Contra Costa Rose Society

                              Without water, there is no life
        Tom Liggett
 February 2014


Liquid water is the mother chemical of life in the universe. Without it, there is no life.

If you are going to be a successful gardener of any sort, you are going to have to figure out how to get your plants the water they need in order to thrive.

50% of what makes me the successful gardener that I am stems from one fact; from the time that I could toddle out into the orchards, I have known that plants needed to be watered.

I have always counted myself as being fortunate to have been born in California. Though I continue to be stunned by California’s beauty, what has always appealed to me most is her unique climate and bottomless soils.

Being born here has forced an acute awareness on me of how very important water is to growing things. Most of California is, after all, a vast semi-desert. It grows little in the way of flower or food without the diligent application of water.

Water is the very DNA of California. It matters nothing that the water that once grew the finest cherry trees on earth now flushes the toilets at Apple Computer. Then or now, without water, neither would be in the locations that they are.

Those trees and those toilets function as objects because someone figured out how to take water from one place and efficiently transfer it to another.

In the garden, rain alone is never enough.

Every plant in every garden and nursery took water to propagate and grow it.

Even if a significant portion of a garden plant’s water is supplied by rain, at some point in its life cycle, it is or was being directly applied by the hand of mankind. 

If you can figure out ways to effectively and consistently water your plants, you can be a good gardener.

What you are growing will determine how you water it. 

Containerized rose cuttings will sometimes need to be watered several times a day.  While you can water such a planting manually with a hose, it might not be the best method for either you or the plants.

Having an automatic watering-system will grow better rose cuttings. It was also free you from the tyranny of being tied down to a watering hose.

Roses that are being grown in containers will need to be watered all 365 days of the year in low-elevation areas of central California. These can be effectively watered with a hose, if that’s all that you’ve got. Accomplished in that fashion, though, it will be a lot of endlessly-repeated work that must be perfectly-accomplished in order to be effective.

Available watering methods can determine what we grow.

If you live in the Sahara desert and are hauling your water in with a truck, you probably won’t be growing water lilies. You might want to grow cacti there.

If you have the climate, money and aptitude to build nursery benches with built-in irrigation systems, you might lean towards rooting rose cuttings.

Between those two plant sets is a whole world of differences.

Deciding what you want to grow all comes down to a combination of your climate and how you will be watering your plants.

All gardens use water hoses.


The one great commonality that most types of gardens all over the world share is that they all require water hoses for some function.

Water hoses are the unspoken heroes of gardens. Of all of the tools which we use in our gardens, they are the one that allows us to grow larger gardens with more diverse botanic occupants. A water hose and a shovel can quickly turn an empty lot into a full-scale farm.

Water hoses might seem to be a bit archaic in this world of drip irrigation and automatic controls. But even a low-maintenance landscape with hardy plants will require a water hose to get it properly established.

I have three large gardens in two cities and three different micro-climates. All three of them have extensive drip irrigation systems of various types. I sometimes use water hose in all of them.

Using a hose enables you to provide each plant with just the amount of water that it needs, as long as you understand how to correctly provide it.

Knowledge is power.

Since water hoses are every serious gardener’s constant companion, it pays to learn how to properly use them.

Building your garden to be hose friendly.

For the first 12 years that I was here at my huge number one garden and nursery, most of the water that was used came from one centrally-located hose bib. Making matters worse, that one faucet was 160 circuitous feet from a tiny water meter. What made it possible for me to water so much with a hose was that the garden was designed to be watered with one.

Designing a garden around a single tool might seem to be a strange notion. But since most gardens will need hoses sometimes, why not make it easy to use them?  In practical terms, this means making it easy to pull a hose around corners.

At every point at which I will need to pull a hose in order to go down a different path, I drive a three foot-tall wooden stake. This allows me easily to pull a hose into a different direction. I call these valuable aids corner stakes. They also help to keep the hose from crashing into plants.

I also place a wooden stake at every point at which a hose will be pulled into contact with a plant or garden feature. Visitors might note the discretely-located pulling stakes that are located throughout my main garden and nursery.

Placing a two-foot long piece of two inch PVC pipe around the wooded stake will make the hose glide more easily around sharp corners.


Do not place stakes where they will be a tripping hazard!


