How Long To Leave Soaker Hose On | Vegetable Garden, Trees

As we move toward more environmentally friendly gardening practices, one key concern has been how to properly water our gardens while conserving and protecting natural water sources at the same time. There is a fine balance but achieving that balance may not be as complicated as it seems. 

One point to consider is that water from sprinklers or a garden hose often runs off, away from targeted plants. Soaking soil in places the roots can’t reach results in waste. Even water collected in rain barrels, which is a great idea, gets wasted if it doesn’t benefit your plants.  

A second interesting point is that our plants don’t actually need the vast amount of water that comes out of a garden hose during a single watering. They just don’t have the capacity to absorb it all in that short amount of time. 

The use of soaker hoses is on the rise, as they have proven to greatly minimize water waste and provide plants with the amount of water they need. Directly to the roots, in a slow drip manner, with no runoff. So, the question then becomes, if the point is to conserve water, “How long to leave soaker hose on?” 

How Much Water Does A Soaker Hose Use Per Hour?

The exact amount of water emitted from the tiny pores of a soaker hose depends on its length. Water pressure plays a big part as also the length of the hose. So for example, a standard 10 ft. hose will deliver approximately 6 gallons per ft., per hour. A 50ft hose would deliver around 30 gallons in the same time frame compared to the 9 to 17 gallons per minute from a garden hose. 

Soaker hoses are constructed from rubber and polyethylene or polyurethane. Thousands of tiny pores dot long, dark tubes that can be easily hidden under mulch for better aesthetics. Water is emitted from those tiny pores at an even rate with low pressure. The slow speed of delivery is what allows water to flow through the soil directly to plant roots. 

Multiple hoses can be joined together to fit the needs of different garden spaces using connectors and splitters. When this is done, water needs to travel farther to reach its target area. Which may affect water pressure and how much is emitted from the hose. 

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Average Flow Rate 

To give your plants the amount of water they need to stay healthy, you’ll need to leave it on for roughly 200 continuous minutes. Or, 2 hours and 20 minutes. This may seem like a long time, but that’s the whole idea. A low and slow flow will provide the roots of your plants with about an inch of water per session. Just enough to keep them properly hydrated. While saving you money and conserving water. 

Most gardens require about two inches of water per week. Keeping the total length of your hose and the resulting water pressure in mind, you’ll be able to determine how long to keep it running to achieve optimum garden hydration. 

Of course, you don’t have to be present or even at home to accomplish this. There are several timer options that can make watering a breeze, which we’ll cover in a moment. 

How Much Does It Cost To Run A Hose For An Hour?

Studies show soaker hoses to be an impressive 90% efficient with an 80% savings in water usage compared to lawn sprinklers and handheld sprayers. Virtually all that water goes directly to your plants while saving you a significant amount on your water bill. 

Of course, your exact savings will depend on your area’s going rate of water. But, it’s a safe bet that reducing your water usage from 540 gallons to just 30 per hour is going to have a positive impact on your wallet. 

When considering sprinkler or drip irrigation installations, the above benefits apply here too. A significant amount of water is lost to run-off and wind resulting in more being needed to hydrate thirsty lawns and borders. When compared to drip irrigation, above-ground soaker hoses can deliver the same amount of water, without waste, in half the time. 

Scheduling Your Hose Running Cycle 

Scheduling when to run your soaker hose is really no different than any other watering method, with optimum times to water both during the day and the year.

In warm months, optimum running times are typically in the early morning or early evening. This helps to eliminate water evaporation. Plants, being in their actively growing stage, will require more water to remain healthy and producing. Which may require you to run your hose for a little longer. 

In colder months, mid-day is best. This avoids water possibly freezing and damaging roots if you live in an area with sub-zero winters. Many plants are in their dormancy stage, as well, and require less water. 

Of course, you don’t necessarily have to do any of this manually, if you don’t want to. There are benefits to both manual operations and the use of automatic timers. 

