Watering tools I love, and why I hate the others


In honor of a day that doesn’t deserve it (the horrid Black Friday), here are some gift suggestions for the gardener on your list or your own list of wants. All my favorite gardening tools seem to be watering-related, and here are three that I recommend to anyone who’ll listen.

One flawed and two perfect watering cans.

Watering Cans

For me there are two huge flaws with many of the watering cans I’ve tried, one of them obvious and one a surprise when you get it home and try it. The obvious one is that the opening on top isn’t large enough to accommodate a garden hose nozzle, a problem with the can in the foreground here.

The mystery flaw with watering cans is whether they’re weighted correctly so that they don’t spill when you try to walk with them. The same flawed watering can above also is badly weighted and spills a lot. Shouldn’t there be a way to test cans at the store? Or even better, they could be designed correctly and then honestly advertised as “perfectly weighted.”

I’m happy to report that the other cans in this photo are perfect in every way. The metal one is even vintage-looking and surely one of the prettiest designs in design history.

Olive and navy Water Right colors and regular hose green.

Garden Hoses

Aren’t hoses the worst garden tools in the world? The “no-kink” types not only DO kink, but once that kink happens, the kink is somehow imprinted forever, just waiting to irritate the gardener again and again. Plus, they’re heavy and ugly.

So three years ago when I tried the Water Right hose and found it to be flaw-free I recommended it immediately. To recap, the 50-footer weighs just 3 pounds, versus 6.5 to 7.7 pounds for the competitors and 4.9 pounds for Miracle-Gro’s “Ultra Lite” version. (Ha!) Lightweight means easier on the gardener and on the plants that hoses inevitably get dragged over.

My other gripes about regular garden hoses is about the awful, stand-out colors they come in (because I want the focal point in my garden to be the plants, not the hose), and of course the damn kinks. Water Right’s olive hose is blessedly inconspicuous, and while their hoses CAN kink momentarily, the kink isn’t forever imprinted in the hose.


Hose Nozzles

I’ve lost track of all the nozzles I’ve tried and hated over the years for so many reasons. They’re often difficult to adjust, of course, but even when they avoid that flaw, there’s another one lurking – requiring the gardener to hold down a trigger for the duration of the watering.

Here are two nozzles that I’ve tried from Dramm, with mixed results. On the right is the traditional trigger type that’s hard on my hands, plus I can’t just turn it on and put it in a watering can to fill up on its on while I’m doing something else.

On the left is one of Dramm’s fabulous one-touch nozzles, either of which I recommend. After adjusting the type of spray, you turn the water on or off or something in between with one lever, which then stays put without having to be held in position. This particular nozzle offers nine settings but that’s seven more than I actually use; just give me the shower and stream options and I’m good to go.

And You?

Tool choices are very personal, so I’m curious to know what works for you.


  1. really helpful. I’m going to get those hose/nozzle combo. As for watering cans,one are fairly small but the requiremt is, it has to fit just right between the rock and rain barrel spout. And overflow tips out onto the downspout. I hope these cheapo cans never break because they fit my needs just right!

  2. I love this post. I’ll probably buy the hose.

    One problem I’ve had is that after awhile the hose nozzles clog with lime deposits and end up dripping all over you. In the past, I tried soaking them in vinegar to remove those deposits, but it didn’t work. I’ve never owned a hose nozzle that didn’t eventually drip when I lived in an area with hard water.

    Also, although I’ve paid top dollar for quality “lifetime warrantied” hose nozzles, they have never lasted forever. Usually the plastic on some part of it breaks off although I had one that lasted 12 years.

    Is there a quality all-metal hose nozzle out there somewhere?

  3. I like the self-retractable garden hoses, I never roll them up otherwise. I also prefer the nozzle on a stick type, so that I can water at the roots of the plants without spraying on the leafs. This one has a shower pattern and a hard spray for clening or filling cans. Since it is long it does require higher watering cans, otherwise it will tip over. This style: http://www.gardena.com/se/water-management/garden-sprayer/comfort-multi-sprinklerstav/

  4. if one conducts a diligent search you can by little screen things for your hoses to catch sediment and not clog your spray nozzles. A good hardware store has them.
    I love the Dramm products but despite being a Wisconsin company their products can be hard to find. Don’t buy the copycat looking products as the quality is inferior.

  5. You’re right on the mark Susan. Your mention of the Water Right hose prompted me to send you this link to a video I did on it. The title is “Best Hose Ever” because I believe it is.
    You even get a direct mention up front in the video because it was you and Margaret Roach’s blog posts that convinced me I needed to give it a serious look. Very glad I did.
    (For the record WaterRight does advertise on my site, but there is no monetary connection to sales and the video I did separately and for free as a service to start getting the word out on great gardening products.


  6. Kudos, Susan. I love that Dramm nozzle also. I am surprised that I have not missed my wand. I wonder what the brand of the metal can is. Is it a modern version of the vintage German Flying Bat?