I do not recommend the use of metal stakes for most garden uses. The risk of someone falling and impaling themselves is far too great of a risk.

Safely dragging a hose.

Dragging hoses is a lot of work. It can also be dangerous, both to you and the hose.

Grasp the male end of the hose in both hands. Using both hands, hold the hose lightly against your waist just above your pelvis. Facing forward, use your legs, not your arms to slowly pull the hose in a straight line. 

Pull around only one corner at a time. Pulling around more than one corner at a time is brutally hard work for you. It is also hard on the hose.

Be aware of how the hose is pulling behind you. If you begin to feel abnormal resistance, the hose is binding on an obstruction. When this happens, instantly stop, walk back and clear the obstruction. Trying to pull through hose will strain your muscles and kink the hose.

Walking back to clear a hose that has caught against an obstruction is a normal part of watering, even if the garden is designed with pulling hose in mind and with the best of preparations.

If they are not kinked and pulled, high-quality hoses can last for decades. If they are kinked, they can last for minutes.


Do not put hoses over your shoulder in order to pull them. In that method, your spine is taking the full weight of the pulling process.

When pulling hoses, take care that you do not allow the male end of the hose to drag along the ground. The hose’s male end has an external thread that is prone to wearing when it is pulled across the ground.

Use the buddy system of watering.

If you must drag water hoses over long distances or to a lot of areas, consider getting help in dragging them. Two people make the use of water hoses a much easier activity.

Buying and maintaining water hoses.

What you will need to water rose plants with a hose.

This might seem to be a very elementary subject, since most gardeners have used water hoses their entire life. But I can assure you that the hoses and attachments that you use will determine how successfully you water your plants and how hard you work doing it.

If you use them properly, high-quality water hoses can last for 10 years or more. Use them improperly and they can be ruined in the space of an afternoon.

Gates-brand Flexogen water hoses.

In my opinion, these hoses have no peers. I have Flexogen hoses that I have been putting to hard daily use for well over 20 years. Even after long use, they are still flexible and water-tight.

I recommend using 5/8-inch hoses rather than the ¾-inch size. Water hoses are heavy enough when they are empty. Try dragging a ¾-inch hose that is full of water and you will quickly tire of it.

If you need the length, I suggest that you buy one each 100-foor hose, rather than two each 50-foot hoses. The longer hose will be more reliable. Also, the fittings that couple shorter hoses together are more prone to catching on obstructions as you drag them.

If your growing situation requires that your use very long hoses, use a ¾ inch hose for the section that is attached to the hose bib. There will be less pressure loss in the hose with a larger diameter hose at the front.

Commercial-quality water wands.

Commercial-quality water wands don’t cost any more than cheaply-made ones. Buy the better grade of water wands.

The Dramm company makes a wonderful line of watering products and their water wands are no exception. Buy the length of wand that is comfortable for you to use. I use the 36-inch size, but others might prefer to use the 30-inch.

Dramm sells the spray-end of their water wands separately. Their model 400 Water Breaker lasts almost forever and delivers a flow that is gentle, even at high water flows.

Commercial-quality hose shut-offs.

I have a box full of broken cheap, plastic hose shut-offs. I keep them to remind myself that if you regularly use a tool, that cheap usually won’t last.The Dramm model 30 brass hose shut-off holds up very well to daily use.

Brass, barbed male and female hose ends and screw-type hose clamps.

Even if water hoses can sometimes last for 20 years, the hose ends are what take the beating. As such, they will  generally require replacement at some point in the life of the hose.

Since you know that they’re going to eventually break, go ahead and buy at least one each brass, barbed male and female hose ends. They generally come as a kit that includes a screw-type hose clamp.

An added benefit in using barbed brass hose ends is that they are re-useable. As long as you use new hose clamps, high-quality hose ends last just about forever, if they are properly used.

Just as is the case with hose shut-offs, you will probably regret buying inexpensive hose ends.

Hose bubblers.

Metal hose bubblers are an effective way to put a little or a lot of water on the ground in a hurry. They produce a gentle stream of water, even at high flows.

The Gilmour-brand metal hose bubbler is a good example of what such a device should be.

Hose washers.

Always have a few of these around. I prefer the “O” ring type over flat washers. “O” rings don’t expand as much when the ends are tightened. This means that there is a larger opening for the water to flow through.

