Use these smart tips to know when to water plants and how to avoid over-watering throughout the summer growing season in your garden.
If the weeds are winning in your garden, also check out 7 Weeding Tips Every Gardener Should Know.
Create Your Own Watering Plan
How often should I water my plants?
That is one of the top garden-related searches on Google and an excellent question.
We know if we water too little, plants struggle or die.
And too much water is just as bad.
So how do we find that sweet spot where we provide the right amount of water at the right time?
I’ll show you how to know what your garden needs and some simple tips for successful watering.
1Forget the Old Rules
Watering is not one-rule-fits-all!
If you want to do what’s best for your plants and water responsibly, your garden is your guide.
How much water your plants need—and how often—depends entirely on your specific conditions and the plants themselves.
Needs will change throughout the growing season and that’s why we adapt as we go.
Factors Affecting Water Needs
- Humidity levels
- Sun exposure
- Soil quality
- Plant types / age / root depth
- Slopes / Grade
- Container materials / clay / plastic / metal
You can see why a fixed watering plan will not work: there are too many possible variations.
But the good news is, with the right tips and gear, you can create your own perfect watering routine.
2Get the Right Gear
Start with the right gear and have it where you need it so it’s easy to water on those terribly hot days where we would rather be indoors.
At the beginning of the growing season, I set up watering stations in key locations at the front and back of the house so I can water any time without having to lug hose around or set up attachments. Each hose is equipped with good watering nozzles.
How to Choose a Good Watering Nozzle
There are three main features to look for:
1. Be sure the nozzle has a variety of different settings. It’s one thing to fill a watering can but quite another to water tender young plants that need a soft, diffused spray.
2. Thumb control is also essential. This lets you turn the water on and off as you work and adjust the spray as desired. It’s better for the plants and minimizes water waste.
3. The other smart choice is a swivel connector. This allows the nozzle to move with your hand without twisting the garden hose. Game changer!
See Gilmour Watering Nozzles with Thumb Control here
My other favorite accessory is quick connectors.
Seriously, if you have ever wrestled with leaky connections, these will change your life.
No more twisting and fussing: just pop your hose and accessories on and off.
3Know Your Plant Watering Groups
I group my plants into three main watering categories:
ANew planted plants, trees, vines, shrubs, and seeds.
This group is top priority for watering: they cannot handle dry soil until their roots are well established.
Newly transplanted perennials may need a few weeks of consistent watering while trees can take a year to get established.
BAnnuals including Vegetables
This group has a short, intense, single growing season. They will need consistent watering to make it to the finish line in autumn.
Annuals and other vegetables growing in containers are at greatest risk of drying out, so tend to those first with your group 1 plants.
With their roots well-established and adequate rainfall, these guys may never need watering.
4Measure Moisture—Don’t Guess
It can be tricky to know what a plant needs just by looking at it.
We want to water before a plant is stressed, but even if it is, lack of water may not be the issue.
Plants can become droopy or limp from a lack of water or too much water, as well as disease or excessive heat.
That’s why it’s best to check the soil measure moisture levels before watering to be sure water is needed.
3 Easy Ways to Check Soil Moisture Levels
- 1 Press your finger into the soil
If the soil feels dry an inch or two deep, it’s watering time.
- 2 Push a wooden chopstick into the soil
If the chopstick comes out clean (no soil attached), it’s time to water.
- 3 Use a moisture Meter
Insert the probe into the soil and the dial indicates the moisture level.
I’ve been gardening for many years now and I still use a moisture meter for houseplants, outdoor containers, and veggie beds.
5Water the Soil, Not the Foliage
Yes, rain falls from above and waters plants, but, given a choice, it is best to water below stems, branches, and leaves at soil level so the water is delivered right where it is needed.
Test out all the settings on your watering nozzle and choose that fine spray that gently delivers water to the soil with minimal splash back. This helps avoid the spread of pathogens like tomato blight that reside in the soil.
Also, water the full circle around your plants to be sure you reach the entire root ball, not just the closest side.
6Water Slowly and Deeply
It is best to water deeply to reach the entire root base and encourage deeper root growth. Plants with deep roots are better equipped to withstand droughts and other stressful conditions.
Frequent, light watering fosters shallow root growth resulting in weak plants.
Watering slowly allows time for the water to get where it is needed. Sudden, heavy watering causes run-off with minimal soil penetration.
For containers, it’s a good sign after slowly watering to see excess water seep out the drainage holes. Wait 30 minutes and empty any remaining water from the saucer.
For garden beds, test to see how your soil absorbs water. It’s going to vary from day to day depending on conditions. I like to use the moisture meter after watering to be sure the water has penetrated at least 6-inches deep.
7Time of Day
Old-Fashioned Garden MythNEW! Click play to listen:
Have you heard this one?
Years ago, it was advised that you should never water plants in the hot mid-afternoon summer sun.
It was thought that water droplets on plants would magnify the hot sun, causing burns on the leaves.
Interesting idea but not true.
Water damage on leaves can be caused by acidity (acid rain) or excessive salts in the water but watering in hot sun is not a cause.
So, what’s the best time of day to water?
When the plants need it.
- Mornings can be best so any excess water can evaporate during the day.
- Evenings are okay unless you live in a humid area where fungi and pathogens are problematic.
- Afternoons may not make the best use of the water due to evaporation from heat, but, if your plants need water, don’t wait!
Water deeply and check moisture levels to ensure you’ve done a good job.
- Learn to water based on the ever-changing conditions in your garden.
- Get the right watering gear and have it ready so watering is never a chore.
- Know your watering groups so top priority plants get the care they need.
- Measure moisture levels first to be sure water is needed.
- Water the soil, not the foliage.
- Water slowly and deeply on all sides of plants to reach the entire root ball.
- Morning are the best time to water, but any time is fine if there is a risk of the soil drying out.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