Country Living Series

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Drip irrigation vs. soaker hoses

Reader Terry posed a question as follows:

Hi Patrice, I wonder if you or your readers would be so kind as to give an opinion on drip irrigation versus soaker hose. We live in southern California, and have only a couple of raised garden beds, a small rose garden bed, raspberries and blackberries along our fence, and about 10 pots with blueberries and lavender; and that's besides our small lawn. We water by hand now, but it sure is time consuming. Thanks for any opinions.

We use drip irrigation in our garden and have been very satisfied with it, especially because we can plant most things directly in line with the drips. Other things (notably the raspberries and strawberries) do fine with drips because the soil beneath the surface absorbs and disseminates that water.


However we have no experience with soaker hoses. Can others please chime in with their experience?

16 comments:

  1. I have used Soaker hoses for decades and have found the old fashion"A.M.Andrews Co." the best.(I have no financial connection with the company). They are made in Portland,Ore.They come in 20 ft. to 100 ft. lengths and can be adjusted on the end to make them any length your rows happen to be.I roll them up at the end of the year and have had many last 3 seasons. Its usualy my fault in hoeing Etc. that chops them up, But since I can use the short end by moving the end clip I still get some use out of them. The sprinkle a nice row or just turn them over to just soak.They don't weave about your plantings that well, but streight row vege gardening is perfect. They fit any length row as the garden grows or shortens year by year. I often use Hose "Y" connecters and short hoses to join a big square planting like corn or sunflower so I don't have to move them.

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  2. I use drip irrigation wherever possible. Drippers just plain use less water. You can pinpoint the water directly into the plant with almost zero waste. This has the added benefit of reducing weeds. True; weeds will grow where the plants are, but they won't grow where they aren't as there's no water. The downside of drippers is that you have to provide a line and dripper for EACH plant. The more plants you have, the more expensive and time consuming this becomes. In my veggie garden, this is where I bring the soaker hoses into play, for congested rows of such things as corn, onions, and the like. I use the mini soaker hoses meant for use with drip systems. They work surprisingly well.

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  3. My husband used soaker hoses for many years when he lived in California. Since he liked them so much, he ordered soaker hoses from a hardware store here in Northern Nevada. We really liked them the first year. But the second year they were very dry and brittle and eventually broke apart.
    So, there may be tremendous differences in soaker hoses. I wish I knew the name of the ones we used so you could stay away from them.

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  4. I have used soaker hoses several times and find that if they are over 50 ft long the ends just do not get enough pressure to work well. You can get around that some by doubling the last 10 ft or so back on its self. They are more of an area device than drip irrigation.

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  5. Yeah, both of my soakers have broken open this year. So now rather than soaking, I just try to direct the one big spraying spot to water most of the bed. Those hoses lasted 2 years, but a soaker works best for rows of lettuce, beets, carrots, peas, beans, etc.

    My irrigation water comes for a nearby stream and would clog drippers. I'd have to use bubblers which are just a little more expensive.

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  6. My experience has been the same as Steve's. In addition they must be perfectly level. Water will not run uphill in them and downhill is very uneven with most of the water on the bottom end.. Like everything nothing works in every condition. After a few years of using them I am mostly back to sprinklers except on my grapes.--ken

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  7. We use drip tape, which has some of the advantages of drip irrigation, such as keeping pressure all the way through the line better, but comes in rolls and I think is less expensive. It's definitely better than soaker hoses for even pressure, can be spliced together with a repair kit if you chew it up, and lasts longer than the soaker hoses.

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  8. We have very hard water and low humidity. Drip emitters last a couple of years before clogging. Soaker hoses last less than 6 months. I stick with the drip. To get around some of the expense, I'll cluster several plants around a larger emitter, such as a 1gallon emitter with 4 to 6 onions.

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  9. I have moved completely to drip line. I buy line with emitters at six and twelve inch spacing. Even have some at twenty four inch spacing. I lay them out in the spring according to the crop. Each line has its own online pressure regulator, and a good filter in line just before the electric valves. I know some of the drip line is close to 15 years old, and is not working as well any more. Soaked hose never lasted thrust the second year. Some crops, like spuds the drip line is completely buried when I hill up.

