In “The 25 Skills You Should Teach Your Kid,” a feature in a recent issue of Popular Mechanics, Walker Lamond wrote, “You can learn a lot about a person by how they coil a hose. If you have ever struggled to unkink a garden hose … you know that the proper coil is not just about tidiness, it’s an act of courtesy to the next person that uses it. Even if that person is you.”
Lamond stresses how important it is to teach children at age 8 how to handle this conduit of our most precious resource: water. In a world of instant gratification, the sometimes-laborious task of coiling the hose is dismissed when it should become a zen-like act that keeps us present to the ephemeral nature of water on Earth.
Erase coil memory on day one. All too often a garden hose is brought home and hooked up in its original coils created at the factory. This also occurs when bringing a hose out of wet-season storage. Pulling on this hose that’s literally molded into the coil leads to kinks on day one. Moreover, it’s vulnerable to tangles and can be very difficult to coil up again.
Before using a new hose, find an open area in the sun to uncoil it before you connect it to a faucet. Let it lie in the sun a few hours so the rubber softens to erase the coil memory. Only then should you hook it up to a water source and use it, then afterwards coil it in loops sized best for your space.
Not all hoses are the same. Garden hoses range considerably in price, and here you definitely get what you pay for. Cheap hoses are lightweight; quality hoses are expensive and heavy. Going cheap is false economy because the thinner the hose, the more prone it is to kinking. Kinks in cheap hoses quickly turn into invisible cracks in the thinner plastic, which waste water.
Cheap hoses are not easily repaired, so they quickly become leakers, forcing you to buy a new one before the hose is worn out. Remember that if you think you can’t afford to buy a quality hose, you’ll end up buying two, and the second will inevitably be that expensive brand.
Turn it off at the faucet. When using hose end gun-like nozzles, releasing your grip shuts off the water flow. It’s easy to forget the faucet is still on full blast, building up pressure inside the hose and stressing couplers. A forgotten hose can leak for days before you discover this, so make a point of double checking every time.
Never tug on the hose. Instead, go back and pick up the hose midway to pull it out for greater slack, then go back to the end and continue using. Tugging is the biggest contributor to repeat kinking because there’s so much pressure on the rubber and couplers and outdoor faucet piping. Tugging on older PVC faucets made fragile by exposure to UV and weathering can easily result in an underground break or worse.
Keep an eye on the couplers. The most common point of water waste is via the hose couplers. The midway coupler is often ignored when two hoses are hooked together, yet this is a most common site of leaks. Faucet couplers in planters go unnoticed because the water percolates into soil and disappears, which leads to water loss every time you use the hose. Replace your washers each season when bringing hoses out of storage.
Attention to garden hoses is essential to water conservation whether or not you’re in a drought. Teach it to your kids today to ensure a wetter tomorrow everywhere.
Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at www.MoPlants.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 891, Morongo Valley, CA 92256.