The summer my son learned to use our big riding lawn mower, we began having to replace hoses on an almost weekly basis. Having mowing help was great, but it was starting to become expensive! We have almost an acre cultivated in cut flowers and every 5,000 square-foot bed is irrigated with city water, so we have hundreds of feet of well-placed garden hoses reaching out in every direction. I finally realized that I needed to learn to repair rather than replace those hoses.
We have all three learned not to mow directly over the irrigation lines, but it still happens (and I’m as guilty as anyone!). Now we keep hardware on hand for quick fixes. It’s actually quite simple and has saved us a lot of money. I’ve also changed brass ends that have come damaged or leaky ‒ and securing connections between faucets and hoses to stop leaks saves money on water bills.
Below are a few important repair tips I learned by trial and error:
Use ONLY brass and metal fittings made by Gilmore (no, I do not receive any compensation from this company, but their products are first-rate). Don’t use plastic fittings or the repair kits that have perforated wire mesh that you tighten down onto the hose; these always leak in my experience. The heavy metal fittings might be a tad more expensive, but this is definitely a case of getting what you pay for.
In the wash(er)
Before you replace a leaky connection, try using rubber washers and a spool of plumber’s tape before cutting off and replacing the hose end. Sometimes you can salvage an old connection with just these two inexpensive items. The best rubber washers are the reddish-brown ones, not the black small “o” rings that often come with hose repair kits. The former will only run you a couple dollars more and they are worth it. Use a flat head screwdriver to help “seat” them into place inside the nozzle.
Use a pair of sharp pruners or heavy-duty kitchen shears rather than a utility knife to cut the hose to make repairs. I can tell you from experience that using a utility knife is a great way to cut and injure hands and fingers. Hoses are made to be tough, thus they have many layers. They also tend to roll and move while you’re cutting them ‒ it’s much better to firmly grip the handle of pruners or shears.
In hot water
Boiling water is your friend. I boil a kettle of water, then transfer it to a thermos. I dunk the freshly cut hose end into the water to make the hose more pliable. The fittings must be tight, so if you skip this step, you might not be able to insert the hardware far enough into the hose to keep it from leaking or even blowing off once carrying a full load of water. As the hot end of the hose cools onto the hardware, it will form a seal that should keep the fitting from leaking for a long time to come.
Laura Bigbee-Fott is a Davidson County Master Gardener. She owns Whites Creek Flower Farm and runs a floral event and wedding design business called Everything Blooms.