Jennifer E. Beaver
Ever find yourself using a tool that just felt so right for the job that it made you smile?
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present: the soaker hose.
Oh, it’s an unassuming piece of equipment. Just a length of rough, recycled rubber with a hose coupling on one end. But what it does for the garden is pure magic.
The ground gets pretty dry around here in mid-summer. The winter rain is a distant memory. The casual weekly sprinkles from the watering can or wand are barely enough to sustain life. But the long, slow seep from the soaker hose sinks deep, limbering up the dusty ground and improving the posture of thirsty, slumping plants.
I inherited my passion for oddball equipment from my mother, a wizard at transforming ho-hum surroundings with a piece of this, a little of that, and a lot of elbow grease. She liked our home not for its high ceilings, vintage tile or charming courtyard, but for its proximity to Long Beach Hardware on the corner of Spring and Long Beach Boulevard. Both Mom and the store are gone now, though they live on in every molybolt that holds a mirror to the wall or a curtain rod to the window.
But back to the soaker hose. Mom would have loved it for many reasons, including its frugality. A recent Los Angeles Times article heralded soaker hoses as “the poor man’s drip system.” Yes! Exactly! Why spend hundreds of dollars on irritating, expensive, complicated tubing?
Give me a $10 soaker hose any day. Covered with mulch, one stretches the length of my driveway year-round and keeps the day lilies, Silver Sheen pittosporum and ornamental grass in fine feather. Snaked through my raised-bed vegetable garden, it nourishes the tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and everything else with quiet efficiency. When I put in new plants and remove the old ones, it’s simple to realign the soaker hose.
I really sing the praises of the soaker hose in my drought-tolerant front yard. Keeping plants alive on the hellstrip between street and sidewalk required saint-like dedication until I started ministering to them with the soaker hose. Drought-tolerant plants are picky about water. Too much, they die. Too little, they die. Soaker hoses deliver water slowly, drawing the roots down and developing a sturdy support system.
You’ll find soaker hoses for $10 to $15 in lengths from 10 to 50 feet in big-box retailers and hardware stores. Let the new hose bask in the sun to increase flexibility. And you can bask a bit, too, because the soaker hose does the work!
Jennifer E. Beaver, a Wrigley resident, is a master gardener and author of Container Gardening for California and Edible Gardening for California.