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Patrick is a watering fiend. Over years of marriage, I have come to realize that he uses it as a relaxing escape. During early-morning hours and as the sun sets in the evening, I will find him outside, hose in hand, mouth hanging open, spraying the grass or his veggie garden. It drives me nuts, because he always seems to do it during hectic moments of family life. I've learned to laugh about it, but that hasn't stopped me from thinking of ways to get Patrick to put down the garden hose and pick up the fussy baby. I'd like to install a nice, timer-controlled irrigation system that would keep the lawn green and my husband inside with the kids and me. Because we don't have existing sprinkler lines, the installation would cost thousands. A less-expensive solution came to mind a few evenings ago as I stood at the kitchen sink looking at Patrick dragging the hose around: what about a hose-end sprinkler? The next day, I sat down to make a few calls on the matter. My first was to my favorite nursery, Mission Hills Nursery on Fort Stockton Drive. "The brand that we offer is Gilmour," a salesman told me. "One is the rotary type. Those run $14.99 . And we also offer the metal body, which has different watering patterns on it, like a square or a circle. It's also by Gilmour. That one runs about $8.00 ."

Before I hung up, the salesman gave me a grass-watering tip. "The ideal way to water is to really get it soaked into the ground well. However, not all of us have flat land. So you have to water for a shorter period with more frequency if you have an uneven surface. If you can go 20 to 30 minutes, that is the best way to do it."

My next call was to Ace Hardware in Hillcrest, where associate Corey Martin warned me against any sprinkler with a plastic body. "Unfortunately," he explained, "the plastic ones nowadays are not very durable. At the most, you will get about a year's use out of it, if you use it once or twice a week. The metal ones, which are going to be about double the price, will last you a lot longer."

Martin says all of their sprinklers are big sellers; there is no one shining star. He tells his customers they should fit the sprinkler to the shape of their yards. "I wish I could tell you that one sprinkler would work for a ton of different areas, but unfortunately, each one fits specific needs. Basically, the user wants to find something that's going to fit their yard area. Maybe they want to get the lawn and the flowerbed all watered in one shot, or maybe they are trying to keep it off of the sidewalk. So the sprinkler needed is different based on each customer's needs, based on what type of area they are trying to cover. A smaller bubbler sprinkler -- think older style, metal sprinkler with a bunch of little holes on it -- will cover a 5- to 8-foot radius. An impulse sprinkler -- think classic chugging sprinkler sound -- will cover about a 35-foot radius. Those are for maximum coverage. Impulse sprinklers are adjustable, but only to a certain extent. The smallest spray you are able to get out of it is about 10 feet, and it will go out wider than that. Then there are the oscillating sprinklers, which keep going in a back-and-forth pattern. Those are for about a 25-foot radius. That's based on the water pressure that we have around here."

When my neigh-bor's sprinklers come on, it seems like half the water coming through them is turned into mist, which blows into our yard. I asked Martin why that happens.

"It could be that the sprinkler is clogged," Martin answered. "On certain sprinklers, where the pinpoint is -- where the water is coming out -- there could be a leak...or from the manufacturer, it may not have been drilled out enough. It's just one or two of the holes that are actually causing the mist."

Should you water for shorter or longer periods of time?

"It's better to water in shorter periods of time," he said. "Water for about 15 minutes, twice a day. You don't want to flood the lawn; you just want to give it enough to keep it damp. Morning and evening is perfect. If you do it bright and early in the morning before the sun hits, then it will have enough time to soak in that water. Especially with new grass, they definitely recommend you water it at least twice a day. If you have grass that has already been growing, you could probably get away with once a day."

The next day, Patrick made a trip down to Ace Hardware. He bought the medium-coverage Ace Oscillating Sprinkler ( $5.99 ), and for tricky corner spots in the yard, he snatched up the Ace Eight-Pattern Sprinkler ( $8.99 ).

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