by Mary Jane Butters

It's easy to run to the store and pick up a new hose each time you spring a leak, but not nearly as satisfying as making good use of those holey old hoses taking up space in your shed or garage. They may be just what you need to turn your garden into a model of water conservation efforts.

Start by collecting all your hoses, both the regular garden hoses and any soaker hoses you've collected over the years.

Begin by pressure testing all hoses to locate the leaks. Plug the end of the hose so it creates pressure, turn the water on high and look for any major holes. It's common for regular garden hoses to bend and wear out near the end that attaches to the faucet. Simply cut off a few inches of hose with your garden shears and install a new end. Don't readily toss out short sections of good hose since you may end up needing a small section later on. Simply pile up all the good sections of hoses, so it's easy to spot the size you need when you're ready to begin building your new watering system.

Of course, with soaker hoses the whole thing is meant to leak, so look for oversized holes that act more like non-stop geysers. If you find one, close it up (put your finger on it) so you can find any other holes. Cut out the bad parts. You'll end up with different lengths, which you'll soon put to use.

For the next step in the process, you'll need to purchase hose connectors, new ends and Y-connectors, available at most hardware stores. (You may need to check the plumbing section as well if you can't find what you need in the garden section of the store.)

There are different sizes of hoses and different sizes for the hose connectors. They usually come in 1/2, 3/4, or 5/8 inch. You'll know what you need by checking out the thickness of the hose wall and the size of the opening. Whether or not the hose is worth fixing may also be determined by the flexibility of the hose. Some hoses may be so old, stiff and cracked that their usefulness is limited.

Once you have all your choices of good hoses available, figure out the best way to lay the soaker hose in your garden.

If you have four adjacent garden beds that need watering, start by laying a soaker hose on each bed. Depending on the size of the bed, you may need to connect two soaker hoses to cover the whole bed. The capped end of the soaker hose needs a male fitting, and the receiving end needs a female fitting. Once your hoses are laid out, your job is to connect them to the water source for your garden. Using Y-connectors with valves enables you to water all four beds at once.

Starting from the faucet, use a piece of salvaged hose, just long enough to reach your first soaker hose. To avoid long coils of hose along your garden path, use just the right length of hose to get to where it's needed. At the end of the hose, install a Y-connector, with one half attached to the first soaker and the other half of the Y connected to another Y-connector. Half of the Y attaches to the next soaker hose, and half to another Y-connector. If needed, you may want to use small pieces of hose to get the water across the path to the beginning of the bed and avoid unnecessary watering. Both ends of the third Y-connector attach to the last two garden beds.

Each Y-connector has a valve, which determines how much water is allowed to enter that section of your watering system. When you set the valves, you need to consider how much water will go to that hose. With this system, you can water half the garden by turning on only one faucet. If one of the hoses breaks, you can just shut off that particular valve until you have time to repair it.

Although difficult to know if you're actually saving money by re-using leaky hoses, you can bet that you're saving valuable landfill space. And you get the added bonus of clearing out that space in your shed!

Publication date: 07/17/03

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