Hosed Again


In the beginning there were blessed, soaking rains. Then came the curse of the tangled hose. The Romans built aqueducts to move water around. I, on the other hand, drag two or three sections of “virtually kink proof” 50’ hoses in the summer heat, chanting the March of the Winkies O-Ee-yah! Eoh-ah from the “Wizard of Oz.”

We are bestowed, in Central Kentucky, with an abundance of 43” of rain per year, but there are stretches where we go thirsty. A couple of days of rain in late July and early August, and an accompanying brief cool down, were a tease for what a pleasant summer on the coast of Maine might be like. Kentucky, though, is ruled by heat and humidity.

There’s a reason they call these the dog days of summer. Georgia horticulturist Bobby Saul said, “It gets so dry even the large-mouth bass have ticks.”

I am not going to play god with an automatic irrigation system. I won’t entrust a coffee pot to a timer, so I’m not going to rely on a fickle control panel to turn on sprinklers at 7:30 on Tuesday morning come rain or shine. My primulas, crested iris and hardy geraniums deserve better.

What’s a gardener to do?

You need only a few simple accessories for manual watering. I’m here to make your chores a teensy-weensy bit easier.

My simple accessories: oscillating and rotary sprinklers, a watering wand and a beloved and beat-up 2-gallon Haws watering can.

Don’t coil your hose like a snake or hang it on the side of the house and call it wall art. Tidiness becomes a tantrum of snags and swearing when you unwind the mess. When you’re finished watering, bend your hose to your will—in the shape of a figure 8— but don’t expect mercy on your water bill.

The North Mercer County Water Department is a good community partner, but I knew what was coming when I saw their number pop up on my iPhone in late July. “Mr. Bush, you used a lot of water this month.” They’re setting me up for bad news and a big bill.

“Yes ma’am, I’ve been watering the garden and little trees a lot.”

The kind lady asks, “How does your garden look?”

I sugar coat my answer, “It looks great.” It doesn’t, really. The truth is: The rabbits ate my cabbage seedlings, and the flower border looks tousled and tired, but I don’t want the water department to think it’s their fault.

It’s August.


  1. As a lifelong gardener in the intermountain West, I beg to disagree. Hoses are Spawn of Satan. Automatic irrigation is Our Eternal Saviour. After 37 years of hauling ‘nearly no-kink’ hoses around my 1/3 acre garden, I have lived the last 5 years in blissful reliance on electronic circuitry. I still get notices from the water department saying ‘Tsk tsk! You have used more water than the average for your size house and yard’ but I just laugh and pay up. Keep your hoses (and your humidity) – I embrace the timer gods!

    • But are you in a part of our wonderful region that actually HAS sufficient water? (I hope)
      In my part of Denver metro, we aren’t this year; everyone, even in the wealthier neighborhoods, is cutting back. Food for thought?

  2. Srsly, they called you to tell you you’re using too much water?
    Also, I’ve been struggling for YEARS to figure out what to do with the hose so that it doesn’t introduce twists that I’ll have to undo. If YOU say a figure 8 does the trick, i’m trying it!
    Lastly, have you tried a lightweight hose? “Lugging” them is so easy – on me and my plants.twist.

    • Yes, the water department calls. They’re worried I might have a water leak.  We talk for a few minutes and I thank them for the call. 

      The figure 8 is not perfect. It takes up more space than the coiled snake and the hose still gets snagged on corners and car tires.

      I haven’t tried the lightweight hose. I’m tempted… Is it durable? It looks delicate. 

      • I finally left behind winding in a circle and went to Figure 8 a month or so ago because for the present I need to have the hose on the ghetto patio (i.e., this crap needs to come out soon) ready to go, not wound up neatly on a reel. It works! Until I get a feeder hose from the spigot on the side of the house to the back yard point of use (whence we shall probably locate a reel again), Figure 8 is great.

