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The Surprising Science Behind Soaker Hose Run Times: Get it Right!

We love gardening, and seeing our vegetables and flowers healthy makes us happy. But aren’t we forgetting something? Yeah! Sprinklers aren’t the best.

Usually, we all use sprinklers for our garden, but it wastes so much water. Some plants even don’t get enough water to reach their roots because sprinkler water evaporates quickly. So, we get a soaker hose installed!

Soaker hoses save water, money, and our environment! They are the perfect addition to any garden. But you need to know how long to run a soaker hose to get its benefits. Trust us; we learned the hard way.

Factors Influencing How Long to Run a Soaker Hose

When we first got our soaker hose, we were just winging it until we finally knew what factors should matter in the case of its runtime. We want to share the factors, so you don’t make the same mistakes we did.

  • Soil Type and Moisture Retention

Did you know your garden’s soil type is a big factor that affects how long you should run a soaker hose? We didn’t, and many of our beautiful plants died because of it.

Don’t make the same mistake, my friend! Various soils need different soaking times in order to let water seep in to wet the soil properly. If you have dry sandy soil in your garden, you will need lots of water to hydrate your plants properly.

However, clay soil retains moisture longer and more easily, and the soak time is less. One thing we learned is that mulch can help any type of soil hold moisture for a longer period. So, if you have mulch, your soak time will be less!

  • Plant Water Requirements

Do you know what we like about soaker hoses? It’s very slow and doesn’t just spray your plants with water. It gently waters the soil near your plants, so there’s less evaporation and more water for your plants to take up.

However, if you have large trees and shrubs, you need to have good water pressure and run the hose longer. Otherwise, your trees will be thirsty as the trickling of water is too slow for them.

  • Weather Conditions

The weather can save you soaker hose runtime or do the opposite. As you can guess, dry, sunny, windy, and hot weather will make your soaker hose work overtime to cover water losses.

On the other hand, the amazing rain will give your soaker hose a break from all the work and also save you some extra money.

But, obviously, in the summer, you need to run your soaker hose extra to let your plants enjoy the hydration and completely soak the soil. So, always be mindful of the weather. Don’t turn your hose on when it’s raining because it’s meaningless.

  • Design and Permeability of Soaker Hose

When we first ordered our soaker hose, it took us a minute to figure out which one to get. There are just so many models, options, and features! The process is overwhelming.

If you have lots of plants and trees, you need the soaker hose design to be able to water everything. If the holes are too small, then your plants won’t receive the amount of water they need.

Moreover, your soaker hose can get clogged due to hard water. Hard water is mainly water with heavy amounts of dissolved minerals like calcium. So, check the hose and make sure the water pressure is optimal.

Determining the Ideal Amount of Time to Run a Soaker Hose

Now that you know the different factors, you can set up an ideal runtime for your soaker hose. If you’re still confused, don’t worry! Isn’t that why we are here?

  • Adjusting for Soil Moisture Levels

When we first got our soaker hose, we observed for a few days and measured the moisture in our soil to see how long it took. You can do the same!

Just put your finger in the soil and feel if the bottom soil is wet or dry. Keep on doing it until the soil feels completely wet. Make sure to time it and set up a running time.

However, you can also use a soil moisture meter to measure it automatically. It will give you accurate results, and you can decide the runtime easily.

Just remember, trees need a wider and deeper moist soil level than small plants, which only need about 6 to 8 inches deep.

  • Considering Plant Types and Growth Stages

Not every plant requires the same amount of water, so what can you do? If you have multiple types of plants, you can always get a feeder splitter and attach several soaker hoses to it.

Moreover, like us, plants have different growth stages. So, you need to water small plants with less water and bigger plants with a lot of water. On the other hand, if you are using a soaker hose for a vegetable or flower garden, just turn on your soaker hose for half an hour, 2 to 3 times weekly. See: Determining How Long to Run Drip Irrigation Systems for Vegetables

drip irrigation installed in grow bags
Drip irrigation is ideal for watering plants in grow bags
  • Adapting to Weather Conditions

You always have to go with the flow in the case of weather. If it’s sunny, run your soaker hose a little longer than you usually do, but during cold weather, you can water less.

