The performance of porous soaker hoses such as Leaky Pipe® deteriorates over time because of mineral salt buildup, but you can partially reverse this by flexing and stretching the hose to break the bonds between the salts and the rubber. Done annually, this can add years to the lifetime of the hose.
Soaker hoses are a popular form of irrigation, and are a great way to provide background watering in polytunnels without leaving the foliage wet. With no more than a pressure regulator and a clockwork timer, a length of soaker hose can do most of your work for you, leaving only spot watering to be done by hand. Porous rubber hoses such as Leaky Pipe are particularly useful because they offer even delivery of water at relatively low pressure (1 to 1.5 bar), but in hard water areas repeated wet/dry cycles eventually lead to mineral deposits blocking the pores in the rubber.
You can slow down the deterioration by always having the hose covered by at least 2.5cm (one inch) of compost or mulch to prevent it from drying too quickly, but once pore blocking occurs the hose gradually delivers less and less water over its length. This can easily be compensated for by leaving the water supply connected for longer, but eventually the worst affected parts of the hose stop working all together. Rather than wait for this to happen, it’s best to flex the hose once a year when the beds are relatively empty. For many people this is towards the end of the spring, but you can do it at any convenient time of year.
How to rejuvenate soaker hose
- Pull up the hose, disturbing existing plants as little as possible, and leave it on the soil surface.
- Remove the pressure regulator from the system (if you have one) and connect the hose back up.
- Gradually increase the pressure to maximum: if one of the seals blows, turn the water off and repair it, and then ramp the pressure back up again.
- Pass the hose around the diagonal brace at one end of the tunnel, and pull gently but firmly to stretch it: pull it back and forth a few times.
- Move a few feet along the length of the pipe and repeat, until all of the pipe has been flexed.
- Turn the water off, re-bury the pipe and reconnect the pressure regulator to finish the job.