Introduction: How to Make a Garden Hose Festoon

How to make a what??? A festoon. A festoon is a way to hang hose via pullies so that it accordion folds and never touches the ground let alone assaults the delicate plants that you sweat in the hot sun to protect and nurture. Our garden is 60 feet long and 25 feet wide. We had been using a 100 foot hose to get around the whole thing. We could have automated the whole thing but my wife is somewhat of a purest and likes to go out and water the plants that need it while talking to them about her day and generally de-stressing. Who am I to judge. Some people do drugs, others do needlepoint, she waters plants. The problem that we were having is the same problem that every one who has a garden of modest size has. The dang tooting, devil possessed, rat fink, untamed hose keeps breaking the plants off at the ground as I pull it around the garden dispensing water. No matter how careful I am tip toeing through the yellow squash, every year I manage to annihilate an innocently by standing plant with the aforementioned hose. This year I have a hair brained scheme to defend my helpless garden dwellers from the giant waffle stomping oaf that is their caretaker. (That would be me, not the wife)

Step 1: How It Works...

The basic idea of the whole thing is an overhead cable stretched tight across the length of your garden area and then little trolley assemblies that hold sections of hose. The height of the cable determines how much hose each trolley can hold. The wand/spray nozzle end needs to be just long enough to reach from the cable to the farthest reaches of your garden side to side.You will have to adapt to your situation but here is the layout of my system. (see picture)

Step 2: Setting the Cable...

I used 4x4 fence posts that were 10 feet tall. This allowed me to place the posts 2 feet in the ground and still have 8 feet above ground. Me, the waffle stomping oaf, needs a few feet of clearance to move about. The wife, less so. I placed the posts at the extreme ends of the garden. You will also need an additional 8 feet on the other side of the posts to anchor the cable in the ground. For us this was not an issue. For people with a back yard garden in the city this could be more of a challenge. You will need two fixed points that you can anchor your cable to and put a pretty fierce tension on. I would be somewhat reluctant to attach this to the corner post of the deck or something like that unless it is really attached solidly with plenty of reinforcements to keep the cable tension from ripping the deck off the house. (fast way to tick off the wife) If you are setting up like mine, set your posts in the ground at least two feet. They don't need to be set in concrete or anything like that but do tamp them down good as the force of the cable will be pushing the posts down deeper into the ground. Once you have the posts in the ground measure from the ground to the top of the post. In our case that was 8 feet from ground to tip of post. Add two to this number for a little extra to loop through the anchor and come back. (10) This is the amount of cable you will need per end. Now measure the distance between the posts. In our case this was 60 feet. Take 60 and add 10 feet for one side and then another 10 feet for the other side. This will be the piece of cable that you will need to purchase along with at least 5 cable clamps. (the 5th one is to attach a hand winch to tighten the whole thing) You will then pound an anchor into the ground about the same height as the post away from from the base of the post.
The anchor is just that, an anchor, not a tent peg, not a piece of rebar, a real anchor. In my case I used a 3 foot piece of 2 1/2 inch angle iron with two holes drilled in the top end to loop the cable through. Using a sledge hammer I bashed it in at about a 45 degree angle away from the post until only about 2 inches stuck out from the dirt just barely leaving the holes exposed. I attached one end of the cable with two cable clamps to the anchor holes.
Note: when you drill the holes in the angle iron make sure to deburr them and chamfer the holes so the cable can run smoothly through without cutting the wire fibers.
Then the cable was run up and over the tops of the two 8 foot posts and then through the holes in the anchor on the other side. You should have about 2 feet of cable on the other side of the anchor before tightening +/-. For the tightening I used a come along. Create a loop in the end of the cable after passing it through the anchor and fasten it with a cable clamp. This loop is connected to the hook of the come along. A temporary cable clamp is attached up the cable a distance and the come along is attached to the the cable clamp. When the come along is tightened the loop and the temp clamp are brought together. When you have good snug tension then install the permanent cable clamps just above the anchor. Then remove the come along.

Step 3: Creating the Trollies...

Now that you have a nice tight cable that runs the length of your garden, now we need to make the trolleys. There are hundreds of ways to do this so Ill give you the basics that I made and you can adapt to what you have.

The trolleys are basically three parts: a pulley, a hose guide and the brackets that mate them together. I found some small pulleys at a salvage yard that were just the right size. I found something very close at home depot. The side pieces are sheet metal that I had laying around. The hose guide is a 4 inch wooden circle a bit wider than the hose that was cut in half. The hose guide allows the hose to go over without kinking. Simple. To figure out how many trolleys you will need, measure the distance between the cable and just short of the ground. Double this number. This is how much hose is between each trolley. For example sake we will say between the ground and the cable is 7 feet. Two times 7 feet or 14 feet. The hose end will be about 8 feet long. So far you have 22 feet of hose with only one trolley. For my 100 foot hose I have 6 trolleys and some hose left on the ground. Create as many as you need.

Step 4: Final Tips...

If you are using a vinyl hose then you will need to pressurize the hose and then adjust the distance and take out the twists so that it lays flat. A rubber hose doesn't twist as much so it is less of a problem.

When watering the hose will trail out behind you on the cable. When you are done watering, make sure to push the festoon all the way back to the beginning to keep the cable from stretching out from the weight of the hose.

Expect that the center of the cable will strech to the ground when you are extended all the way out from the weight of the hose so adjust the lengths of your festoon loops accordingly.

Good luck.

A Machine Tech