Automatic Timer vs Manual On/Off 

In a busy world, time efficiency is highly valued. In the case of soaker hoses, there’s no better time-saving tool than an automatic timer. Which hooks right up between the faucet and soaker hose. All you’d have to do is open and close the spigot. Open it when you go to work or out to run errands and close it when you get home. Easy-peasy.

The only downside is that some timers lower water pressure even further. This may result in water not reaching its destination in your garden, especially if you happen to have really long hoses. If you do, manually timing your watering might be more successful. 

But, either way, the payoff can be substantial. Saving time, money, and water while not having to drag around a heavy hose or watering can from the front of your property to the back, twice a week. 

Irrigating Vegetable Gardens With a Soaker Hose

Soil conditions and garden size will vary. As will the seasons and climate conditions. Because of this, there are no hard and fast rules as to how long to leave the hose on. Testing different time frames, measuring soil penetration, and monitoring how your plants respond will help you make adjustments for your particular space. 

Another big benefit of using soaker hoses in your raised vegetable garden, aside from cost and water savings, is watering without risking rust and mildew damage. No matter how long you run it. We all know how this can devastate squash, tomatoes, and chilies, among others. Damaging the foliage to the point where photosynthesis is not possible. 

To make sure plants are well watered during testing, I suggest irrigating for 30 minutes, twice a week. After each session, check how deep the water went and if your plants look and feel adequately hydrated. Adjustments may be needed based on the layout of your space. Are your beds ground-level or raised? Water pressure may need to be increased a bit in places where water needs to travel upward to reach crops in raised beds. 

Why not check out this article on the Best Lightweight Garden Hoses to find a great all-purpose hose.

Irrigation Layout For Vegetables 

Before installation, it’s wise to create a map of where you want your soaker hoses to go. I recently tried out the Water Right SKR Soaker Hose by laying it out in straight lines and loose curves.

It is coated in soft microcellular polyurethane foam which is great for preventing kinks and encouraging smooth water flow.

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If you’re working with a large space, I highly recommend this soaker hose because it comes in various lengths that can either be used singularly or used to create multiple hoses that can be linked together with connectors and splitters to accommodate.

It is worth considering investing in a filter and pressure regulator may also be a good choice to increase the effectiveness and longevity of your hoses.

Whether you choose to use a garden soaker hose system or a watering can, you’re also watering the weeds. But, by laying your soaker hose right alongside each row of veggies, winding it around each row, in a back-and-forth pattern, your veggies are getting all the water. Weeds are left dry and hopefully die back on their own. Covering soaker hoses with mulch or hay not only helps with moisture retention but deprives those weeds of sunlight as well. 

For larger, more thirsty vegetables, like indeterminate tomatoes or pole beans, wind loose loops around the plant’s base for increased watering. 

It’s perhaps worth pointing out that your irrigation system needs a water hose to feed water up to the point where your soaker hose system begins, otherwise water will be soaking everywhere. If it’s a permanent installation on a timer I recommend using an EPDM hose run underground.

For above-ground applications, you can use a standard vinyl hose or preferably get the best expandable hose you can find, allowing you to connect and disconnect it as you need it, allowing the hose to recoil for storage after use.

Using a Soaker Hose On Trees and Shrubs 

Soaker hoses can be highly effective tools for watering trees and shrubs. Loosely encircling the base of each will ensure that water is dispersed to the entire root ball. 

The bigger the tree (or rootball), the longer you’ll need to run your hose. And just like vegetables, early morning or evening is the best time. Water penetration between 6 and 8 inches is the goal for deep watering. So, you may need to run it for a few hours to achieve this.

A simple screwdriver test is the easiest way to determine how deeply the water has traveled. Watering frequency will depend on the climate. So, testing the soil around your trees after a few days will also give you a good indication as to how often to run your hoses. 

Newly planted trees and shrubs will naturally need more water to become established. A successful strategy will include watering more in the beginning and then tapering off as the tree acclimates to its new environment. The first week after planting, run your hose for approximately 1 hour, every other day. The second week, every three days. Then, water normally.  

Irrigation Layout For Trees And Shrubs 

The way tree and shrub roots grow makes the laying of soaker hoses around them a little different. Vegetables and small ornamentals have fairly shallow root systems. So, hoses can simply be laid alongside them.

