How to Hand-Water Efficiently
Watering your garden by hand with a nozzle or sprinkler attached to the end of your hose can be water-efficient and cost-effective if you keep these three simple tips in mind:
- Add a hose nozzle with a shut-off feature. Water flows from a garden hose at an average of 5-7 gallons a minute. Attaching a water-efficient nozzle to your hose will allow you to control the water flow so that it is only on when you need it.
- Give thirstier plants a little more water between regularly scheduled watering times rather than watering your whole garden more often. You can also place plants that need more water closer to your hose bib so that it is easier to water them.
- Apply the amount of water your soil can absorb. Water thoroughly, but infrequently. If runoff or puddling occurs, break longer watering sessions into several short sessions, allowing water to soak into the soil between each session.
Seasonal Maintenance Tips
- Inspect your hose, hose nozzle, and / or sprinkler for leaks and general wear and tear that will affect its performance throughout the season. For example: is the metal end of your hose bent or covered in dirt or debris? Is the washer in good condition? If not, they could cause your watering system to leak.
- Put your system through a test-run. This will tell you if your connection are properly tightened and whether there are any holes that need to be repaired. Making sure that your hand-watering system is leak-free is one of the most important things you can do to use water wisely. This is because a dripping spigot or small hole can easily waste hundreds of gallons of water each month - over the summer, that can really add up to a lot of wasted water and money.
- Use a shut-off nozzle. Water flows from a garden hose at an average rate of 5 - 7 gallons per minute! Adding a shut-off nozzle to your garden hose can save you water every time you water your garden (or wash your car) this summer.
- Inspect your hose, hose nozzle, and/or sprinkler for leaks and general wear and tear that will affect its performance. The end of the season is a great time to replace worn-out hoses, nozzles, and connections.
- Winterize your system by emptying it of water and turning it off for the season: put garden hoses away and insulate outdoor pipes. Empty and disconnect your garden hoses from outdoor faucets. Also be sure to insulate your outdoor faucets and any exposed pipes for the winter.
- Clear debris from your gutters and downspouts. This will prevent overflow and keep the water from your roof directed where you want it to go during the winter rains.
Keep your watering system in tip-top shape
Regularly check for leaks in your hose and anything that it connects to, like another hose, sprinkler, or hose nozzle. A dripping spigot or small hole in your hose can easily waste hundreds of gallons of water each month and can really add up to a lot of wasted water and money if not fixed. Watch this segment from KATU Television’s AM Northwest to see how to test your hand watering system.
Know how much water you are using
The greatest waste of water is watering landscapes too much, too often. Here's how to figure out how much water you are using:
- Hose nozzle: Grab a bucket and time how long it takes your hose nozzle to fill the bucket. This will tell you how many gallons of water you are using each minute. For example, if it takes two minutes to fill up a five-gallon bucket, then you know that your hose uses 2.5 gallons per minute.
- Sprinkler attachment: You will need 15 minutes and two flat bottomed cans of the same size (tuna cans work great for this) to measure your sprinkler’s water use. The process is the same for in-ground sprinklers and sprinkler attachments for garden hoses.
Create a watering schedule
Once you know how much water your system uses, use this information to create a watering schedule. Water established landscapes (plants that have been in the ground for a couple of years) twice a week rather than every day during the summer. Newer plantings, potted plants, and those located under trees or overhangs may need to be watered more often.
The weather will affect how much water your landscape needs. Use the Weekly Watering Number to guide you on how much to water each week.
Water deeply a couple of times each week
Generally, it is better to water plants deeply a couple of times a week rather than watering a little bit each day. Doing this will help your plants establish robust root systems that are better able to find the water they need in your soil. Your goal is to get water a few inches down into the soil where the plant’s roots are.
You can easily tell if you have watered deeply enough by using a hand trowel or screwdriver to test your soil moisture. To do this, push your screwdriver or trowel into the soil in a couple of different locations. If it goes into the soil easily, your soil has good moisture content.
Anti-siphon valves, or vacuum breakers, prevent contaminants from fertilizers and pet waste from being siphoned back into your home or the public water supply. Some water spigots have built-in anti-siphon valves, but if yours does not, they can be purchased at hardware stores for about $5.
Below pictured left: add-on spigot anti-siphon valve; right: built-in spigot anti-siphon valve.