The 5 Best Garden Sprinklers Available… & Exactly Why Metal is Better Than Plastic

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The Best Garden Sprinkler Evaluated - Article

What type of sprinkler best suits your lawn and garden?

AS MUCH AS I LOVE my gardens, I am not too fond of standing around with hose in hand trying to water it. Using a hand nozzle or the wrong type of sprinkler can leave some spots in your garden too dry and others flooded.

Neither of which is going to do your veggies much good. The best way to deal with this is with a little bit of research on finding the best garden sprinkler to fit your specific needs....

The 5 Different Types of Lawn & Garden Sprinklers

Stationary Garden Sprinkler in Action

A stationary sprinkler in action

#1 - The Stationary Sprinkler

These sprinklers can be used to spread large amounts of water over a specified area of your garden. You can buy a range of different styles that distribute the water based on the pattern of holes in the sprinkler head.

If you have areas of your garden that require frequent heavy watering such as your corn patch, squash, and watermelons. The only bad thing about this type of sprinkler is that you need to keep a close eye on and be prepared to move it frequently so that you don't over-water.

Oscillating Sprinkler in action on lawn

#2 - The Oscillating Sprinkler

This type of sprinkler has a long metal (or plastic) tube that oscillates back and forth providing a wide spray pattern that can be used to cover a large area. Because the water spray quite high, this type of sprinkler is ideal for taller plants.

The spray is gentle enough to be used on young plants and freshly planted seeds. However, because the water sprays so high, it tends to evaporate on hot days and blow away in the wind.

Impact Sprinkler

#3 - The Impact Sprinkler

Just like it sounds, these sprinklers move the water around your garden when the weighted lever hits the anvil. They put out a strong stream of water that can spray over a long distance.

You can adjust the length of the spray along with how much of a circle is covered. The typical range of movement runs from 15 to 360 degrees. Many allow you to adjust the stream width to cover a little more area. But, you need to be careful as the powerful stream of water can damage small plants.

Rotary Garden Sprinkler - Orbit_Metal_Sprinkler

Image Courtesy of ORBIT

#4 - The Rotary Sprinkler

This type of sprinkler uses a number of arms to spray water over your lawn or garden. The jets of water are set in such a way as to make the sprinkler head rotate for maximum coverage.

You can use this type of sprinkler to cover larger areas. It may be the best garden sprinkler style for larger areas and for smaller plants as the spray of water is quite gentle.

Tractor Garden Sprinkler - Map of Travel

Image Courtesy of Nelson

#5 - The Travelling Sprinkler

Better known as the "tractor" sprinkler for obvious reasons, these sprinklers are designed to move in a set pattern driven by the water as it enters the sprinkler. They are perfect for watering large areas of lawn without requiring much in the way of supervision. However, they are not much use in a garden as the soft soil will hinder their movement as will the presence of virtually every plant in it.

Before Choosing A Garden Sprinkler...

The most important things to remember when looking at garden sprinklers are that one size does not fit all and you may need more than one type of sprinkler to get the job done. Here are five quick questions you need to ask before you start shopping.

  • How big is your garden?

  • Do you need to concentrate the watering on specific areas or are you trying to cover a large area?

  • Do you have areas of the garden where the water needs to reach directly into the soil?

  • Are there different types of soil in your garden that require different amounts of water such as sand or clay?

  • Is your garden flat or does it sit on a slope or is it an unusual shape?

There are a few other things you need to think about as you search for a top garden sprinkler to meet your needs. These include:

  • Water efficiency (Ongoing Cost)

  • Quality of materials (Durability)

Given the high cost of water in most areas of the country, any sprinkler you buy for your garden needs to make maximum use of every drop of water. This is why you may find it necessary to buy more than one type of sprinkler as each design has its good and bad points.

Large Agricultural Sprinkler Used to Water Large Areas

Large agricultural water sprayers like this are one of the best way for farmers to efficiently use water

Why Metal Garden Sprinklers are Better Value than Plastic Ones

If you walk into the average department store, garden supply store, or discount DIY superstore, you are likely to find the vast majority of the garden sprinklers they have for sale are made mostly of plastic, it is getting harder to find quality all-metal sprinklers, but you will find the search and additional cost well worth it.