Trees and shrubs benefit most from having soaker hoses laid in an even fashion around their root ball. This way the roots won’t grow in one direction and become matted at the point where they find the most water. Congested roots struggle for water and nutrients which can hurt these substantial garden features. 

A predetermined layout plan will help this project go a lot faster and will make any issues with the layout evident beforehand. Knowing what your soil is made of will help in this effort, too.

If you live in the desert or coastal regions and have sandy soil, coiling a hose around your tree or shrub with at least 12” in between each coil will provide adequate coverage. In loamy or clay soils, coils 24” apart will provide the same.  

How To Setup a Soaker Hose In Your Raised Bed

Using a soaker hose system in raised beds carries all the same benefits as those used at ground level. The only difference is the layout, as raised beds are high off the ground requiring water to run upward to where your plants are. In this case, emitters that compensate for changes in water pressure can be purchased.

For convenience, full kits specifically designed for raised beds can be purchased which makes installation a lot easier. No need to cut, measure or buy each piece individually. Yes, these do add to the set-up cost. But, it’s definitely worth it considering the savings on your water bill. 

After set-up, your first test should be for water pressure. Simply turn the water on and see how fast the hose tears up. It should be slow and consistent for adequate watering. If it appears too slow, then your water pressure may need to be increased a bit.

Running time and frequency of usage will be the same as with ground-level plantings. Start with 30-minute sessions, twice a week. Then check to see how deep the water goes and how fast the soil dries out to make any adjustments. 

Irrigation Layout For Raised Beds 

Some gardeners choose to purchase hoses and connectors individually so that the setup perfectly meets the size and needs of their particular beds. Others purchase the above-mentioned kits and simply adjust them to their needs. Both options can easily be added onto and expanded as your garden requires them.

Just as with ground-level, vegetable bed set-ups, you’ll want to have your hoses laying right alongside each row. Starting at one corner, weave the hose back and forth, length-wise, across the bed. In an “S” shaped pattern, then cap off the end. Each stretch of the hose should be at least 12” from the next to ensure even coverage. Then, plant your seedlings in between. You can secure the hose in place with “U” hooks, as you go. 

Keep in mind that extreme heat and cold can affect the condition of your hoses. Covering them with a bit of mulch and making sure they’re not bent over the edge of your raised beds will contribute to their longevity. 

Can You Irrigate Your Lawn With a Soaker Hose?

This is an interesting question and is often debated, with pros and cons on both sides. Using sprinklers or a hand sprayer results in water heavily beating down on your lawn. Causing the creation of a crust over the soil which, over time, becomes impenetrable. Water then runs off and your lawn never gets adequate moisture.

An evenly spaced soaker hose slowly disperses water directly to the roots. Encouraging the growth of a strong root system, with nothing wasted.  

However, if you have a vast lawn around your property, the cost and constant setup of an effective soaker hose system may make the idea of a sub-surface irrigation system more attractive or a lawn sprinkler suitable for large gardens. And considering that the band of soil they water is only about a foot wide, the amount of hose you may need may render it impractical. 

But for smaller lawned areas, a few well-placed hose guides can make evenly laying a soaker hose across that space as easy as watering it with a garden hose. 

Verdict: Best Soaker Hose Irrigation Schedule

The choice to use a soaker hose to hydrate your garden is both economically and environmentally sound. Not to mention, time-saving. Cutting down on inefficient water usage by 80% can save you a significant amount on your water bill and encourage a practice that conserves and protects one of our most precious resources. Water. 

How long to leave the hose on depends on a few factors. The first is what you’re watering. For vegetables, start with 30 minutes, twice a week. This will allow you to monitor soil penetration and absorption rates. With trees and shrubs, their size will indicate how long to run your soakers. Remember, the screwdriver test is the easiest way to check their efficiency. 

And finally, your lawn. From a practical standpoint, soaker hoses work great for small lawned areas. But, perhaps not for wide-open acres of grass. If you do opt to try this, leaving it running for 1-2 hours should properly hydrate your lawn to keep it lush and green.