The Magic Water Wand
For Watering Your Roses and the Rose Garden
By Robert B. Martin, Jr., Master Rosarian

WEBMASTER'S SPECIAL NOTE: Some of the products mentioned in this article are no longer available, however we continue to provide this information because it may be helpful. Home Depot and other home and garden shops and nurseries such as Green Thumb offer water wands of various types. Most look like a shower head at the end of the metal pipe.

Imagining that one day it might be summer, my thoughts turn this month to the water wand, an important piece of gardening equipment that gets regular use in my rose garden throughout those sunny days. 

Actually I have two types of tools that are each called a water wand. One is a long handled hose attachment with a water breaker at the end. The water breaker breaks the water stream into fine rain-like particles while the long handle permits easy extension to reach under or over plants. I have three of these, one at each of my three hose bibs in the three main parts of my garden.

The second tool is a Walter Vinton water wand [no longer available]. Walter has been selling these through an advertisement in the American Rose magazine since the beginning of time and I am now on my second. This is a long (48-inch) thin hose attachment with a sprinkler head at the end. The sprinkler head breaks the water into a strong fine stream that is somewhat similar to the sprinkler heads you probably got to run through in your youth.

I use the water-breaker water wands regularly in the rose garden throughout the year. This explains why I have one at each of the hose bibs. My most common use is for container watering. The long handle is useful for reaching down to the container and the gentle spray doesn't disturb the soil in the pot. A water wand is superior to all other watering devices for hand watering outdoor containers whether of roses or other plants.

The water breaker type of water wand is also useful for washing off the top of the foliage. Roses get dusty and dirty and like an occasional shower.  I often do this before spraying.  Conventional watering nozzles can damage tender new foliage or push the developed foliage against the thorns, tearing leaves and blooms. In contrast, the water wand provides a gentle rain-like stream, which does not disturb the foliage as much. 

I also use the water breaker type for watering in fertilizers. It is desirable to water in dry fertilizers after their application around the base of plants and I have found that this can be best accomplished by the gentle flooding available from the watering wand.

I use the Walter Vinton water wand for the control of spider mites and powdery mildew throughout the summer. In fact, it is my main line of pest control during the summer days. Over the last several years I have gone through most summers without spraying at all; in the other years I have had to revert only occasionally to the use of a miticide

The sprinkler head on the Walter Vinton wand is indispensable for washing the undersides of the foliage of roses. The very strong fine spray blasts off spider mites, which congregate under leaves when it is hot. The long handle makes it easy to get under the rose bush.

Although the use of a water wand to control spider mites is common among rosarians, less known is its value of water in controlling powdery mildew. Unlike the water-borne fungus diseases such as black spot, powdery mildew spores are inhibited by water. And since we rarely ever see black spot in our dry California summers it is perfectly fine to use water to control powdery mildew as long as it is warm enough or there is enough daylight left to permit the foliage to dry. My practice is to follow up the spraying of the undersides of the leaves by turning the water wand over and blasting off the tops as well. The strong spray will actually remove a lot of any mildew that it contacts.

Another advantage in using the Walter Vinton water wand during the summer is that it helps keep the rose garden cool. At temperatures above 90 degrees a rose actually transpirates, i.e. gives off water, faster than it can take it up. The fine spray of the water wand cools the foliage and also cools the ambient air around the rose. In addition, the brisk shower is of value in keeping the stomata on the undersides of the leaves clear from dust and other particulates, thus allowing the rose to better transpirate water. 

The most common watering wand available in our area is the "Water Wand" by Alaska Fish Fertilizer Co., Model 536 C, available at about $15 from local nurseries and home stores. It comes with a 36-inch handle and a "Soft Rain" water breaker with a two-inch face. It also comes with a "Lifetime Guarantee" [Just return "prepaid" to the Company in Washington] but despite this assurance, I wear out about one a year. They are particularly susceptible to wear at the point where the plastic fitting and shut-off valve meets the brass threading of the hose.

A second watering wand found in some local nurseries is the Dramm "Rain Wand" with a 30-inch handle and a 400 PL Water Breaker with a two-inch face. It also generally costs about $15. There is also a "professional" model at about $26, which also comes in designer colors. The main difference between the professional and regular model is that the professional model has a solid brass fitting and shut off valve. 

I prefer the Dramm "Rain Wand" to the Alaska "Water Wand" because of its more sturdy construction. Also the "Water Wand" by Alaska has a water breaker, which has fewer holes and consequently the spray is much harder. The harder water spray also causes more recoil and makes the Water Wand harder to handle. 

One disadvantage of the Dramm Rain Wand is that it usually has a shorter handle. Although it is said to come in five available handle sizes from 16" to 48" plus two with a 90-degree bend, the nurseries seem to only stock the 30-inch size. By contrast the Alaska Water Wand is usually available with a 36-inch handle. 

It should also be noted that both Alaska and Dramm make an entire line of water breakers, including a narrower model with about a 1 3/8-inch face. My experience with the narrower face is that it delivers a much stronger spray of water than is necessary and will disturb the soil in containers. There are also mist and fogging nozzles for special applications.

In addition to the name brands, there are a number of generic extension handles, water breakers and shut-off nozzles available in stores and in mail-order catalogues, such as that of A.M. Leonard, from whom I buy a lot of tools. If you are so inclined, you can mix and match the parts to create a water wand to suit your own preference. 

NO LONGER AVAILABLE FROM THIS SUPPLIER:
The Walter Vinton water wand is available by mail for $24.50 (delivery is included) from Walter H. Vinton, 1056 South Fort, Springfield, MO 65807. Phone: 417-862-4666. It is well constructed and the only reason I had to buy a second one is that I loaned my first one to someone who failed to return it. So don't plan to borrow mine. I intend to stay cool this summer. I hope you do as well.

MORE ARTICLES ON WATERING THE ROSE GARDEN
"The Right Amount of Water"
"Rings Around the Roses"

Reprinted by permission of the author.

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© Copyright Robert B. Martin, Jr. All rights reserved.
Updated March 1, 2014