Drip Hose vs. Garden Hose: Which is the Best Hose?

Watering your garden is crucial to keeping it healthy and in bloom. But not all hoses are the same. As with all things around the home and garden, it’s better to use the right tool for the job at hand. If you are wondering whether you should use a garden hose or a drip hose to water your garden and landscape, read on.

What is the difference between a garden hose and a drip hose?

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A garden hose is a durable lawn care tool to keep your lawn green.

A garden hose is made of rubber or vinyl and comes in a variety of lengths. Connect one end to your outdoor faucet, turn it on and you’re ready to water your lawn or garden. If you want to regulate the flow of water at the other end, attach a nozzle with different settings, from mist to shower to jet spray.

A garden hose is ideal for manually watering gardens and small lawns, but it also works well for other projects and tasks that require a water source, like washing your car or cleaning patio furniture and other hard surfaces.

A water hose laid out in a garden bed

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A soaker hose gets the job done by penetrating the soil and saturating a plant’s roots without overwatering them.

A water hose can also be attached to an outdoor faucet, but instead of having to hold it down, wrap it around the base of plants and flowers instead. Turn on the faucet and the water seeps out of the hose through the tiny perforations throughout the hose. This slow release of water allows the soil to become saturated, which is key to achieving the saturation that plants, vegetables and flowers love.

“This makes for really happy garden plants, as most plants don’t like their leaves getting wet,” says Allison Vallin Kostovick, gardener and founder of Finch + Folly Farm. Some soak hoses are designed to be buried a few inches into the ground to allow for even deeper saturation. Be sure to choose one that specifically says it can be buried, or the moist soil will clog the perforations.

When it comes to drip hoses versus garden hoses, there are pros and cons to consider

An infographic showing the benefits of using a soaker and garden hose

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Depending on your needs, a drip hose or garden hose may be the right choice.

If you have new planting, choose a soaker hose, says Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes at Belgard, a maker of pavers and other outdoor products.

“Saturation hoses are a great way to really saturate the soil with minimal runoff and evaporation,” says Raboine. “This method typically uses less water overall, is healthier for the plants, and doesn’t need to be applied as often.”

A garden hose can certainly suffice, but Raboine points out that the water tends to run off quickly and doesn’t penetrate the soil very deeply. The result? You’ll have to use more water, which doesn’t bode well for your water bill.

An infographic showing the disadvantages of using a soak and a garden hose

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There are some disadvantages to consider when considering drip hoses versus garden hoses.

Of course, none of this should throw shadows on the normal old garden hose. Plus, you’ll actually have your garden hose around longer if it’s stored in the shade; Kostovick says the hose could crack over time if exposed to direct sunlight. But she loves to hand-water with a garden hose whenever possible because it gives her a better understanding of what’s happening in her garden.

“Hose your plants by hand because that gives you time to not only connect with whatever you’re growing, but also to check for pests or the presence of disease,” says Kostovick.

The drip tube, on the other hand, is more of a set-it-and-forget-it tool. While it’s not the same as a sprinkler or drip irrigation system, you can attach a timer to a drip hose so you don’t forget to turn it on or off when it’s time to water.

Even if you’re like Kostovick and find that watering your yard is your zen moment, know that you could stand there for quite a while, especially if you have a larger yard or there’s been a stretch of dry weather.

So which hose is right for you?

A person watering the garden

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When it comes to a drip hose versus a garden hose, everyone has different uses in the garden.

If you have a small yard or garden, a garden hose with a nozzle attachment will do. However, you will have to water your garden by hand, which can be a time-consuming task. A soaker hose directs water directly into the soil, which is ideal for hydrating plants and flowers. The best part is that you don’t have to stand there with a nozzle.

If you decide to use a drip hose, remember that it’s not a bad thing to also have a garden hose on hand for other tasks that require water – just roll it up and store it in the shade so it doesn’t runs crack in the harsh sunlight.

“Each hose type has its purpose and benefits,” says Raboine. While a garden hose is useful for other jobs that require a water hookup anyway, you may find that a drip hose is better stretched along your flower beds or around newly planted trees.

Flexzilla garden hose for $20
Gilmour soak hose for $31

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Prices were correct at the time this article was published, but may change over time.

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