Choosing a garden hose used to be a simple process, mainly because there was never much choice. They were all heavy, unwieldy, and prone to kinks (and of course, they were green). But like garden boots and gloves, new garden hoses come in many varieties. There are expandable options that grow to three times their size when in use and shrink back down to a more easily storable form when they’re not. Even the non-expandable ones are made out of much lighter, non-kinking materials. They’re nontoxic, too, which is important: As Lauri Kranz, co-author of A Garden Can Be Anywhere and founder of garden planning and organic-food-delivery service Edible Gardens LA, reminds us, “The water coming through that hose is water that is going directly into the food we eat.”
While there are different hoses for different things, your first consideration when choosing one, according to U.K. botanist, ecologist, and kitchen gardener Becky Searle (@sow_much_more), is still a classic: length. “Don’t buy something that isn’t big enough to reach around your garden!” she says. Next is weight. “If you’re dragging a really long hose around the garden, it will get very heavy, especially when full of water, and it may cause damage to your plants.” If you want to completely avoid the hose dragging, you can always outfit your beds or other areas with hoses that allow for drip irrigation. (It’s not as technical as it sounds. We’ll explain below.) No matter what, Brooklyn terrace gardener and forager Marie Viljoen reminds you not to get too hung up on specifics: “Don’t overanalyze it, just grow it,” she says. That’s why we’ve asked all kinds of gardeners (who have already done the analysis for you) to tell us what to look for when buying a hose. Here are their favorites.
Best overall garden hose
This is the first choice for Florida garden influencer Goo, of Gardening with Goo, who describes it as a “lightweight, durable, heavy-duty, drinking-water-safe hose that won’t kink under pressure.” It can withstand all kinds of weather, is mold resistant and bright and easy to spot, and comes in lengths ranging from three to 75 feet.
Most aesthetically pleasing garden hose
Kranz uses this BPA-, lead-, and phthalate-free hose by Heritage Garden because she can be sure it’s nontoxic. Available in colors like “bone” and “sapphire,” it’s also exceptionally pretty, with solid brass fittings.
Best expandable hose
If you go the expandable-hose route, be sure to keep them safely stored when not in use. According to Timothy Hammond of Big City Gardener in Houston, “The same thing that makes them light and accessible also leaves them prone to tearing or punctures.” Southern California gardener CaliKim, whose YouTube tutorials help millions, likes to keep her expandable hoses hanging “neatly and compactly on a wall-mounted rack.”
Best retractable garden hose
Both Hammond and Katie Parks, the latter of whom documents her gardening adventures in the Sierra Nevadas on Instagram (@frecklesandsprouts), love the hoses from Australian manufacturer Hoselink. This one automatically retracts when you finish watering to stay protected. It’s a bit pricier than the others, but it’s “an exceptional hose,” says Hammond.
Best soaker garden hose
Soaker hoses, which are sometimes called “weeping hoses,” are the most basic of drip irrigation systems. They’re flexible, often fabric-covered hoses with little holes in them that allow you to water at the base of the plant. Dimitri and Sara Gatanas, who own and operate East Harlem’s Urban Garden Center, love them because they “make life so much easier.” Parks recommends this one for its “gentle but soaking hose heads that supply a nice amount of water without disturbing seedlings or eroding soil with too powerful of a rush of water.”
Best drip irrigation kit
CaliKim loves this raised-bed irrigation kit because it’s “easy for beginners and has everything included to get started.” It includes different types of nozzles (from drips to mini sprayers) that you can place along the hose to accommodate your garden. It’s big enough to cover 50 feet, which should handle 10 rows of vegetables, but if that’s not enough, you can also connect them. And it’s UV resistant, so it’ll hold up through hot summers.
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