Advice for How & When to Water

Compared to taking care of a pet, many think plants can be simple to take care of–usually, all you need to do is water! But a garden can be quite pesky to keep healthy after all, especially if you are not watering it properly. Whether experiencing a tough drought, or if you find your plants drowning in too much water, it’s good to know a thing or two about your plants’ needs when watering.

How Much Water is Enough?

It’s important that your garden doesn’t get too much or too little water. A good rule of thumb is that grass and plants should receive an inch of rainwater each week. Younger plants may need more than this amount, and some plants can do with less. But in general, an inch is key.

You can measure how much water your garden receives each week from the rain or a sprinkler system by installing a rain gauge in your garden. These devices measure precipitation, and while you can buy one from many stores, they are also easy to make: put a ruler in a coffee can, and stand it on your lawn where your sprinkler or irrigation system will hit.

Check your rain gauge each day to see what level of water your garden has received. You can also gauge, based on the amount of water collected in a day, how often throughout the week you might want to water your garden.

Know What Makes Your Plants Tick

Not all plants like being watered at the same time, or in the same way. You will want to water some in the morning so that they can dry before nightfall, discouraging fungi growth. Roses, begonias, peonies, geraniums, chrysanthemums and most fruits must be watered in the morning, not late in the day or night.

Watering at the base of the plant can be beneficial for those susceptible to crown rot. This also ensures water reaches the roots in the soil, instead of getting caught in foliage and evaporating.

Best Watering Techniques

Whether watering indoor house plants or your garden, pay attention to how much water you pour. A good method for watering is to water a little and wait for the soil to absorb the water. Repeat twice. This way water isn’t sitting in a puddle above the soil, unused by the roots and likely to evaporate.

If you are using a sprinkler to water your garden, pay attention to placement. A sprinkler system that throws half its water supply on a driveway or sidewalk isn’t doing your wallet nor your garden any favors. Watch your sprinkler, check your rain gauge and ensure the right amount of water necessary for your garden is distributed among all the plants and grass that must be watered.

A soaker hose makes for a great and efficient irrigation system. Sitting on the ground, these hoses water the base of the plants. A rain gauge will not help here, but you can assess how much water to use by digging into the soil beside your plants–if water has seeped a foot into the ground, it’s time to stop. Record how much time has elapsed since turning on the hose, as this is how long you will want to run it each day. Similar to soaker hoses, look into underground irrigation systems that can protect from evaporation if you live in a hot, arid climate.

Always beware the time of day when watering your garden. It is best not to water your plants at the hottest time of day, as the water may evaporate before absorption.

If you’d like more tips on watering your garden, check out the original Home Wizards segment from the April 26, 2014 episode below:

This post is adapted from the April 26, 2014 episode of Home Wizards that was released on iTunes April 27, 2014. You can find this segment during Hour Two of the podcast.