By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
Before you turn over the first spade of dirt for your new veggie garden, you’ll want to take stock of your equipment. Spades, shovels, picks — these things tend to accumulate in garages and storage closets, and you’ve probably got some already. If you’ve done any flower gardening or have potted plants, you also likely have a watering can that can be used in the veggie patch.
First, consider that the garden hose you have may not be the purest water conveyance. In fact, many garden hoses can leach trace amounts of lead. That’s because they’re made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is made using lead as a stabilizing agent.
The leaching from these hoses is apparently quite variable, depending on temperatures and whether water remains sitting in the hose. A Consumer Reports’ analysis found that some hoses didn’t leach much more lead than might be found in drinking water and that some leach enough lead to exceed by many times the Environmental Protection Agency’s safe thresholds.
The bottomline for your garden: Lead is a heavy metal that can accumulate in soil. It’s not healthy for anyone, but it’s especially dangerous for young children, in whom it can cause neurological damage. So take special care in selecting any hoses that you may be using in the garden. You may be safe with a hose that’s labeled as safe for drinking.
Consumer Reports suggests looking for a hose marked “safe for drinking” or labeled as safe for boating or camping use, such as this Apex Never Kink Hose.
These safer hoses tend to be made of competitively priced polyurethane or the somewhat pricier rubber.
Some safer hoses available online include the Drinking Water Safe Coil Hose and the Gatorhyde Green Garden Hose. The polyurethane Gatorhyde gets you bonus green points because it’s made of 50 percent recycled material.
If you’re shopping in stores, check any new hoses for potential problems by looking for a warning that’s required as the result of a 2004 California lawsuit against selected hose manufacturers. Our recent check at the neighborhood Big Box found that every hose offered carried the warning.
By the way, when watering vegetable plants, especially seedlings, a fine spray or ground-level drip-line watering is most effective, necessary even. Don’t expect to water these delicate plants with the same powerful blast from the hose that you use on the lawn. You might want to consider using a soaker hose. These seeping hoses, made from old tires, can be the most efficient, water-conserving way to water a vegetable garden. See the Gardening and Yardening blog for more on how to use them. Apparently people sometimes fail to use them correctly. (And now you’re wondering, do soaker hoses contain lead? And the definitive answer: I don’t think so.)
If your garden is not large, you could skip getting tangled up in this hose issue altogether by choosing to water with a watering can. Or you might also buy a rain barrel and water the garden with rainwater using your watering can. Of course, rain water that rolls off an asphalt roof can contain debris from the roof. On the other hand, it’s free of the chlorine that comes free-of-charge in your sanitized city water, which many organic gardeners consider a problem because chlorine can sap a plant’s vitality by killing beneficial bacteria.
There are solutions to getting the chlorine out of your gardening water, filters that dechlorinate and attach to your hose. But these are matters for fuller exploration another day. Who knew watering a simple garden could be so complicated? For now, we’re hosed!
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