growing tomatoes and other veggies with a soaker hose

farismusicJune 16, 2007

hi, i just bought a 100 foot soaker hose and i have it running through my 4x12 raised bed. (on top of the soil.) i have only a very light mulch because i am still raising some vegetables from seeds and they are very tiny and i didn't want 2-3 inches of mulch to bury the seedlings. once they are to size, i will put down mulch and probably bury the hose under the mulch.

i am confused on how to use soaker hose... my spacing is about 2 feet apart which should be fine. i read that these hoses will soak one foot in each direction. however, when i left mine on for an hour or so, it only soaked about one inch to each side of the hose. it appears like it only soaks below the hose and not to the sides, and so there were many dry spots in my garden. any advice would be appreciated...

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You must put all your veggies in a straight line and then run the hose along the line. The idea is to put water only where the plants are.

if you have 2 rows of veggies then you need 2 hoses.

Way deep down in the soil they imply that the moisture spreads out. However, that is very dependent on many variables and really does not happen much. If you water first and then dig a careful hole you will see it did not spread much at all. At least in my soil it does not spread. Maybe it will spread in clay because it can not go down.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2007 at 10:23AM
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Yeah, some depends upon what kind of soil you have, water will run through sand without spreading out easier than it will clay, or more dense soils. However, it soaks down in a cone shape, not just a narrow strip. You can probably rake the mulch back a day later and see that it is moist quite a bit further out.

It will take you a little bit of trial and error to learn how much and when to run the soak hose. I have a header across one end of the garden that I hook seven, 75 foot soak hoses onto. I can run one or more at the same time. Depending on how hot and dry it is, amount of rain fall etc, gives me an idea of how much watering I need to do, to water deeply which encourages deep root growth. That way they do not dry out nearly as often or need superficial waterings every day. When it is fairly dry in my garden, I can open the faucets to two or three soak hoses a little less than half a turn, let them run for an hour or an hour and a half and it has soaked the rows deeply. The moisture will soon meet in the middles between the rows, down underground.

There are a number of different ways of checking the moisture in your soil, they sell a moisture meter which may or may not be of much value, plus I do not know if it will tell you anything except conditions close to the surface.

You can dig a hole to see how deep it is moist, but this may disturb some of your roots. The best thing that I have stumbled on is a metal rod probe with a cross piece welded on the top . It does not take much practice to be able to tell from the resistance that I encounter when pushing it into the ground, how far the .
That is just what I have found that works well for me, quick, easy and no hassle without doing a lot of damage to roots.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2007 at 11:00AM
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Dont worry if the surface only appears to have a narrow band. Gravity will make the water move down rather than out laterally from the hose. Capillary action, like when the water level in a straw is higher than the water in the glass or a sponge, does overcome gravity some and will pulls it laterally somewhat, but it is competing with gravity.

The general pattern under the soil would look something like this:

As the soil below becomes more saturated, the capillary pull from the sides will increase and will pull it more to the sides (in the same way that small air spaces of a sponge or a wick overcome gravity and soak water up). You want more lateral watering at the surface just leave the hose running a lot longer and at a low volume. Part of the reason for a soaker hoses though is to encourage deep roots rather than shallow roots near the surface.

Another note:
100 ft sections tend not to water evenly. Most of the area near the connection gets more water than the end. This is worse if you are not on a level area.

You can buy new "end" parts and cut the hose to a desired length and run two shorter sections rather than one long one if you have problems with unevenness when watering.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2007 at 12:25PM
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Wow! Graphics! Very impressive hortist!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2007 at 12:40PM
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woodenzoo(z6 OH)

Hey Bill,
What you need are holes in that probe, like this...

Then you can bring up a soil sample to see and feel how much or little moisture there is.
Mine is only about a foot long and was probably made for use on potted plants, but I have used it in the garden on occasion.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2007 at 2:13PM
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wow! i'm amazed at the speed of follow-ups and the thought and time that went into them.

i will probably end up watering by hand because for the next 2 weeks while the seedlings emerge. i need to keep the entire surface evenly moist which appears impossible with these hoses (or the very little mulched soil will crack). thank you :)

    Bookmark   June 16, 2007 at 5:04PM
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okcdan(7 OKC - Bermuda)

I stumbled across the idea for this while surfing the net looking for irrigation ideas.... so, this is my set-up....
A circle of soaker hose for each plant....

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 6:01PM
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korney19(z6a Buffalo, NY)

Faris, check your hose for leaks, kinks, etc, also check your faucet pressure. Age of the hose can also change flow. Any calcium or mineral buildup can also decrease flow, as well as length of runs. I use a filter plus pressure compensating drip irrigation emmitters instead of soaker hoses, the soaker hoses can plug up for the reasons above plus if buried or if you run fertilizers thru them.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 8:53PM
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Check to see if there's one of those little disc thingies
inside the hose. When I bought mine, there was a little plastic
solid circle with a teeny-tiny hole in it. I checked the
instructions and it gave the amount of water released over various
lengths of time.

Now I don't remember the exact numbers, but you'd just about
have to leave the hose running 24X7 to get much water out of them.

Instructions also said NOT to take the disk out.

It was the first thing I did!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 11:58PM
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lightt(6/7 Northern VA)

I like your setup!! Can you please give a source for the hardware you used for the hose modifications? I was going to shorten some of my soaker hoses but couldn't find connectors cheaper than ~$4.00 a piece.

Terry Light
Oak Hill, Virginia

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 11:16AM
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brazosvalleygardener(TX Zone 8)

I use soaker hoses but there is one thing I don't like about them. They tend to crack very easily. In fact, this year I told myself that I was not going to leave the soaker hoses out in the garden in the hot sun and have them split. So this year I purchased new soaker hoses and one month into the season, I turn the water on and I have water spraying 10' into the air (LOL). I've looked for better quality soaker hoses but at least locally, they appear to all be made with the same materials and of the same quality.

Cathy, I like that tool for checking moisture. Where did you get yours at? Do you know where they can be purchased online?

okcdan, very nice setup. I like the fact that the soaker hose distributes water all around each plant....very nice job.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 11:31AM
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woodenzoo(z6 OH)

okcdan, Really like those circle soaker hoses!

Jay, I've had mine for years now and seem to recall them being handmade by someone locally for the person I got it from. But you can buy something simular at
Here's a little something that helps explains it and also shows an 18" aluminum.
(There is a link to the soil sleuth on the below page).

Here is a link that might be useful: A Better Way To Check Soil Moisture

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 1:25PM
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While searching for tips on constructing raised beds, I stumbled across a thread with a picture showing someone's personal design of an irrigation system using soaker hoses.

The soaker hoses ran the width of the planter box (4') and attached to a main line (PVC) that ran the length of the planter box. Plants grew across the box along the soaker hose.

I cannot find this particular thread and I would very much appreciate if someone can point the way!

BTW, it was relate to this thread as I remember seeing this thread the same time I stumbled across the one I'm searching for, etc.

Thanks. And, this forum is fantastic.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 1:23AM
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