Here’s another handy little tool for the home gardener that requires no batteries, no gasoline, no electricity, and very little human effort to use—the hand pump garden sprayer.
The basic parts of the sprayer are: (1) the tank for holding the liquid, (2) the hand pump mechanism for pressurizing the tank, (3) a length of hose that extends from the tank to the sprayer wand, and (4) the wand with its adjustable nozzle tip for controlling the amount and spray pattern of the liquid you are spraying.
The tank sprayer is great for applying insecticides to your flowers, ornamentals, and garden vegetable plants, dormant oils to your fruit trees, and herbicidal weed killers to undesirable vegetation growing in your lawn, landscaped flower beds, or in and along your walkway and driveway.
Most sprayer tanks are now made from plastic, although some tanks are also available that are made from metal. To me, the plastic tanks are more desirable because of their lighter weight, lower cost, and the fact that they won’t “dent.”
The same is true of the sprayer wand and adjustable tip—these are also available in metal or plastic. My preference for plastic also holds true for these parts, as the metal wand can be bent to the point of breaking and the metal tips can corrode.
It sounds like such a simple tool—what could possibly go wrong?
Not much, really, but let’s take a look at a couple of points of possible malfunction in the operation of your hand pump garden sprayer.
First, let’s consider the pump mechanism that pressurizes the tank. Following the addition of your liquid mixture into the tank, this cylindrical tube has to be inserted and securely tightened (clockwise) or the pressurized air will leak out around the top of the pump.
Another possible leakage of air can occur from around the rubber disc on the bottom of the pump mechanism. This soft disc, which is about the same diameter as a quarter (see photo at left), allows air to be pumped into the tank on the downward thrust. But it also has to seal off airflow during the upward pull or the tank will not pressurize properly.
If your tank sprayer is losing air, check this disc to be sure there is not dirt, sand, or any other debris that may prevent it from sealing itself against the bottom of the pump. Also, over a period of time, this soft rubber gasket seal can harden or deteriorate to the point where it will not seat properly, thus allowing air to escape.
If the gasket is not sealing properly, pull it off and replace it. You can buy a “tune-up” kit containing this and other parts from the same supplier who sold you the original sprayer.
Clogging of the sprayer tip is also a common source of irritation in the use of your garden sprayer. Unscrew the tip to check for dirt or debris in the tip itself as well as in the small holes in the end of the wand where the nozzle attaches. Even a very small bit of dirt, grass, sand, or seed can obstruct the proper flow pattern of the pressurized liquid.
Another possible source of trouble in your hand pump garden sprayer is the strainer tip on the end of the tube that extends into the tank that allows pick-up of the liquid into the tube and wand. If the tank is properly pressurized and the liquid sputters or does not spray correctly from the sprayer tip that you’ve already checked, this strainer tip may be clogged. Remove this tube (by unscrewing) to check for obstructions.
Rinse your tank sprayer thoroughly with clean water after each use and hang it upside down until needed again. Maintaining cleanliness and checking for these possible trouble spots should allow you to get many years of reliable service from your handy little hand pump garden sprayer.