Plastic sprinklers have one major problem, they tend to have a short lifespan. They are easily broken, may warp if left out in the sun, and often are of inferior quality. This means you could end up with a dud sprinkler that lets you down right in the middle of growing season.

Having said this, good metal garden sprinklers tend to be more expensive. However, they are a ot more durable and last longer. They also are not going to break due to the heat and UV rays of the sun. All of this combines to make them a much better choice as you are likely to see a much higher return on your investment.

I know some of my neighbors who have these old ugly metal sprinklers they have been using for 20+ years!

7 Points to Ponder When Shopping for a Good Garden Sprinkler

Now that you have a good basic idea of the different types, let's take a quick look at the various features to consider.

1 - Coverage

You need to choose a sprinkler that will provide your garden with the proper coverage. Choose one that covers the most ground possible as this will save you from needing to move your sprinkler multiple times to cover the entire garden.

2 - Water Flow

There is no point in buying a sprinkler that doesn't put enough water down on your garden. Sprinklers like this require you to leave them turned on for far too long, which in turn may leave you unable to cover the entire garden in a single day.

3 - Distance or Range

Again, this has to do with how much of your garden will be covered in a single watering. Look for a sprinkler that has distance adjustments that can be made right at the sprinkler head rather than relying on adjusting the water pressure. Not only is this more accurate, but it allows you to still get the maximum amount of water to your plants.

4 - Rotation Control

If you plan to buy an impact type sprinkler, it must have some form of rotation adjustment. This lets you decide which part of the garden is watered. It will also let you water the whole area to the desired water level and then cut the amount of rotation down for the area that needs a deeper watering.

5 - Durability

Unless you plan to buy a very cheap plastic garden sprinkler (I tried this once, much to my regret), you need to pay close attention to the quality of those you are interested in. A good sprinkler can be relatively expensive (especially all-metal ones). But a good metal sprinkler should provide you with many years of reliable service and prove to be an excellent investment.

6 - Hose Connection

While most sprinklers (including plastic ones) have a brass hose fitting, there are a few that use a plastic fitting instead. While a plastic fitting might not seem to be a problem, wait until the first time you manage to step on the hose right by the connection and see if it is still a good idea.

Always choose a sprinkler that comes with a brass fitting for maximum lifespan and durability.

7 - Gears and Drive

Even if you do invest in a good metal garden sprinkler, you may find that it comes with plastic gears or drives. (most do). This is where it really pays to spend a little more money.

If you can, find a sprinkler that still uses metal gears or drives. This way if something stops the head from rotating, the gears aren't likely to strip and leave you with a useless sprinkler.

Garden sprinklers are for the most part very simple in design. In fact, you are likely to find that the simpler ones cause less hassle as you can set them in place, turn them on, and forget them until it's time to move them or turn them off.

The most important thing to remember is that investing in a more expensive quality sprinkler will save you money in the long run. These sprinklers also tend to do a much better job, which will help your garden grow.

The 5 Top Metal Garden Sprinkler Picks

Here are the top garden sprinklers. One in each category.

NOTE: At the end of this section I let you know which of the top garden sprinklers I have in my shed

Stationary Sprinkler

Gilmour Circle Pattern Spot Sprinkler

Nice round pattern covers a circle measuring 30 feet in diameter

GILMOUR Circle Pattern Spot Sprinkler (876C)

This is perhaps the simplest all-metal garden sprinkler available. It puts out a nice round pattern of water that can reach up to 30 feet in diameter.

The metal construction makes this one virtually indestructible. Plus, it is designed to work with low water pressure.

This style of sprinkler is also available with a square or rectangular pattern.

ProsCons
Low-costLightweight design can flip over easily
Zero maintenanceRectangular pattern can make it hard to determine best water volume
Good coverage even with low water pressureUnless you have serious water pressure coverage may be less than advertised

Oscillating Sprinkler

Melnor XT Metal Heavy-Duty Turbo Oscillating Sprinkler

A new twist on a timeless sprinkler

Melnor_XT_Heavy-Duty_Sprinkler

MELNOR XT Metal Heavy-Duty Turbo Oscillating Sprinkler

Presenting a new twist on a timeless sprinkler design. This one uses sliding tabs to allow you adjust the watering pattern from 10 to 75 feet. You can also set the spray in the center, to the left, or to the right.

