The Dry Garden: Armed with water savers


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Emily Green, who writes our weekly column on drought-tolerant gardening, points out that a hose nozzle can greatly cut down on wasted irrigation -- as long as it’s not watering your arms and shoes. Why is a decent nozzle so hard to find? Green tests 10 of them, and to discover whether you should be running out to buy a purple Dramm Revolver like the one above, click to her column after the jump.

By Emily Green

If there’s one thing harder to get than a good garden hose, it’s a good nozzle to fit on it. Now that we’re in a drought, good nozzles we need.


Nozzles can cut the amount of water used during hand watering, and they’re now required in Los Angeles for car washing. The way nozzles achieve these savings is simple. They shut off water as hose-draggers move around.

Most modern nozzles also are water-shapers. They pressurize water coming from the hose, so many can emit everything from fine mists to fierce jets. The fancier the model, the more patterns it may advertise, including mist, flat, angle, shower, fan, cone, center and jet.

So, nozzles are great investments, right? On the face of it, yes. In the store, you can expect change from a 10 for what might look a half-decent nozzle and change from a 20 for what appears to be a decent one.

If, that is, you don’t succumb to option paralysis. Shopping for a garden hose nozzle can feel more like a tour through a gun show than a walk through the garden center. Expect names such as Pistol and Magnum, but do not necessarily buy the Howitzer model. Throughout the armament, nozzles share one universal flaw: Even the best wear out.

Their washers get wear and tear. Hose ends get banged up and don’t thread properly. However it happens, within months of purchasing even the most expensive models, nozzles are unsurpassed at dribbling water down your wrist and into your shoe.

I purchased and tested 10 models at stores around Los Angeles, and two nozzles leaked from the handle the first time they were used. And the Vigoro Heavy-Duty Adjustable Pistol Nozzle actually exploded.


Many were adequate, including the simplest brass and steel twist attachment, the 41/2-inch BackYard Pro. However, watch that a controlled flow of water doesn’t turn into a spray, ensuring water in the shoe. Some, such as BackYard Pro’s 6-inch spray nozzle, have no off position. These models should be banned.

The simplest ones, including the SunMate Mini Magnum from Orbit Irrigation Products, amount to little more than valves. Fewer movable parts leave less to break for those prone to tossing the hose down, but the pattern control on the Mini Magnum was poor.

A personal favorite was the Dramm Revolver. It’s more comic book ray gun than pistol, has nine patterns and comes in pretty colors, but it’s blatantly girly. Men may prefer the Toro 8 Pattern Front Trigger.

Whatever you buy, beware of any cheap or conspicuously fragile parts. Nozzles should be tough and simple. Always check to make sure they come with a rubber or synthetic seal to act as a washer.

And rather than imagine that this seal will survive regular twisting against a gritty hose end, stop by the plumbing aisle on your way out for additional washers. No matter which nozzle you buy, you’ll need the washers.

Green’s column on low-water gardening appears weekly on this blog. She also blogs at