How to Properly Water the Garden

The line between under-watering, over-watering, and supplying just enough water to the garden is a very fine one. It can be difficult to know if you’re doing it right before the effects become detrimental to your plants.

Keeping a garden is one of my favorite summer pastimes, but it’s more than just a hobby for our family. Our goal is to grow as much of our own produce as we can, so learning proper garden maintenance is vital. Check out these few entries if you’re interested in additional gardening advice: The Basics to Starting Seeds Indoors, A Guide to Caring for Indoor Seedlings, How and Why to Prune Tomato Plants, Letting Chickens Till Our Garden, and much more!

Water is one of the main keys to a successful garden harvest, so what exactly does the process look like?

Let’s discuss the basics to watering a garden. How often, how much, what time of day, and so on. We’ll even give the warning signs for under-watering and over-watering. With some know-how, practice, and experience, watering your garden properly will soon become a natural feeling. I’ve also listed out more gardening resources at the very end of this post.

When to Water

The best time to water your garden is in the early morning hours while the sunlight is at its weakest point, ground is coolest, and foliage will have lots of time to dry before nightfall. I recommend aiming for sometime between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Watering in the evening is not ideal as the soil is usually very warm from soaking in the sun all day and wet foliage attracts insects, fungus, and disease. Wetting the plants right before dark gives them no opportunity to dry out.

Where to Water

Aim the water toward the base of a plant and avoid wetting the foliage as much as possible. Wet foliage invites fungus to breed. This method of watering will also cost you less water since more of it will soak into the soil rather than be evaporated off the leaves.

Avoid watering from overhead as much as possible. Droplets will catch on the leaves, keeping them from getting down to the roots.

How Often

If following the recommendation of watering your garden deeply and infrequently, one watering per week is usually sufficient

Also realize that each plant is unique, so some may want more water than others. I encourage you to observe your plants and do some research on their specific needs. Don’t simply assume that they all will thrive on the same watering patterns!

How often you water also depends on soil quality, climate, and exposure to sunlight. I live in Missouri, so we do not have 90 degree days all summer long. Someone in Florida experiences a much different set of circumstances. Knowing your soil, plants, climate, and sunlight exposure is a key in watering at the correct time.

How Much Water

Water deeply and less frequently so that you reach the roots. Soak the soil to a depth of 5-6 inches and the roots will be encouraged to grow deeper. Deeper roots make for a healthier garden!

Avoid light and frequent waterings as this can promote shallow root growth.

Signs of Under-Watering

  • Soil is dry
  • Older leaves turn yellow or brown and may begin falling off.
  • Leaves are wilted and/or curled.

Signs of Over-Watering

  • Soil is constantly damp.
  • Young leaves become light green or yellow.
  • Young shoots are wilted.
  • Leaves are green but brittle.
  • Algae and mushrooms are growing.

What About Sprinklers?

Use irrigation systems that are as close to the ground as possible or sprinklers that allow you to change water delivery patterns (pulsating or revolving) that shoots water out horizontally at a high speed.

Don’t use sprinklers that shoot water up into the air. Most of it evaporates before it hits the ground or is blown away by wind.

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