Garden Fan sprayers, Old ones, New ones, Good and Bad sprinkler designs,, what to buy for watering garden beds & why I like them.
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I like fan sprayers for watering the garden. They seem like almost a must have for wide beds especially. They deliver a lot of water, but if the holes are small enough, the spray is gentle enough that it doesn’t do too much damage to seedlings of cause excessive soil damage. Other types of sprinklers I’ve seen that spray out in a fan spray in a flat sheet, or in smaller volume. If the point is to get water into the soil, high volume is critical. If the water sprays out in a flat sheet, the larger droplets or sheet of water will hit the soil and plants much harder.
Vintage fan sprayers mostly seem to have small enough holes. Most, if not all, new models have large holes. They were not really designed carefully. For the most part, people just copy what has been done before. Engineering a model for something and testing it thoroughly before prducing a jillion of them for people to actually use, is a sacred trust. I mean test the thing through as many prototypes as it takes to get it right. If I were designing one of these, I’d test all kinds of stuff. Hole size, number, pattern, curvature of the spray face in both directions. It would be tried with water pressures between at least 15 psi and 60 psi etc. Make it work and make it work really well, then worry about whether it’s feasible to construct affordably and make compromises accordingly.
Fan sprayers have a wide coverage and also some depth to the spray, though not a ton. That might be improved. The wide coverage makes them very useful for wide beds, but by tilting the sprayer between horizontal and vertical, the width of the spray can be adjusted down to dump most of the water in only about a one foot diameter area. This trait makes them very versatile for hand watering beds.
Many new fan sprinklers come with a valve. I think that is a mistake and shows, at the very least, a disregard for longevity, and at worst planned obsolescence. Eventually that valve will leak and in many cases rather sooner than later. I can think of no reason to have the valve anyway. Most hoses should already have a hose shut off valve on them anyway so you can switch sprinklers and such without getting sprayed in the face with water. and leaking a bunch all over the ground.
I can’t recommend a new fan sprayer, but you can shop for used ones at flea markets and such. The Ross is the best brand I’ve used and may very well be the original. The Ross #10 was patented in 1924. Later The Ross #11 with a zinc or aluminum body and a brass spray face was made. I’ve also used other old brands that have small enough holes. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an old one with large holes, or a new one with holes as small as the old ones. I think they holes should probably be even smaller yet, but I’d have to test that. The small holes can clog, but that is rarely going to be a serious problem unless you have dirty, water and no filtration. Cleaning them out once in a while is probably well worth the finer spray from smaller holes.