Gardeners selecting a soaker hose should look for one with the specific length, material, and configuration to meet their needs. Soaker hoses irrigate gardens by leaking water through a porous shell at a controlled rate. They can be more efficient than regular hoses, while being less expensive than a drip irrigation system. This design is not appropriate for all garden applications and it may be necessary to maintain several hose styles to meet all the needs of a garden.
Soaker hoses work best when they can be laid flat, not on an incline, and with plants that are closely spaced together. For trees and shrubs with plenty of breathing room, this design is a bad idea, because water will be wasted on the space between plantings. Lawns need sprinkling for irrigation. The hose also works best when paired with mulch to trap and hold the water, keeping plants adequately moist between waterings.
An appropriate length for a typical soaker hose is usually 100 feet (30 meters). Longer hoses tend not to work as well. The hose should be made from a flexible material with UV resistance so it will hold up in the sun. Some are flat, which can be helpful for keeping the hose stable and safer to walk on. Flat hoses can also less prone to kinking, which may be a concern for gardeners who need to regularly move a soaker hose around the garden to reach different areas.
Hoses of good quality may have a valve at the end to allow the gardener to flush the soaker hose. Periodically during the growing season, gardeners can open the valve and turn on the spigot to allow water to go all the way through the hose. This will remove dirt and debris that might otherwise accumulate. If no valve is present, it can be difficult to clean the hose and it may eventually clog during use.
Some soaker hose products also come with timing kits to allow gardeners to set them up and leave them in place during the growing season. It's possible to buy a timer separately, as well. The timer should be programmed to run either in early morning or late afternoon, to reduce water loss through evaporation. When irrigation is not necessary because it's rainy, the timer can be brought in to limit water damage. Hoses themselves should also be coiled up and brought inside during the rainy season to extend their lifespan.