  3. I too am a hand-waterer/hoser, and also curse all hose manufacturers! Most of my gardening calories in the summer are spent walking back and forth along the hose: spray, drag hose, kink, walk, unkink, walk, spray, drag hose, kink, walk, unkink, etc.

    I will give your figure eight trick a try! If it works you will be my new hose hero!

    • Mary, the figure 8 is a better storage method. The dragging part can only be improved if you have an attendant following 20′ behind, holding the hose and carefully avoiding newly planted perennials that would otherwise be pulled from holes where they were just planted.

      • Oh yes, an “attendant” would be so great! Can you send me one, preferably 20 years younger than we are. And who likes to clean house?
        Since I’m now in a townhouse down in “the City” (haha, a very suburban edge of it), I wasn’t supposed to have to water much at all but …
        There’s always a but.
        We’re in semi-drought conditions now so everyone is cutting back. And it looks it. 🙁
        Doing our little bit for Mother Earth, ya know.
        Thanks for a great column, as always. The fun is needed & much-appreciated!

  4. Dragging hoses is an upper body workout for this gardener in the middle south. Almost all my photos have a bit of the summer hose in them. I do a lot of zen watering…slowly counting to 15, 20 or 30 depending upon the container size.

    • Gail, it is a workout! Fortunately, we may be in store for a couple of days of rain this week. I’ll be able to focus on pilates and give up the hose for a few days.

  5. I solved my hose kink problem by laying the hose out unkinked to the farthest part of the garden that needs watered, turning it on, and then proceeding slowly back towards the hose bib as I water. It takes an extra minute. This wouldn’t work in all situations (my garden needs only one length of hose to water it), but it’s made my summer watering kink-free.

    • Good tip, Anne. Watering gets more complicated (more snags) when you start adding additional 50′ sections, unless your watering a 150′ English border.

  6. I’ve been a hand-waterer for the past 55 years, the last 20 of those being in the high desert of New Mexico.
    I am fortunate in having an “attendant” (a Mayan Indian, my partner of the past 33 years) follow behind me with my wonderful hoses (a couple of 50-footers) to help avoid hurting beloved old roses and perennials. When I first moved to Taos from the higher mountains (where we had been able to pump water from an acequia) I immediately tore out the drip system of the previous owners and at the first month of the water bill that I paid in person I was told that the usage had dropped dramatically! Why, they asked? Judicious hand-watering I said! You might remember me as the woman from Smith & Hawken who stayed with you and your family when Molly was a little girl. Love the Rants! Sarah

    • Sarah, great to hear from you! What a wonderful picture I have you gardening in Taos. Molly grew up and became a very good gardener. She’ll be 39 at the end of the year.

    • Wow, a person on GR using acequia!
      ! AY, que bueno!
      Greetings to you in La Tierra Encantada from a neighbor who misses trips to Nuevo Mexico so much.
      Is that attendant available on loan,
      por favor?

      Diane in Denver

  7. I tend to leave the hoses lying on the grass, moving to the next watering area when I need to. They are almost invisible (green hose, relatively tall grass) and I just have to remember to move them when it’s time to mow. I also have two separate “base” hoses – one for the front and one for the back. A light weight 50′ hose with a snap-on coupling on one end and the sprinkler on the other is the thing that gets moved to most.

  8. Unless the old eyes are going (and of course they are), that rose on the photo of the Haws is on upside down. I’ve always understood the holes should face skyward, causing the water droplets to fall in an arc, reducing the chance of washing out a freshly seeded flat. Maybe Scott and Marianne could discuss that at length in future rants.

    • Interesting observation, Joe. Goodness knows where Scott and Marianne might take this. (Are you trying to stir up trouble?) Either way, upward facing or down, is OK. Depends on your purpose. As you mentioned, for newly sown seeds or tender seedlings, you’ll get a gentler watering with the “rose” turned upward. Turn the “rose” downward for general watering. Roses are detachable, easy to run over, but can be replaced.

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