Irrigation is an important part of any lawn and garden care schedule.
Whether naturally or otherwise, plants need to have a drink every now and then.
This is particularly true during hot summers, where the skies might be a little light on rainfall, and we have to employ other methods for dispensing the H20.
In this article, it’s the soaker hose vs sprinkler, so read on to find out which is the best way to water your lawn.
- Soaker Hose or Sprinkler – Too Long, Didn’t Read
- What is a Sprinkler?
- What is a Soaker Hose?
- Sprinkler vs Soaker Hose – Head to Head
- How to Choose the Right Sprinkler or Soaker Hose
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Soaker Hose or Sprinkler – Too Long, Didn’t Read
If you’re desperate to find out which option is better for your lawn – the answer’s right here:
A sprinkler is a device that attaches onto the end of a hose or irrigation system, and is typically used to water a large area – such as a lawn.
A soaker hose is made from a porous rubber that has tiny holes running its length, and it allows water to permeate through onto the ground. They’re more suitable for use in flower beds and vegetable patches.
In short – use a soaker hose for veggies and flowers, and a sprinkler for lawns.
There might be some exceptions, but that’s just about it, in a nutshell!
I highly recommend you keep reading for all the different types of sprinklers and soaker hoses available, plus advice on how to choose the right one for your property.
What is a Sprinkler?
While it might be obvious to everyone who has grown up with a garden at the back of their house, in the interests of us all singing from the same song sheet – let’s explain what a sprinkler is.
And you never know – you might learn something new!
A sprinkler is a device that attaches to a garden hose, and distributes water when the faucet is turned on.
Not to be confused with building sprinklers that are designed to put out fires, sprinklers are an essential lawn care tool (and you can follow that link for more).
It’s used to irrigate lawns, crops, landscapes, and sports grounds – such as your local golf course. And it’s fun for the kids to run through on a hot day.
Sprinklers typically need the addition of a hose to function, running from the water faucet to the device itself. Examples include these space-saving expandable garden hoses, or these durable metal versions.
However, they can also be used in conjunction with irrigation systems made from PVC piping.
As to how they work, there’s an extensive selection of sprinkler types that dispense water in all manner of ways, and you should make sure you’re using the right sprinkler to maximize effectiveness, and minimize waste.
Read on to find out more.
Types of Sprinkler
The type of sprinkler you choose will mainly depend on what and where you want to irrigate, how much area you need to cover, and the water pressure at your property.
There are several to choose from:
Rotary sprinklers – featuring rotating heads that spin when the water is turned on, rotary sprinklers themselves come in three distinct types:
- Stream sprinklers spray multiple jets of water in several directions simultaneously.
- Impact sprinklers are driven in a circular motion by the water, pivoting on a bearing near the threaded nut. Used for covering large areas, impact sprinklers can be quite loud.
- Gear head sprinklers use gears in their heads that use water pressure to spin the sprinkler.
Oscillating sprinklers – popular for residential use on lawns, oscillating sprinklers have holes in a long, metal tube. The design rocks back and forth under the water pressure, spraying the area.
Oscillating sprinklers – like some rotary models – need to be moved from time to time to make sure the desired area is properly covered.
Fixed sprinklers – As the name suggests, fixed sprinklers are installed in the ground and do not move. Like rotary sprinklers, there are a couple of options:
- In-ground sprinklers are driven into the soil/lawn, and remain in a fixed position, visible above the surface.
- Pop-up sprinklers are typically set below the ground level, or deeper into it, and automatically raise up to irrigate the surrounding area.
Pop-up sprinklers have the advantage of being out of sight when not in use, but they are usually much more expensive to install and can be a hazard to anyone who is unaware of their existence.
And you might even forget where they are yourself, which can be a problem when mowing or dethatching a lawn, for example.
One of the tips you’ll find at both those links is to remove or flag in-ground irrigation systems before starting work.
Traveling sprinklers – they’re not devices that wander the globe, but rather clever contraptions that use water pressure to self-propel across a lawn or other area.
Ideal for covering larger plots, they eliminate the need for several fixed sprinklers, or manually having to move one sprinkler to different locations.
Misting sprinklers – Have you ever been to an outdoor café that uses a fine water mist system to keep patrons cool on hot, summer days?
Misting sprinklers are exactly like that – but for gardens instead of humans. Ideal for smaller areas, where the water pressure isn’t high, and/or for irrigating more delicate plant life.
Sprinkler hose – technically not a sprinkler at all, but a hose gun attachment that has a sprinkler function.
The main advantage is you get the most control over where the water goes, but having to do it yourself is the trade-off.
You might like to invest in one of these awesome hose carts with wheels to help you out!
What is a Soaker Hose?
A soaker hose is a variation of a standard garden hose, only with tiny holes along the length of tubing.
Not to be confused with a drip irrigation system – which is something else entirely, and typically consists of PVC pipe and water regulators to deliver low-pressure, low volume water where a garden needs it.
Soaker hoses are generally available in two types; flat and round.
Flat soaker hoses only have holes on one side.
Round soaker hoses have holes around their circumference.
This article on the best soaker hoses on the market offers some great examples, as well as providing a full buyer’s guide for help in choosing the right type for the needs of your garden.
Soaker hoses are typically installed in vegetable patches and/or flower beds, where they have numerous advantages over a sprinkler.
However, they tend to come up short for use on lawns, and are somewhat impractical for this purpose, to say the least.
