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Avoid Getting Hosed Watering the Garden

An introduction to hose connections and soaker hose, water controllers, and the two universes of hose bib threads, US and British.

Summer is here
and the livin' is easy
fish are jumpin'
and the flowers is high

From George Gershwin’s Summertime with a twist.
Images, author original

Summer temperature shear appears to be a month early with 90F temperatures (33 C) happening in late May rather than in late June. The dew point is low so conditions are very drying, enough so that frequent watering of our newly established ornamental plants is needed.

Last year’s heat found us watering daily using a flower watering wand and shower head. Many plants developed brown spot or powdery mildew. Neither is good.

Brown spot struck in 2020

Brown spot is a fungus disease that affects turf and low ornamental plants during the humid summer months when dew points rise into the 20’s C or 70’s F. The moist humid air hugs the ground creating conditions that promote growth of the fungus. Watering culture is a known factor with evening watering by spray being a risk multiplier.

Much to my surprise, the root stock survived and plants began poking up again in January and most have robust growth. Be sure to remove the mulch before giving up on a location as I found 2 hostas that had not yet emerged hiding in the mulch. These are now exposed and growing nicely.

What started as a quick note about soaker hose has grown into a full-fledged post including the following.

  • A bit of horticulture, specifically mixed-humid fungal disease avoidance
  • An introduction to soaker hoses and their use
  • An introduction to water timers
  • An introduction to the HozeLock connector system
  • A bit about pipe thread hand hose fitting materials incompatibility. Never mix metal colors as brass or bronze and aluminum or zinc love each other way too much.
  • And of course, references.

In this article, I mention several brands and products. I’ve used some of them and others look interesting. I was pleased to note that the HozeLock company that invented the garden hose quick coupling system is alive and well on the Isle of Dogs (UK). Gardena in Germany is also a strong manufacture of lawn and garden care products with international sales.

Note that there are at least 3 hose and fitting standards in use, US ASME, British Standard Pipe, and more ISO standards than you can shake a stick at. When ordering product be careful that it is from the universe in which you live.

Revisions

  1. 2021-05-26 Reformatted as a full article. Added reference to the HozeLock company website. Added mention of ISO hose standards used in the EU and the larger world. Added caveat about mentioned products.

References

  1. https://gilmour.com/set-soaker-hose
  2. https://www.gardena.com/ca-en/products/watering/hose-fittings/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_hose
  4. https://www.evehome.com/en/eve-aqua
  5. https://www.iso.org/ics/23.040.70/x/

Indications That Watering is Needed

I use several indications to decide when a bed needs watering.

  • Hydrangea will wilt when dry. They are usually the first plant to show wilting.
  • Hellebore will wilt when dry. They are usually the second plant to do so.
  • The lawn will go dormant in the July and August heat. Some species will remain green. Others will turn brown. No amount of water will revive the grass before the ground cools in September. So I don’t irrigate the lawn until the fall overseeding.
  • When overseeding the lawn, I wait until mid-to-late October to do so. Otherwise the squirrels will dig up the new grass playing nut-storing games. Usually, the ground will stay wet with limited watering needed to get new grass up.

Soaker Hose Watering

Flat soaking hose

First season, I hand watered using a flower shower. The result was lots of brown spot and powdery mildew. This season, I decided to try soaker hose. This is hose made to weep water along its length in a measured way. It comes in a couple of versions, one made of black recycled rubber and a second made of woven textile that feels a lot like sail cloth but without the resin finish. In the photo you see the flat soaking hose. Gardena sells round soaking hose commonly used in fixed installations. Gilmour and Melnor sell flat woven soaking hose that is convenient to move from bed to bed and store over the winter.

If hose is installed and left, the round rubber hose works well. I have this sort in the back shrub beds. If the hose needs to be moved regularly and taken up, the flat hose works well. It handles easily and can be coiled in hand to move and re-lay.

Gilmour gives recommendations for routing the hose. They recommend keeping hose close to the plant stems to ensure dripped water is in the root zone. In Norfolk, VA we have clay subsoil about 2 feet below grade with the lot sloped from the house to the street. I route the hose on the high side of the plants where I can as excess water will follow the clay slope down out of the bed and into the lawn.

Use a Water Timer

To keep the water bill under control, I have 2 Eve Home Aqua water timers that run water for a set period of time. These devices remember when you forget or are distracted, or just doze off with the garden water going.