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  10. I'm using the really cheap black soaker hoses from Home Depot this year in my garden. Cheap was the key word and if I get a couple years out of them I'll be happy. Having said that, its doing the job quite well.

    My setup:

    We collect rain in 55g rain barrel drums that are set on concrete blocks (one set is two blocks high, the other 3). The barrels are connected to the garden soaker hoses by 50' (or 75' depending on which barrel set you're talking about) of regular hose which can be disconnected and moved for mowing. The height of the barrels is enough to move water all the way through the soaker hoses till the barrels get down below 1/4 barrel.

    There are two soaker hose hookups. One is 50' in length, the other 100'. Both are looped from tire bed to tire bed, both run just slightly down-hill from the hookup point. The 100' actually has to go up 1' in height to circle the potato bed. Both are functioning just fine. The only problem I've had is that gunk from the rain barrels will get in them and clog them. I've been able to temporarily solve that by periodically hooking up the hose from the house water and taking the end off the soaker hoses and running it at full pressure. Next year, before I set up the barrels in the spring, I'll be adding a mesh over the hose hookups in order to see if we can prevent that problem next year.

    I've been told, by folks who do landscaping professionally, that they believe that drippers are superior, but I worry about crud from the barrels plugging those even worse. This summer the cheap soaker hoses have saved my garden as this has been one of the driest summers the local area has ever had, and if I'd tried to water my garden using sprinklers my water bill would have been insane.

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  11. Thanks everyone; think I'll try the drips first and see where to go from there. We really appreciate you sharing your experiences. Terry

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  12. I have had soaker hoses last years and years...trouble is the newer ones are made from recycled rubber. I have noticed any plastic trash cans buckets or waste paper baskets etc are now made from recycled materials break down very fast. Newer saker hoses may be the same. I have plastic trash cans that are 25 years old.Perfect condition. Rubbermaid. The newer ones by them last two years. Many after one year have lids that are cracked and sides slit. I Gorilla tape them to keep them longer. I also use along with the soaker hoses the hoses made of cloth. They can wind in and out of areas as they are bendy. In one berry area I use one of those and on a Y at the faucet also put in a plastic flat short hose with holes. so both sides of that wider bed gets enough water. Odd but it works. My berry beds are 75 feet and slightly down hill but it works.
    I always wondered how to use the dippers. Each year as we change up where each crop is to rotate them don't you have to change the dippers holes? We do not take up our hoses at the end of the year. Just push them aside and add compost etc each season. They are on top of the soil, not buried. So far watering with soaker hoses set with low water pressure for 25+ years has worked for me. Yes we have had to repair some of them through the years or replace them. :) Not often though. Keeping lower pressure is best and does the job. They are meant to have low pressure. When I first start them each time I water I put the pressure a bit higher to get the water throughout the hose length. Then when I hear it has filled I turn it lower.
    So do you have a drip emitter right by each plant in your tires? And is it right at the stem or a ways from it in its root zone? One on each side of that zone? It sounds more complicated to me to use the dippers Probably not but it is something I have never done. :-))) Sarah

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  13. An elderly neighbor whose been gardening for over 60 yrs doesn't like "weeping hoses" aka soaker hoses. Instead she gets a 5 gallon paint bucket and drills a hole on the side near the bottom and fills it up with water and lets it drain next to her tree, plant or bush. She did this for melons and put one every 12 ft and had a crop when the rest of Texas burned up in the drought a few years ago. We started using her method and found I works great and makes it easy for our 8 yr old to water by herself. Just a thought.

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    Replies
    1. I tried that for a while, the concept definitely works. Unfortunately in a setup like most of my garden the buckets don't work as well as I'd like. So it definitely depends on the individual setup. It did work very well to get my berry vines established though!

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  14. We found that soaker hoses clogged up too easily and we were constantly having to replace them. This year we put in a drip system. Works great.

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