7 Tips for hose and sprinkler care

September 15, 2015

A garden's survival depends on good irrigation. With periodic maintenance to repair leaks and remove blockages, even inexpensive revolving and oscillator sprinklers should last for years. 

7 Tips for hose and sprinkler care

1. Automatic water timers

  • Forgetting about that sprinkler running in your yard is a surefire way of inviting a host of unpleasant surprises — to say nothing of inflated water bills. Those headaches can be avoided by using automatic water timers on your hoses. Most automatic timers cost less than $60 and attach between an outdoor faucet and the hose; some higher-end models can accommodate multiple watering zones.

2. Hose splitters

  • Tired of lugging the garden hose from one side of your yard to the other? A splitter can make life easier for you. These inexpensive accessories let you connect two or more hoses to a single faucet, with independent on/off controls for each one, so you won't have to constantly move sprinklers back and forth.
  • Inexpensive plastic splitters can be found for less than $3, but the best ones (costing up to $20) are zinc-plated or brass and won't rust or bond with the faucet.

3. Install bumpers

  • Trailing garden hoses have been responsible for flattening many a prized plant. Protect your flower and vegetable beds by placing permanent bumpers at the outer corners of your beds.
  • Simply drive a couple of branches or wooden stakes into the ground, and cover each with a short piece of PVC pipe.

4. Get sprinkler systems ready for winter

  • If winter temperatures drop below freezing where you live, you'll need to winterize your in-ground sprinkler system.
  • Make sure that the water is turned off at the main shut-off valve.
  • Finally, if you have an automatic sprinkler system, don't forget to shut down the controller/timer or put it into "rain mode," which lets it retain all programmed information.

5. Hose water isn't clean

  • Don't drink water from your garden hose. Most garden hoses leach lead and other hazardous chemicals into water that's left standing inside them.
  • Sip only from hoses labelled as safe for drinking.

6. Unclog your sprinkler heads

  • Before you call a service company to fix a malfunctioning sprinkler head, check to see if it's clogged.
  • For fixed sprinklers, use the corner of a plastic card or utensil — not a screwdriver or other metal object — to push out dirt lodged in the sprayer.
  • Examine the screen by removing the sprinkler head assembly, unscrewing the nozzle and sliding it out. If it has holes or tears, replace it with a new one made for that brand or model.
  • Dislodge clogs in impact sprinklers by inserting a screwdriver between the cover and the case; clean out the case by unscrewing the head from its base with a sprinkler head wrench.
  • If your oscillating sprinkler shoots out uneven streams of water, use a hat pin or upholstery needle to dig out dirt or debris that may be clogging the nozzles.
  • To remove lime and mineral deposits, use pliers to detach the nozzles and let them soak in 250 millilitres (one cup) of vinegar for about one hour. Then clear both ends of each nozzle with a pin and re-attach them.

7. Fix leaks in the sprinkler

  • Before buying a replacement for your leaky sprinkler, try replacing the filter washer where the sprinkler connects to the hose.
  • To fix a leak under the arm of a revolving sprinkler, unscrew the bearing assembly column from the base and replace any worn-out washers or O-rings.
  • Bring the worn parts to a hardware store and ask for duplicates.
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