These are interesting in that they integrate with HomeKit. The EveHome App lets you create schedules and use HomeKit automation to control watering. You also have remote control of the water.

Set the default watering time and start watering. At the end of the interval, watering will stop.

Eve Home Aqua will estimate the water used if you set the flow rate. This data is visible in the Eve Home App. Home App only lets you start and stop watering and view status.

As discussed below, North American and British hose thread standards differ so be careful to buy Eve Aqua from Eve with your proper nation of use set. Eve Aqua comes with a HozeLock plug for its outlet and an extra washer to snug things up.

Local Water Usage Rules

Before choosing a watering timer, check the local garden watering regulations. Many locales have water restrictions of one sort or another. Some of the more common.

  • Water during specified hours only
  • Even/odd day schemes based on house number
  • Watering bans on a given day or days

The Eve Aqua accommodates daily schedules and watering on select days of the week but cannot do the even/odd day scheme indefinitely given 7 day weeks (a prime number) and varying month length. Eve Aqua will use a common start time and duration (the “default” one) for each day of the schedule.

The Gardena products may have similar limitations.

Measuring Water Usage

Neither group of water controllers appears to support measurement of the water released. Gardena offers a separate inline water meter for this purpose. These are water and dust resistant so are appropriate hose end fittings. I have not tried the Gardena meters.

Tracking of water release can help you tailor water to beds and to avoid surprises (roll dice and pay 10 times). Water is expensive when the water works assumes it will all go through the filtration plant. Water is 1/3 of residential bills in Norfolk and waste treatment is 2/3.

About Hoses and Fittings

I went out to put a water manifold on the back sill cock so I could irrigate the beds and fill the dog pool at the same time. I found my nice brass hose coupling permanently corroded to a zinc frost-free sill cock. I should have known better as I was aware of the issue from my submarine driving days. Antenna connectors and primary valve covers were not coming off unless the proper threat lubricant was used. And heaven help he who mated incompatible parts as some material combinations would cold weld pretty much immediately.

Bronze and Zinc don’t mix

Select hose and fittings with care purchasing from a reputable manufacturer. With the move of manufacturing to China, many hose cocks are now made of bright metal, usually zinc. Most hoses have bronze fittings. Coupling a bronze hose to a zinc cock results in a permanently installed hose. A plumber’s visit will be required to replace the cock. The galvanic corrosion is severe and can’t easily be undone. Liquid Wrench and WD-40 won’t help after the fact. I’m unaware of any recommended thread lubricants that can be used during assembly. Some use Teflon tape but a thick layer is needed as it deforms during assembly.

At Least Three Thread Standards

The United States uses thread standardized in accordance with ANSI-ASME B1.20.7. US hose thread is different than US pipe thread. The British use threads per the British Standard Pipe standard. The EU and most of the rest of the world use the ISO hose and fittings standards. The ISO family is large and covers everything from garden hose to aircraft flight control hydraulic hoses and more.

Quick Connect Couplings

British Company HozeLock developed the original system of quick connect hose connectors that remains in use today. HozeLock continues to thrive in the UK.

Gardena, a German irrigation products company, has taken up the standard. Gardena and HozeLock are the best sources for kit today. Other companies also make HozeLock connectors with multiple sources in the unscruitable East.

The threaded end will either be ISO, North American, or British pipe thread. Be sure to order product to be used with hoses for use in your country. My Gardena distribution manifolds came with a thread reducer installed that adopted them to US hose thread and taps.

I have some of the Gardena couplers and some of the Melnor products. The Gardena have a precision feel not matched by the Melnor. The quick connects go together without fuss or leakage The threaded connections will be troublesome given the sloppy manufacture of hose bibs.

Normal HozeLock Fitting Sequence

The HozeLock quick connection system uses 4 connector styles.

  • Tap connector (socket)
  • Hose female end connector (threaded plug)
  • Hose male end connector (threaded socket)
  • Attachment male connector (plug)

HozeLock has a recommended sequence for using these.

  1. Start with a tap connector on the tap male thread. This is the female pipe thread to male HozeLock adpater.
  2. Put a HozeLock to male connector on the hoze female end (the one that goes on the tap.
  3. Put a HozeLock female to HozeLock female adapter on the hose male end. These stop water flow when disconnected.
  4. Put HozeLock quick connectors HozeLock male to pipe thread male on each hose attachment.