How to Choose a Garden Hose

The best, longest lasting garden hose is one that's composed of layers. The inner layer of a garden hose needs to be a smooth, flexible rubber or synthetic tube. To protect it and give it toughness, the inner layer is covered or coated with at least one outer layer of nylon fabric or mesh. The outer skin beyond that, the part you touch and see, needs to be of a material that doesn't break down after prolonged exposure to sun and weather. It also needs to resist punctures and scratches. Usually, the outer layer is vinyl, or a vinyl-rubber blend, and it's often green or black. Multi-layered hoses may seem a bit fatter or heavier than the inexpensive alternatives, but as usual, you get what you pay for.

Cheap hoses and older ones have an annoying flaw: They kink and tangle. If you aren't watching, you can waste water and sometimes harm plants as the hose lashes around. Then you have the problem of hoses that crack, burst, and leak after being left out in the sun or run over by the car, or that just break down after what seems like not very much use.

The standard, vinyl-coated, layered hose comes in different forms: namely three-ply, four-ply, and five-ply. As with anything, heavier duty versions, like the five-ply, are more expensive. Heavier duty hoses don't kink as often, can take higher water pressures, and last longer. For occasional watering jobs, the lower ply will work fine; for more frequent use and longer life, go with the higher ply.

Other types of hoses include

  • The soaker or leaky hose: This hose "sweats" water slowly out along its entire length via tiny holes.
  • The flat hose: Made of cotton canvas, the flat hose is lightweight and compact.
  • The patio hose: The end of the patio hose is designed to attach to a sink faucet.

One more thing to look for when hose-shopping: The fittings at the ends should also be of good quality. Their job is to attach seamlessly to a faucet (or sprinkler, if at the other end) without leaking or spraying. How do you judge quality? If they're cast brass rather than cheap metal, they're built to last. A stamped, galvanized steel fitting never seems to hold up over time.

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