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How to Water Your Garden

Updated on January 17, 2017
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been a volunteer at Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

Soaker Hoses
Soaker Hoses | Source

Watering your garden seems like such a simple concept. You grab a hose or turn on the sprinkler every day, right? Wrong! Watering your garden every day is almost as bad as not watering at all.

Daily, or shallow, watering forces the plants’ roots to stay near the surface of the soil instead of heading deeper where they can also find nutrients vital to the plants’ health. Shallow roots do not provide a good anchor in the soil for plants. A deeply rooted plant will be much sturdier and actually need less water.

Water once a week

So how often should you water your garden? Ideally, you should only water once a week. That weekly watering should moisten the soil to a depth of 1 foot. How long it takes for water to reach a depth of one foot depends on the type of soil in your yard.

Clay soil is very dense. It drains very slowly. Sandy soil is the opposite. The water drains through it so quickly that plant roots don’t have a chance to absorb any. Loam is the best type of soil for a garden. You can amend your clay or sandy soil with organic matter like compost to give it the characteristics of loam. Raised beds is another good idea. Just beware that raised beds dry out more quickly than ground-level soil.

1 to 1 1/2 Inches Per Week

To achieve a one foot moisture level in your garden you will need 1 to 1 ½ inches of rain or supplemental watering each week. You can measure how much water your garden is getting very easily. Simply use a rain gauge when it rains, or if you are using a sprinkler, put out some tuna cans or pet food cans to catch water so you will know when you have reached the ideal of 1 to 1 ½ inches.

Water in the morning or early evening

The best time to water is in the morning or early evening. This prevents evaporation and gives the water a chance to soak in before the heat of the day when your plants will need it the most. Watering during the day is a waste. Too much will evaporate before getting to the roots.

Drip irrigation

The exception to this rule would be if you are using drip irrigation. Drip irrigation provides water close to the roots so there is less exposed to evaporation. Since you don’t want to water the leaves, watering close to the roots is the best way to water.

Always use mulch

Always use mulch. Mulch keeps the soil cooler, slowing evaporation, which keeps the soil moist longer so you don’t need to water more than once a week. Mulch also prevents weeds from growing and competing with your plants for water.

Knowing when and how to water your garden will ensure your garden will look and yield its best throughout the growing season.

© 2014 Caren White


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    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      People don't realize that mulch does more than "decorate" the garden.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Clay is so difficult! I applaud you for being able to grow in it.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Great tips. Some people don't realize how much water can evaporate with wind & sun. Mulch is always a good idea for so many reasons.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Voted up and useful. We are believers in using mulch to conserve moisture and also combat weeds. In Houston we have clay soil for the most part and definitely have to amend it in order to grow things.