Sprinklers and top watering can waste water through wind loss, evaporation and spraying water on areas that is not in need of irrigation. Drip irrigation systems are the most efficient alternative but can be expensive and complex. Soaker hoses offer many of the benefits of drip irrigation systems without the high cost and complexity.
Soaker hoses are rubber hoses, often made from recycled rubber, with tiny pores along its entire length. The water flows through the hose and is forced out through the pores in the hose. Water leaks out slowly at a rate defined by the type of hose.
Flow rates can vary, depending on the type and design of the hose. Some soaker hoses release as little as 1/2 gallon of water per 100 feet of hose per minute. Other hoses deliver 1 gallon of water per 100 feet of hose per minute and larger hoses can deliver 2 gallons. If you are watering different areas, use different rated soaker hoses to ensure proper watering and minimal waste.
Smaller soaker hoses are 1/4 inch in diameter. Half-inch soaker hoses have reduced friction and allow water to more quickly reach the end of the run . For very long runs or situations where you need higher soak rates, consider 5/8-inch soaker hoses.
The easiest way to use your soaker hose is to simply lay it between your flowers or vegetables and turn on the water. Using your soaker hose on the surface of the ground allows a proportion of water to be lost to evaporation. This amount is far less than when using top-watering techniques.
By burying your soaker hose, you can minimize water loss through evaporation. Bury it above the main root structures. If you bury it below the roots, the water may not reach the roots. Either leave the ends of the soaker hose exposed or mark the location of the ends of the hose to make it easier to find to remove or flush.
A soaker hose should not be used to irrigate flower or vegetable beds or trees or shrubs at a distance apart because the area in between will be unnecessarily watered, notes the University of Rhode Island's Sustainable Landscaping website.