A good nozzle on the end of your hose will save you both time and water
Anyone who's sprinkled a lawn, washed a car, or filled a wading pool should thank Jan van der Heiden, the Dutchman who invented the first water hose (and nozzle) in 1672. Although his hose was intended for fighting fires, the citizens of Amsterdam were soon hose-watering their thirsty gardens and window boxes, happy to avoid the mean, messy work of lugging the liquid in buckets. More than three centuries later, we still depend on the humble hose to keep our landscape lush.
Hoses of seamless rubber and PVC have long since replaced van der Heiden's sewn-linen (and later leather) tubes. Now the real innovations are happening at the hose ends—with nozzles. These fittings take ordinary tap water and give it a useful shape, be it a mist, a hard stream, or droplets as gentle as a summer drizzle (or all of the above, if you like). Just as helpful, they put the shutoff at your fingertips, so you don't have to walk all the way back to the spigot or kink the end when you're done dousing the daisies. Besides, kinking is hard on a hose, and that's no way to treat such a venerable, beneficial tool.
This classic, all-brass spray nozzle, here attached to a rubber hose, can make a light mist for watering flowers, a forceful stream for blasting dirt off the driveway, or anything in between. Rotate its barrel all the way to the left to shut off the flow completely. Around $9.50, Dramm
Bending this rubber-encased nozzle sends out a fan spray for soaking the garden or cleaning the car. Let go and it shuts off automatically. Drop it or run it over and it keeps on working. Filling stations since the '40s have used it to top off car radiators. Around $27.50, Lee Valley & veritas
With its futuristic styling, this plastic pistol-grip body features an infinitely variable spray, a metal tip, a rear-mounted volume control, and an atypical front-mounted trigger. Attaches to your hose with a no-twist, quick-connect accessory (included). Around $32, Claber
Smearing petroleum jelly on the threads of a hose coupling helps prevent mineral deposits that make a nozzle tough to remove.
The most delicate plants and seedlings in the greenhouse benefit from the Fogg—It's machined brass body and its three fine-mist nozzles, which won't disturb tiny roots or sensitive leaves. Around $7, A.M. Leonard
Dramm's versatile Revolver has nine spray patterns for any watering need, including the wetting down of a small flower bed and the sluicing out of a wheelbarrow. Plus, it comes in a choice of six colors. Around $12, Dramm
For smaller, gentler watering jobs, such as newly sown grass seed, the traditional fan-style nozzle will do nicely. Melnor's durable brass-and-zinc version of this old-time favorite has a swiveling body and a convenient plastic shutoff knob. Around $13, Melnor
A watering wand is a specialized nozzle that extends your reach so you can place water exactly where you want it. This wand, for hanging plants and deep garden beds, telescopes from 29 to 42 inches. Its swiveling head has eight choices of spray patterns. Around $16, Melnor
Giving small container gardens and potted plants a drink is easy with this
17-inch aluminum wand. It features a 10-selection spray head, a comfortable ribbed-rubber grip, and a quick trigger-lock shutoff. The bulletproof anodized finish comes in three colors: red, green, or blue. Around $15, Gardeners
Instead of the ubiquitous revolving spray head, this gun comes with four beautifully machined brass heads that pop in and out of the handle to deliver specialized sprays: a mist, a fan, a gentle rain, or a blasting stream. A thumb-controlled valve regulates the flow. Around $30, Lee Valley & veritas
Gently watering the vegetable garden? No problem. Blasting out a clogged gutter? Bring it on. Turn the rubber end of this all-purpose, crushproof nozzle to create anything from a dripping rain shower to a powerful stream that shoots out 40 feet. Around $12, Orbit Irrigation Products.
Don't let the sleek Buck-Rogers styling of this gun distract you from its primary purpose: watering the garden (not fighting off Martians.) The nozzle is infinitely adjustable from spray to stream. And when you're ready to put everything away at the end of the gardening season, the finger loop serves nicely as a place to hang it up. Around $16.79, Gilmour Gardening Innovation.
Though it looks like it belongs in the hands of fireman, you'll find it more useful for cleaning your deck. The big loop handle in back is the shutoff the flow, the rubber tip adjust the spray pattern, and a separate "pressure" ring controls the flow. Around $45, Gilmour Gardening Innovation.
You'll immediately appreciate the insulated grip, the front-mounted trigger, and the solid-brass nozzle's infinitely variable spray, but it's the durable stainless steel and brass construction that you'll come to appreciate after many seasons of use. Around $11.50, Lee Valley & veritas.
For the multi-tasker in us all, this cast-aluminum nozzle has two heads: a trigger- controlled spray pistol with a threaded tip, and a threaded coupling with its own quarter-turn knob. If you want, screw on standard hose attachments to both ends and split the flow. Or use the nozzle as a coupling and avoid a walk back to the spigot. Around $22, A.M. Leonard.
Melnor completely overhauls expectations about nozzle design with this Titanium Series spray gun. The black trigger and yellow trigger lock are contained in the nozzle's handle. There's nothing to snag grass when you're coiling a hose, no fussy bails to hold the trigger open. A thumb-controlled valve at the top controls flow and a sturdy brass tip adjusts to spray everything from a soft mist to a hard stream. Around $16, Melnor.
Good advice from TOH landscaping contractor Roger Cook:
Keep the lengths to 50 feet; anything longer gets unwieldy.
Look for a 5/8-inch inside diameter, to provide adequate water flow.
Choose thick-walled brass couplings that can't be crushed.
Select from the following hose types, depending on which purpose
you want to put it to and how long you want it to last.
Utility Hose I
Made of recycled PVC reinforced with polyester mesh, these hoses are light and inexpensive but get stiff in cold weather and tend to kink. Most need replacing every few years.
Shown: Flexogen's extra-thick hose wall resists kinks, cuts, and bursts. Its octagonal couplings are machined brass. Lifetime warranty. 5/8-inch, 50 feet. Around $36, Gilmour
Synthetic EPDM rubber with polyester reinforcement is supple when cold, strong when hot, resists abrasion, and doesn't kink. Roger's favorite, despite the weight and expense.
Shown: Colorstorm has an easy-to-grip hexagonal shape, wrench-friendly, nickel-plated brass couplings, and comes in six colors. Lifetime warranty. 5/8-inch , 50 feet. Around $55, Dramm
Waters your garden by letting water leak out of its recycled rubber-and-plastic walls. Minimizes evaporation loss.
Shown: Unlike most soaker hoses, the Osmile is self-cleaning and UV and freeze resistant. Delivers water evenly along its length and needs no pressure regulator. Lifetime owner warranty. 1-inch outside diameter, 100 feet. Around $30, Lawson
Stretch it out to tend the plants around the patio; it springs back when you let go. But watch out: The coils easily snag on chair legs and shrubs. These unreinforced hoses have a lower bursting strength than utility hoses.
Shown: UV-resistant, opaque polyurethane prevents the unsightly algae buildup possible in clear hoses. 3/8-inch, 50 feet. Around $24.50, Lee Valley & veritas