If you cannot find “O” ring-type hose washers, use the tried-and-true flat-type hose washers.

Just be sure that you have plenty of whatever type you choose on hand, as they will with unexpected regularity.

Where to buys hoses and related supplies.

If you can find Gates-brand Flexogen hoses locally, I would suggest that you buy them that way. Water hoses are quite heavy. Shipping costs could well eat any differences in cost that you might save in buying them online.

For years, I have purchased many of my nursery supplies at OBC Northwest.  They are knowledgeable, have great prices and service. Take a look at their website at: 

Maintenance of water hoses.

Roll up hoses when you are not using them. Keeping them out of the sun will make them last longer.


Hoses lying on the ground can be a tripping hazard. If you must leave hoses lying on the ground, do so in such manner so that they do not become tripping hazards.

Screw the male and female ends of the hose together. It will protect them during storage.

Dragging hoses around corners can sometimes cause them to twist. If they begin to twist, they can kink and be damaged. If you are not regularly rolling up your hoses, you will need to periodically straighten them out to remove the twists that they will have inevitably accumulated.

Be on the lookout for leaks. Tighten hose clamps if they loosen up.

Take care that you do not drag the male end of the hose along the ground. That fitting has an external thread that can easily be damage by dragging. 

Watering containerized rose plants with a hose.  

Watering containerized five-gallon-size or larger rose plants with a hose.

Most all types of roses grow well in five-gallon containers. Such containers are large enough to contain the root system of even a very large plant.

As with all containerized rose plants that are grown in low-elevation areas of central California, water them daily throughout the winter. If the weather is cold enough, the media will freeze. When the media thaws, some of the water that was held by the media will be released. Repeated freezing and thawing will cause the media to seriously dry out, if it is not watered every day or so.

Water the plants once-daily, all year round, whether it rains, or not.

Water the plants twice-daily when the outside air temperature is 80 degrees, Fahrenheit.

Water the plants three times-daily when the outside air temperature is 100 degrees, Fahrenheit.

Watering ground-grown plants with a hose.

Watering newly-planted ground-grown rose plants with a hose.

When it is properly accomplished, watering ground-grown rose plants with a hose is actually quite effective. You can assure that each plant gets just the right amount of water. It also gives you an excuse to be with your roses.

I recommend using a hose-end water wand or metal bubbler to wet the entire drip line of the plant. If you use a water wand, make sure that you hold the nozzle close to the ground, so that you do not wet the foliage. As is usual in all cases, should you wet a rose plant’s foliage, make sure that it has time to totally dry out before nightfall.

Roses will need to be hand-watered every day for the first 90 days after they are planted into the ground. Water them every other day for the remainder of their first growing season after they are planted into the ground. 

Rose plants that are six inches to one foot tall will require one gallon of water per irrigation cycle. 

Rose plants that are one to three feet tall will require two gallons of water per irrigation cycle. 

Optional dike method of watering ground-grown rose plants with a hose.

If your ground-grown rose plants are properly mulched, any water that is applied with a hose should readily soak into the ground. If not they are not properly mulched, the water might run off before it soaks in.

To avoid this, build a dike around each plant to hold the water. Such dikes should be about six inches high. Their inside radius should circle the plants entirely about 18 inches away from their centers.

At each watering, gently fill the dikes one or more times with a hose.

If the sides of the dikes wear down over time, re-build them to their original height. 

Watering established ground-grown rose plants with a hose.

Established roses will need to be hand-watered every other day from February 1st through November 1st in low-elevation areas of central California.

I recommend using a hose-end water wand or metal bubbler to wet the entire drip line of the plant. If you use a water wand, make sure that you hold the nozzle close to the ground, so that you do not wet the foliage. As is usual in all cases, should you wet a rose plant’s foliage, make sure that it has time to totally dry out before nightfall.

Rose plants that are six inches to one foot tall will require about one gallon of water per irrigation cycle. 

Rose plants that are one to three feet tall will require about two gallons of water per irrigation cycle. 

Rose plants that are three to five feet tall will require about four gallons of water per irrigation cycle. 

Rose plants that are five to eight feet tall will require about six gallons of water per irrigation cycle. 

Rose plants that are eight to 12 feet tall will require about eight gallons of water per irrigation cycle.

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