Moreover, the soaker hose’s runtime has no definite time. It all depends on your needs, weather, and plants.

Adjusting Runtime for Different Areas

Aside from the weather, your soaker hose runtime should be based on where you’ve planted your plants and how the plant is. 

  • Variations in Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

If you have plants in a shaded area, we can tell you that your runtime will be shorter. Because a shaded area lets your soil hold onto moisture for a longer period.

However, if your plants are directly under the sun, be sure they will be parched! They will need a constant water supply until the soil is entirely saturated, so you have to run the soaker hose longer.

For example, if you initially run it for an hour, on sunny days or under heavy sun exposure, you need to keep it on for at least 2 hours.

  • Watering Newly Planted Areas

New plants are such cuties with their adorable green leaves and small stems. As new plants are usually small and don’t have long roots yet, they need a small amount of water to survive.

Moreover, if you planted some new plants, make sure to give them plenty of water, but don’t overwater!

drip irrigation system used for seedlings
A drip system is great for nurturing seedlings
  • Balancing Water Distribution

To keep your plants in tip-top shape, you need to regularly water them and also maintain the balance of water distribution. We know how much it’s difficult to keep a balance in distribution. It took us a while, but eventually, we learned the perfect way.

You need to check your hose pipe once in a while and remove any clogs or dirt from the holes. Position the hose in a way that it’s close to the plant and on the soil.

Moreover, always check your water pressure and the moisture level of different parts of your garden.

Automating Soaker Hose Runtime

Automatic soaker hoses are truly a lifesaver! We get to spend so much doing other things now at our home and don’t have to keep track of the watering system. Even if we forget, the soaker hose automatically stops. Neat, right?

You can also get it done easily!

  • Irrigation Controllers and Timers

Have you heard of irrigation timers and controllers? If you haven’t, then you’re in for a treat.

Irrigation controllers and timers help you plan your watering schedule in advance. You can easily and effortlessly set up the controller based on your garden’s soil type, weather, and even plant water requirements.

It also lets you set up a specific time for the soaker hose to go off and turn off. Now, you have no worries about wasting water or money!

drip irrigation timer will help you control how long you run a soaker hose
A timer saves water and frees up your time
  • Benefits and Considerations

If you’re wondering if an automatic soaker hose is worth it, just trust us. We replaced our sprinkler system and used a soaker hose irrigation system, and we never looked back.


  1. The soaker hose waters at the plant’s base instead of the leaves. It keeps the leaves dry, and we end up having lesser slug issues or rotting.
  2. You don’t have to worry about uneven watering anymore. Every one of your plants will receive a balanced amount of water, and the water pressure won’t destroy any part of the plant.
  3. The divisions of soil in-between plants are less muddy, helping keep parasites and bugs away.
  4. You can set up your own watering schedule and can even set it up before a vacation.
  5. You will notice a huge difference in your water bill as an automatic soaker hose wastes less water.

Things to Consider:

  1. Your soaker hose pipe is porous, and eventually, it can split open due to sun damage and cause leaks. Even heavy water pressure can tear the hose and shoot water in every direction.
  2. It’s hard to put soaker hoses in garden pots. You will need an intermediate garden hose to be able to do this.
  3. Your timer won’t go off unless you’ve programmed it, and it can lead to water wastage.

Assessing Moisture Levels and Water Needs

Too much and not enough moisture are both harmful to your plants. They need a balanced amount of water regularly, but how do we measure it? Good question because it’s really hard to measure by just looking at the soil.

So, let’s get to assessing moisture levels and water needs.

  • Monitoring Soil Moisture

You can use a soil moisture sensor or meter and check the results. They are accurate and will give you the best estimation.

  • Understanding Plant Water Requirements

You need to understand which plants require more water than others. For example, a cactus plant doesn’t need to be watered every day, whereas a flowering plant or vegetable-bearing plants need water daily to grow.

  • Using Rain Gauges or Water Meters

Many people get rain gauges or water meters for their backyards. We went to a friend’s house, and we asked them about it because they also had one.

We learned that a rain gauge or water meter mainly tells you about the precipitation your location receives or the amount of water usage and helps you adjust your soaker hose runtime accordingly.