It also features a spray width adjustment you can set from 10 to 53 feet. There is a flow control to help you make more precise adjustments to the pattern. It features 18 nozzles and a large tube that helps to hold the sprinkler in place.

ProsCons
Long-Lasting Turbo MotorWidth control levers break easily
Easy slide adjustersPlastic parts become brittle
Integrated flow controlNeeds high water pressure to reach maximum distance

Impact Sprinkler

Green Thumb 967HZSGT Spike Sprinkler, Metal

Brass and zinc combine to make an all-metal sprinkler

Bosch_Garden_and_Watering

BOSCH Garden and Watering 967HZSGT Spike Sprinkler, Metal

This is a truly all-metal sprinkler made from zinc and brass to last a very long time. The impulse arm is designed to eliminate side and back splash to save you water. The diffuser can be easily and quickly adjusted.

Coverage is rated at up to 5,800 square feet or a circle of up to 86 feet in diameter. It features a male and female connector that lets you add one or more sprinkler inline for maximum coverage of large areas.

ProsCons
All-metal construction built to lastTip of zinc spike breaks easily when you hit a rock
Fully adjustable spray patternProblems with the direction controls
Can add more sprinklers in lineTends to clog easily

Rotary Sprinkler

Orbit 58257N Metal 3-Arm Sprinkler

Three arms but plenty of water

Orbit_Metal_Sprinkler

Image Courtesy of ORBIT  - 58257N Metal 3-Arm Sprinkler

The simple twirling action offers even coverage in a circle that may measure up to 24 feet in diameter depending on water pressure and where you set the adjustment. The wheels help make it easy for you to move it to the right location and the wide base ensures it doesn't fall over.

The heavy-duty all-metal construction ensures this good garden sprinkler will provide you with many years of flawless performance.

ProsCons
Heavy-duty all-metal constructionArms can fall out
Adjustable pattern up to 24 feet in diameterSpray nozzles on ends fall out
Extra connector lets you "daisy-chain" more sprinklersDoes not always spin properly

Traveling Sprinkler

Nelson 1865 Raintrain Traveling Sprinkler

A sturdy all-metal tractor sprinkler

Nelson_Raintrain_Traveling_Sprinkler

NELSON1865 Raintrain Traveling Sprinkler

While a tractor sprinkler may not be good for use in your garden, you can always set it to run alongside your garden while it is watering your lawn.

This sprinkler is self-propelled and is designed to follow that path set by the garden hose. It comes with a ramp that turns the sprinkler off and can travel up to 200 feet. The adjustable aluminum spray arms let you determine the watering diameter ranging from 15 to 55 feet.

ProsCons
All-metal constructionNot really for garden use
Auto shut-off rampTransmission design weak
3 speeds, low, neutral, highMay not drag hose uphill

Another Popular Option

If none of the above options work for you, there is one more you might want to consider, especially if you have a garden filled with taller plants.

SOMMERLAND Brass Impact Tripod Sprinkler 

Reach all new heights with this sprinkler

Brass_Impact_Tripod_Sprinkler

SOMMERLAND Brass Impact Tripod Sprinkler

Get the water where it needs to go with all-brass impact sprinkler mounted on a brass tripod that can lift your sprinkler up to 48 inches in the air. The head can be adjusted from 0 to 360 degrees. The tripod can be adjusted from 25 to 48 inches using heavy-duty clip-locks.

Unlike many standard sprinklers, you can replace the head as needed or if you prefer a different type of head.

ProsCons
All-brass tripod and headSprinkler head has a reputation for not working
Adjusts up to 48 inches highHose connection leaks
Offers coverage of up to 5,000 square feetDoes not spray as far as claimed

Good to the Last Drip

If I had had this information when I started buying sprinklers, I could have saved a lot of time and of course money.

As for a winner, to me, they are all winners in their own class. But out in my garden shed you will find the Melnor oscillating sprinkler, the Sommerland tripod sprinkler and one of the Gilmore stationary sprinklers, each of which was chosen for a specific purpose and all of which do a great job.

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