Sprinkler vs Soaker Hose – Head to Head
The main difference between a sprinkler and a soaker hose is the way the water is dispersed.
The soaker hose irrigates plants and the surrounding area along its length, whereas a sprinkler generally has some kind of head that it distributes water from.
A soaker hose has a big advantage, in that it’s malleable. Its flexibility means you can snake it across the area you need to irrigate, and twist it around obstacles, plants, the dog, and other hazards.
But a sprinkler can be more beneficial for watering in new grass seed. Head over to this link to discover all the different types of grass seed available.
Here’s an at-a-glance guide to the pros and cons of soaker hoses and sprinklers:
Soaker Hose Advantages:
- Waters directly where needed at the base of plants.
- Even water distribution.
- Flexible length.
- Inexpensive (with a caveat – see below).
- Easy to install.
- Helps avoid water-related leaf damage and disease.
- Uses much less water than sprinklers – up to 80%.
- Waters deeply to the roots – encouraging drought resistance and strong growth.
- Suitable for fertigation.
Soaker Hose Disadvantages:
- Relatively small coverage area – all but useless for lawns.
- Susceptible to damage – especially from the sun.
- Costs can add up with additional parts.
- Can easily develop unwanted leaks.
- Installation can take time – particularly if you have a large area to cover.
- Great selection of options to choose from.
- Can cover a very wide area.
- Lawns, lawns, lawns, baby!
- Most are easy to set up and use.
- Suitable for fertigation.
- Potential to waste A LOT of water. Not just by forgetting to turn them off – I’m looking at you, evaporation!
- Can be expensive to install.
- Sprinkler heads can easily get damaged/blocked.
- Targeted water application can be tricky.
- Can struggle with uneven ground.
- Wets foliage rather than the roots – which can lead to pests, disease, and water damage.
That should help you narrow down your options a little. Whatever you decide, don’t miss our complete, month-by-month lawn care calendar – which has plenty of tips on when and how to water your lawn.
And you can always go here for advice on caring for your patch of green through a drought.
How to Choose the Right Sprinkler or Soaker Hose
Below, you’ll find some tips to help you select the right sprinkler for your needs – and the needs of your garden.
Area coverage – perhaps the most important aspect when it comes to choosing a sprinkler, is how much land you need to cover.
Check the specifications of a sprinkler head, which should always tell you this information. But for soaker hoses vs sprinklers, a sprinkler is going to be the better choice for larger properties/areas.
Shape of area – not to be overlooked, the shape of your land is equally important as its size. If you have a lot of nooks and crannies, getting into the corners can be tricky.
This is where a traveling sprinkler might be ideal, or a sprinkler hose to cover the area yourself.
Alternatively, a soaker hose might be useful in such situations, as you can customize where the product twists and turns, allowing irrigation in otherwise difficult-to-reach locations.
Property water pressure – a powerful irrigation system is only going to be as effective as the water pressure at your property.
If it can manage nothing more than a dribble, you might have to “rethink the sprink”…ler. I don’t think that’s going to catch on.
However, soaker hoses are, by their nature, low pressure irrigation methods. So they might be the better option if you’re struggling for power.
Distance to water source – water pressure is one thing, but remember – the further away your hoses or sprinklers are from the water source, the less pressure you’re going to get.
Type of plant – Another important part of choosing the right sprinkler or soaker hose – is identifying the type of plant you would like to irrigate.
Is it the grass on your lawn, the produce in a vegetable patch, or a bed of beautiful perennials?
For veggies and delicate growth, a soaker hose is always the better option, but a sprinkler comes into its own on the lawn.
Manual or automatic – Outdoor water waste is a huge problem for US lawn care enthusiasts. We have a tendency to overwater, forget that the faucet is on, and/or water inappropriately in some other way.
Automatic hoses/sprinklers are the answer – so you can have a timed device dispensing the H20 only for as long as necessary – and not a drop more.
Manual sprinklers (the kind you turn off and on yourself) still have their place, as not everyone has the need for adding electronics to their simple setup.
Either way, this article on how to properly water your lawn will tell you more, and check out this interesting piece on the history of lawns, which explains they’re not actually that great at all!
Budget – As always, money should be taken into consideration. We can’t all afford to install a bespoke, top-of-the-range, fully automatic irrigation system that also does your laundry.
Although speaking of cool technology (that actually exists), check out this article on robot mowers vs ride ons. Are you ready to make the switch?
Are soaker hoses better than sprinklers?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. That’s because they’re pretty much used for two different things.
And while you can water a lawn with a soaker hose, and you can irrigate your veggies with a sprinkler – it’s probably best that you switch them around.
That said, a soaker hose saves a MASSIVE amount of water when compared to a sprinkler, and is much more beneficial for the environment in general.
Just some food for thought as you check out this article for more eco-friendly lawn care tips.
What is fertigation?
Glad you asked! You might have seen it mentioned in the article above, as both soaker hoses and sprinklers can be used for fertigation.
But what is it?
Simply put, it’s a method of watering and fertilizing a lawn/crops/flower beds at the same time. This article on fertigation will tell you everything you need to know.
In the battle between a soaker hose vs sprinkler, there isn’t a clear winner, and it just depends on the type of job you need one for.
Choose a soaker hose for your veggies and flowers, and a sprinkler for your lawn. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have both!
Let me know your thoughts on the two irrigation options in the comments.
Until next time, stay safe out there, stay hydrated, and happy gardening!