Most people, especially newbies to gardening will struggle with how to water their garden. Doubts about how much water, or how often to water will torment even the best-intentioned and well-advised gardener. It may seem a bit complicated, but it really isn’t that difficult. There are, however, some aspects of your garden that should be considered when it comes to water. These include:
- The soil type
- The climate where your garden is located
- The types of vegetables, plants, or flowers that you have planted.
The “When” of Watering
Timing is important. The recommended time for watering gardens is early in the morning as this helps to limit evaporation. However, late afternoon watering is fine as long as the leaves and foliage do not get wet because it could lead to fungal problems. If you water your plants in the evening or at night, they don’t benefit from the sun drying them off. Wet or damp leaves will be more subject to the development of fungus.
The question of when you should water your garden is immediately followed by how often should I water my garden? A general rule often cited, will be to water to about an inch or two of water penetration (2.5 to 5 centimeters) into the soil bed, once a week. The idea is to water deep into the soil but less frequently. This clearly contrasts with more frequent and shallower watering.
However, the type of watering you practice will depend on several factors that cannot be underestimated. Let’s consider soil type. If you have a garden bed that tends to be sandier in soil content, it will hold less water, whereas a heavy clay type of soil will hold water and moisture for quite a long time. In fact, the sandy soil may be at risk for insufficient moisture while the clay-based soil will probably be subject to overwatering. One method for finding a balance is to amend your soil bed with good compost. A good, healthy soil mix will allow excess water to drain while still retaining moisture for your plants. If you apply mulch, you can also reduce the need for water to some extent.
The weatherman will have a say in how often you water your garden. If you live in an area that is very hot and dry, you will need to water your garden more often. On the other hand, if you live in a rainy climate, you may not need to water at all or at least very little.
The type of plants you grow will indicate the “how much” of watering, as various plants or vegetables also have varying needs. No two will probably want the same drink of water in the same amount, unless perhaps directly related. Larger plants will require larger amounts of water than smaller plants, and newly planted vegetables or flowers will also initially require more water because of immature root systems.
Plants such as perennials, as well as many vegetables, have root systems that are shallow so they may require more frequent watering. They may need a daily drink, especially if the temperature climbs to 85° Fahrenheit and above. If any of your plants are vegetables that are growing in containers, they also will need more frequent watering during these very hot temperatures. So, the first thing to consider is exactly what plants you have in your garden and what their characteristics are.
Plant Thirst or How Much Water?
If you water deeper into the soil, this will contribute to encouraging stronger growth of the roots. For this reason, it is often recommended to water at least two inches deep into the soil bed. There are risks in watering frequently but shallowly, you risk evaporation loss together with weaker root growth.
If you have a good-sized garden, you may want to try an irrigation system for convenience. However, sprinklers that water from above are not a great idea except in the case of a grass lawn. This is because they cause you to lose quite a bit of your water through evaporation. The only exception to this rule may be on hot and windy days when a film of dust builds up on plant leaves. This dust layer can interfere with the plant’s ability to photosynthesize, so a shower to remove dust might be in order. Also, plants that apparently wilt due to heat, even if the roots are moist, may benefit from a quick shower.
Drip irrigation systems or soaker hoses are great options because they bring the water directly to the roots and any foliage will remain dry. You can water manually but it will be time-consuming with a larger garden plot. Hand watering is fine for a very small garden and container plants.
How long should I water my Garden?
While watering for ten to fifteen minutes several times a week may be very convenient to include in your schedule, it may be a death sentence for your plants. If you are watering frequently the surface, you will cause the plants’ roots to grow near the surface where they can easily be subject to drying out when not watered. Therefore, you should water the length of time it takes you to soak the soil bed to two inches deep and this should be done, as a rule of thumb, once a week. You may need to water more than once a week if you live in a particularly hot and dry climate or with a sandier soil mixture.
How often should I water my vegetable garden?
If you have a vegetable garden, the rule regardless of your type of soil bed will be to water when the soil appears dry to a depth of approximately two inches. If your climate is hot and dry you may need to water roughly every four days instead of once a week. The considerations regarding sandy or clay-like soil are pertinent but again, you should control the depth of the dryness of the soil. Sandy soil content will probably require more watering and clay-like soil beds, less.
Should I water my garden every day?
As a rule, no. But the truth is that different plants have differing needs. New transplants and very young seedlings may benefit from daily watering because they have root systems that are still limited by their youth and therefore need moisture consistently.
Helpful hints When Watering
- Water your garden less often but thoroughly, keeping the moisture level as even as possible.
- Water in the early morning and try to keep leaves and foliage dry as a rule to avoid fungal diseases.
- Make sure you are watering the roots and irrigating the entire plant area, don’t just water at one point or to one side of the plant.
- Water must seep into your soil bed, if you need to give more water, do it by watering partially, allowing the water to seep into the soil, and then repeating.
- Drought-tolerant plants, still need to be watered, especially during their first growing season. Just because a plant is listed as drought-tolerant doesn’t mean it can live without water or a source of moisture.
- Wilting means the plant needs water. This is not necessarily true. Perhaps the leaves are not receiving sufficient moisture, but any damage to the roots can trigger wilting. If there is too little water, they may wilt due to a lack of moisture. However, if there is too much water, they may wilt for lack of air. In the case of too much water, spaces in the soil remain filled with the water thus suffocating the roots.
- A rain gauge can be placed in your garden if you want to track how much rainwater your plants are getting. If you are in a rainy area, you can also use a container with straight sides and a ruler to gauge how much rain is falling.
The Bottom Line – How Often Do I Water My Garden?
The amount of water your garden requires depends on the plants growing in it. The type of plant, its growth stage, the type of soil in the garden bed, the weather, and the time of year will decide how often you water your garden and how much water you give. The rule to follow is, rather than watering on a schedule, give your plants water when they need it and that means literally staying “in touch” with your plants and your soil bed.