  7. I have been following Garden Rant for years and don’t think I have commented more that once before. I, too, am super passionate about my tools. I am a landscape designer working in the Catskills where we don’t have irrigation systems. I swear by the expandable hoses. They came out several years ago and were all over TV and got really bad reviews. They changed my life even when I had to buy several a year. Now they are greatly improved and last as long as any other hose if you treat them right. I can carry 200′ of hose in a spackle bucket, get it out hooked up, water a tree, 150′ down the hill, pack it up and be gone in 10 minutes. They are amazing and the 200′ weighs only a few pounds: http://www.pockethosetopbrass.com

    I also like this nozzle: Gilmour 7-Pattern Metal Select A Spray Pistol Nozzle

    • Mel, I’m glad to hear that you like the expandable hoses. I haven’t tried them and haven’t seen a rave from a gardener that I trust before. I do have a couple of the Water Right hoses that Margaret Roach recommended on her blog. It’s true that they are lightweight and beautiful and resist kinks, but I find that the smaller diameter means that the water volume is significantly less for a 100′ run of hose. Our garden water is gravity fed from a spring up on our mountain; maybe the lower water pressure isn’t enough to compensate for the smaller hose diameter. I may check out the hose you mentioned, thanks!

  8. I have used the “French Blue Watering Can” (top middle) for 20+ years – 3 gals, easy to fill and can leave the Dramm water-breaker on wand standing in it to fill while adding seaweed and/or fish to it, then stirring with same … balanced so it doesn’t tip while doing so. When I ran a large crew, we had three! Gardeners Supply has always been my source and last time I ordered, it came in red. At 3 gals it is weighty – nice to have two to balance (one in each hand). Remember to insert the rosette facing ‘up’, so the water fall like rain.

    • Also, the rosette can be slipped into the can when not in use, protecting it while in transport. I also carry my quarts of fish and seaweed in the can (opening large enough to allow).

      • Jane, if you ‘google’ French Blue watering can, it links to GS, where you find it (without a photo) stating it is on back order until 2-16-16 … so, it will hopefully again be available before Spring 🙂

  9. All that and more because our urban garden is large enough that at least 300′ of hose is required to reach far enough. Thus making all the hose problems just that much bigger. And Susan didn’t even touch upon the nasty issue of sprinklers that never cover the area you want to water and then never water the area they do cover evenly.

  10. An additional shout out on Water Right hoses, they are also lead free, drinking water safe (something most hoses are not) and they hold up in a cactus garden and nursery without punctures way longer than anything else!

  11. I bought a Water Right hose after reading about it on this site a few years ago.It has held up well and it makes daily watering a pleasure. No kinks, lightweight, perfect.

  12. Haws offers the Cadillac of watering cans. They’re expensive, hefty (galvanized metal up to 2.3 gals) and indispensable. Perfectly balanced for easy toting. The “rose” (sprinkler end) can be adjusted for a fine watering, so seedlings won’t wash away.

    • I’ve begun to think the “rose” on the Haws and other traditional designs should get a “This Side Up” directive embossed on it after seeing so many stuck on the spout upside down. The holes should face upward, forcing the water to grapple with gravity, and fall in a gentle arc with the minimum force it can muster. You can achieve a similarly gentle sprinkle from a hose mounted wand called a “Wonder Waterer”. While the latest iteration is not as gentle as it’s earlier design, I think it still out-gentles the finest water breaker that Dramm produces. Their not so secret weapon is the in-line filter in the wand.

    • 30+ years ago, my husband gave me a big red Haws watering can, offered by White Flower Farm at what then seemed an exorbitant price. But dang, that thing is the both the best-balanced and the best-looking watering can I have ever seen. Some of the nice brick red paint has chipped off in the ensuing years, and I have misplaced one of the roses, but I still bow down and praise all the British gardening gods for the invention of this magnificent thing. About 15 years in, I was music director for a local community theatre production of ‘The Fantasticks’. The budget for costumes and props was non-existent, and when the Fathers needed a watering can for ‘Plant a Radish’, I volunteered my Haws can. It was the hit of the show — well, along with the fabulous music, of course — and starred in over 20 performances. I will admit I kept a close eye on it, in case anyone from audience or cast ever tried to nick it.

  13. Thank you so much for the info about decent hoses. We use them so much, how hard could it be to make a good one? I’m sure I’ve taken years from my life being frustrated about those damn things

  14. The best hoses are rubber hoses with no vinyl. The drawback, of course is that true rubber hoses are heavier, so most manufacturers either make hoses with vinyl or some sort of blend, to make them weigh less. It is the vinyl that creates all the kinks. The hose Susan recommends is made with polyurethane and is better than any vinyl hose for sure. Part of the reason it is much lighter is because it is also a smaller hose – it is less than a 1/2″ in diameter whereas most hoses are 5/8″. There is nothing wrong with that, but it does mean the flow rate is less compared to the other hoses (all other things being equal – pressure at the tap and length of hose). That means you may need to spend a little more time at watering. Not necessarily a problem, but something you should be aware of.

  15. I have a divider on my outdoor faucet, so I can put one very short hose and one regular hose on the same faucet at once. I use the short one to fill watering cans, and the long hose for watering throughout the garden. The faucet is also next to my potting bench, so I can use the short hose for potting water needs. This system has worked great for years.


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