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Garden hose an important tool for yard

MODESTOG, Calif. — Those garden hoses curled up in your side yard or snaking across pathways are among the most versatile tools you have.

Think about it. A hose can deliver an essential element to thirsty plants; rid a vehicle, driveway or window of caked-on dirt and goo; and on a hot day, cool the kids off with a quick squirt.

It’s a veritable wonder tool.

And with gardening season in full swing and temperatures rising, vinyl and rubber garden hoses already are getting a lot of use.

If your hose has one too many leaks, is cracked, weathered or otherwise on its last leg, it’s time to replace it. And choices are plentiful.

Here’s a rundown of hoses on the market.

Standard garden hose

The garden hose’s main purpose is to deliver water from one place (the faucet) to another (plants, a bucket, pathway or car). And like any other tool, you get what you pay for and there’s a difference between a good hose and a poor one.

What makes a good hose? One that can deliver water that suits your pressure needs, doesn’t leak much at the couplings (where the hose attaches to the faucet and nozzle) and is kink-resistant.

According to trade magazine Hardware Retailing, how much water a garden hose carries depends on the hose’s diameter, length and available water pressure.

Hose diameters 5/8, ½ and ¾ inch, and standard hose lengths are 25, 50, 75 and 100 feet. A hose with a larger diameter will deliver more water than one with a smaller diameter.

Shoppers looking for durable, high-quality hoses that can withstand good water pressure should look at the hose’s burst strength and ply number.

In terms of construction, hoses can be made of vinyl, rubber or a hybrid of the two.

Rubber hoses, often made with tire cord fiber, are the most durable. They are more resistant to weathering, cracks and kinks. Rubber is heavier, so be prepared to use a bit more muscle when working with this hose. And most rubber hoses can be used with hot water.

Rubber hoses are more expensive. We found 50-foot, 5/8-inch rubber hoses priced around $20.

Rubber/vinyl hoses combine the best of both worlds. The rubber increases the hose’s strength and durability, while the vinyl is lighter, making it more portable and easier to handle.

Vinyl hoses are the lightest. But those with few plies are more likely to kink, and kinks can set in and eventually leak.

Look for hoses with brass couplings, which tend to leak less. Couplings are the places most likely to leak, so make sure to use a washer where the hose connects to the faucet and nozzle attachment.

One more thing to keep in mind about garden hoses: unless its label says otherwise, do not drink from garden hoses. Most hoses made with rubber, vinyl or both carry warnings against drinking from them. Toxins such as lead or other chemicals and bacteria can leech into the water.

Coiled hose

Nope, that’s not a giant Slinky your neighbor is using to water her begonias. It’s another type of garden hose.

Coiled hoses, made of a type of polyurethane, are good for those who don’t want a big, clunky hose in the way. They stretch when pulled and snap back into a tight spiral shape when not in use.

They also come in different colors — red, pink, purple, blue — for those who want something more snazzy than basic green. We found a 50-foot coiled hose and nozzle by Orbit at stores including Target and Home Depot for about $15.

Soaker hose

Looking for a more efficient way to water plants? Invest in a couple of soaker hoses.

A soaker hose can use up to 70 percent less water than a standard garden hose. Soakers, typically made of vinyl or rubber, are porous. Those tiny pores allow water to seep through the length of a hose.

Soakers are more efficient because they apply water directly to the soil, which means less water is lost to evaporation. Another plus: Soakers can be buried or covered with mulch, so the not-so-pretty black hose can be camouflaged.

Soaker hoses can be connected to water a larger or longer area, but garden experts advise that connected hoses stretch no longer than 150 feet. Prices start at about $10 for a 25-foot hose.

Flat hose

We saw one of these at Home Depot under the brand name HydroHose. When not in use, this nylon hose is flat, like a hose you see firefighters using. The HydroHose comes in a reel that can be rewound for easy storage. It’s also safe to drink from. A 40-foot HydroHose ranges in price from $20 to $30, depending on the retailer.

If your hose has one too many leaks, is cracked, weathered or otherwise on its last leg, it’s time to replace it. And choices are plentiful.

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