A rain gauge in a vegetable garden will help you determine how long to run a soaker hose
Use a rain gauge to help you adjust your soaker hose runtime

Signs of Proper Watering and Adjustments

When you water your plants or garden properly, you can clearly see the signs and the improvement. But you can also notice damages when there’s something wrong.

  • Monitoring Plant Health and Soil Moisture

When you monitor your plant’s health and soil moisture, you can detect any problems early on. You can use different moisture-measuring tools to monitor and store the data. 

  • Signs of Underwatering and Overwatering

When you’re overwatering your plants, you’ll notice the root starting to rot, brown lumps forming on the leaves, slow plant growth, and buildup of water pressure, which can form lesions on the leaves.

On the other hand, if you notice brown, paper-like, dry leaves, dried-out roots and branches, curled and wrinkly leaves, and hard, dry soil, you’re definitely underwatering your plants. These signs are just showing that they are dying without water.

  • Making Runtime Adjustments

Now that you have measured and observed, you need to make some adjustments to your soaker hose. Adjust the water pressure and the runtime.

If you’re overwatering, decrease the time by half an hour, and underwatering, increase by half an hour. However, you must check the results to know if it’s working or if you need to adjust again.

Efficient Usage of Soaker Hoses

Is your soaker hose not giving you the results you looked forward to? Well, you might have placed it improperly or haven’t maintained it. Here are some things to consider.

  • Proper Placement of Soaker Hose

Your soaker hose needs to be placed near your plant’s base, but don’t let it touch the stem. You should also avoid overcrowding or overlapping the pipes; it doesn’t work properly, nor does it look good.

soaker hose placement around tree
Place your soaker hose at the base of the tree or plant
  • Mulching for Water Conservation

Mulching will save water and your plants! When you cover the base of your plants with mulch, it helps retain moisture for longer and quicker. Moreover, mulch protects your plants from heavy rain, soil erosion, dry soil, mud, and pests. 

  • Regular Maintenance and Inspection

Your job isn’t done yet! You still need to inspect your garden at least once a week and maintain it. On your weekends, grab a shovel and loosen a bit of soil to give it oxygen exposure, take out the weeds, and spray for pests.

You should also clean your soaker hose once a week for better watering results and to avoid clogging or bursting.

Resources for Determining Ideal Runtime

It’s really easy to get confused when you’re using a soaker hose for the first time. It happened to us also, so don’t be shy and use the resources you have at hand.

  • Reach out to your local extension service provider; they know what to do. They will help you identify your soil type, let you know how much water each plant needs, and guide you through the whole soaker hose process.
  • You will find many gardening books about drip irrigation, and there’s always the internet if you can’t find any books. We also learned many valuable information on soaker hose runtime from people all around the world, so don’t lose hope. Start by using their given watering hours and adjust slowly.
  • Local gardening communities are the sweetest and most helpful places you can reach out to. You can ask questions, get advice, share experiences, and learn different techniques from the community.


Can I overwater my plants with a soaker hose?

You can overwater your plants with a soaker hose if you let the water run for hours without supervision.

Is it better to water deeply and less frequently or lightly and more often with a soaker hose?

Well, we think it’s best to water deeply and less frequently. In this way, your plants have more water for a long time, and you get to save on your water bill.

Can I run multiple soaker hoses at the same time?

Yes, why not! You just need a feeder splitter to connect the soaker hoses to your main garden hose that’s connected to the faucet.

What signs should I look for to determine if my plants need more or less water?

Wilted, brown, dry leaves and branches can show that you’re not giving enough water. On the other hand, brown lesions, plumping of leaves, root rot, etc., shows your plants don’t need any more water.

Can I automate the runtime of my soaker hose system?

You can easily automate your soaker hose’s runtime by setting up the soil type, plant water requirements, and time. It will then automatically run for a certain time and stop!

Final Thoughts on How Long to Run a Soaker Hose

A soaker hose is a great tool and irrigation system for your plants. They provide balanced water and save you a lot of cash along the way. Not only that, they are great for the environment also.

But remember to adjust the runtime to your requirements. Some gardens might need only an hour of runtime, while others may need three; it all depends on different factors.

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