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Mary Lowther column: Why can’t hoses untangle themselves?

Why can’t they modify rubber plants with snake DNA so hoses will be able to untangle themselves?
Two hoses rolled up, impersonating snakes and ready to go under cover. (Mary Lowther photo)

By Mary Lowther

You wouldn’t guess it to look at him, but David occasionally releases his inner geek. When he heard of a study that connected orange juice with cancer, for example, he actually mailed away for a copy. He drinks a lot of orange juice. Imagine his relief when he got the study and worked out that the scientists had been flushing enough juice through each rat to equal 30 times their body weight, every day. The miracle would have been if the rats had not died and he did not have to drink his vodka straight.

This was the first (and so far only) time David ever felt sorry for the rats, and the moment he started questioning the motive behind whatever forces fund these investigations. Were they trying to sell more tomato juice? Was it a plot to reduce property values in rural Florida? Stuff like this can keep a body up all night.

If scientists can genetically modify tomatoes with pork DNA to make them plumper and goats with spider DNA to make their milk into unbreakable thread, why can’t they modify rubber plants with snake DNA so hoses will be able to untangle themselves? You’d have to make sure you only used potable water or you might end up with PETA taking you to court. In a worst case scenario they could slither away, herds of escaped, chlorine intolerant garden hoses wriggling about seeking more salubrious waters in the local swamp or septic field. Some may think that this is absurd, but David prefers to think of it as Pythonesque.

He has a point, though. Now that winter rains negate the need for hoses and cold weather dictates the need for draining and storing them until spring, I could use hoses that untangled themselves. If they could be trained to curl up and put themselves away, so much the better.

Soaker hoses reduce water consumption, decrease weed growth and help prevent water-borne diseases that would stick to plant leaves, and by attaching each hose to a timer set to water appropriately I am spared having to constantly move the water sprinkler, but they are genetically unmodified and do not put themselves away.

I haven’t labeled my hoses in the past, but this year I have a much larger garden, so from now on I’m going to do this, removing each hose, numbering the labels and writing them down on a map I keep of the garden. I uncouple each hose and carefully roll it up, allowing water to drain out, then screw the top to the bottom and store them out of the sun and weather. This way my hoses last at least six years.

I’ve tried several kinds and found that the black soaker hoses last longer; the flat green ones work well for a year or two but then the holes clog. Black soaker hoses can be joined together and soak reliably throughout their length, watering everything along the way, dripping slowly down to the root zone so none is wasted through evaporation. I prefer the larger ones but the half inch work well. I buy 50-foot lengths, lay them along a row and wind them carefully around the end of the bed, bringing them back up to water another row. I usually connect another hose to this to take it back down another row.

Black soaker hoses can also be cut and joined to regular pieces of hose in areas that don’t need watering, like between beds. Home Hardware sells connecting devices that work perfectly. Come the dry season I feel quite smug when watering restrictions arrive, knowing that the watering is taking care of itself. Timer, hoses and other watering paraphernalia don’t come cheap, so I take good care of them at the end of summer. These black hoses are guaranteed for several years, but I’ve found that when I look after them they outlast their guarantees.

I may have to untangle them myself but at least they stay put. If the scientists want to impress this gardener they can modify hogweed to taste like caramel sundaes and leave my hoses alone.

Please contact with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.