Conservation for SAWS, she is responsible for meeting San Antonio’s long-term water conservation goals by leading a high energy, creative team of conservation planners. She first worked for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service providing a variety of horticulture and 4-H educational programs to the community before joining SAWS in 2000. When she’s not helping San Antonio live up to its reputation as a national leader in water conservation, she enjoys the outdoors as an avid hiker…continuing the tradition of luring the rest of her family to national parks and ranger talks.
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