How to Water Plants in the Garden

how to water your plants in the garden

One of the most important parts of maintenance for your beloved plant friends is watering. You may be thinking “How could garden watering be complicated?”

Table of Contents:

Well, surprisingly, it can because every plant has unique water requirements. A lawn with a single type of grass can be easily maintained with a basic irrigation system. However, this strategy is not feasible if your green space has various plants.

Worry not! Here, you will learn how to water your plants, how often to do it, and what watering methods to use to ensure the best growing conditions. Still with us? Great, now let’s water some dandelions!

But first… Why do plants need water?
Plants need water for photosynthesis. Greenery consists of 90% water and it needs to maintain this amount constantly. The whole process is simple but crucial for the plant to create its own food. The water enters the body of the plant and goes up to the leaves. Once there, it evaporates and the plant exchanges the water for carbon dioxide, which is what it needs to make food. This cycle is happening every day with the help of sunlight.

Watering your plants: When, how, how much and how often?

Now it’s time to learn the answers to all the other important questions listed above.

When to water plants

The perfect time to water your plants would be in the cool early hours of the morning. This will prevent the majority of the water to evaporate under the strong sun later in the day and will help it reach the roots of the plants faster. You might have heard that watering in the morning can lead to scorch, but pay this myth no mind. It’s physically not possible. For this to happen, you will need to be in an area with very intense sun, and there are only a few places in the world with such conditions.

Another option is the late afternoon or early evening, perfect for people with busy mornings. This period of time is suitable for watering the plants, as most of the daily heat should have already passed and there is no chance for the water to evaporate as quickly. Still, it’s important to give enough time for the plants to dry before the night comes. Leaving them completely wet or damp will result in fungus problems like mould or mildew and cause permanent damage to your plants.

If you have potted plants, there are a couple of signs you need to look out for that will show you if your plant needs to be watered. The compost will start looking paler and feel drier while the pot itself will become a lot lighter. If you don’t have any specific watering schedule to follow with your potted flowers, pay attention to the little hints they send you.

How to water plants

Whenever you need to determine the watering needs of your plants, simply poke the soil at a spade’s depth. If the soil feels damp, there is unlikely to be any need to water, but if it is dry, then watering is probably required for some plants. Keep in mind that some types of soil, like clay, can feel damp even if they aren’t, while the opposite applies to sand, for example.

It’s a good idea to water your garden once before drought sets in and after that just avoid light watering a wide area because this may encourage surface rather than deep roots, leaving plants more susceptible to drought.

Be careful when watering a garden with poor drainage. In such cases, water can do bad favour to your green space because roots are known to be very susceptible to airless conditions, especially when the soil is warm in summer.

How much should you water your plants

There are two main things to consider: the type of soil and the type of plant you are dealing with. For example, light sandy earth needs frequent but light sprinkling, while soils like clay require heavier watering but not as frequent. And in terms of the plants, you are taking care for, your best option is to research their respective watering needs and follow them as precisely as possible.

Following your plant’s needs also includes not overwatering them. So, in case you are not sure when to stop, here is what you need to look out for:

  • The leaves are wilted, sad-looking and brown-ish.
  • The plant looks dead, but the soil is still wet.
  • Leaves are falling off your plant, both old yellow and new green ones.
  • You start to notice types of damage on the plant.
  • The roots are starting to rot.

How often to water plants

So, how often should you water the garden? Truth is, it depends on many factors. But there are some general tips that might help you out:

  1. There are plants, such as herbaceous perennials, for example, that require special attention, particularly during dry spells.
  2. Older trees and shrubs don’t require watering as often as younger ones (planted less than 5 years ago), which need more frequent watering.
  3. Edible produce rewards you with quantity and quality when free of drought stress. You can’t go wrong with flooding leafy vegetables, like lettuce and spinach, because a big percentage of their structure is water-based. On the other hand, some veggies, like onions, require very little moisture.

Here are some other water-efficiency tips to help your beloved garden:

#1. It is a good idea to extensively sprinkle the crops two weeks before harvest time.
#2. Remove those pesky weeds, as they are guilty of soaking up a lot of the H2O.
#3. Planting between autumn and spring improves the chances for the plants to develop their roots properly, before the cold weather sets in.
#4. Mulch with a layer of organic compost. It will prevent the loss of moisture from the upper soil layers.

For more tips on how to improve your garden soil water retention, check our article on the matter here.

Types of watering methods

There are numerous ways of watering the plants in your garden, that will save you a lot of time and effort.

Sprinklers

Sprinkles can help you maintain your lawn automatically and also increase the moisture in unplanted areas.

Hoses and watering cans

Hoses and watering cans are commonly used. They come in handy when you have weed control problems, because the water is concentrated in one area, leaving unwanted vegetation around it dry.

Seep hoses

There are seep hoses or pipes that have holes in them, which deliver water to the plants. You can hide those beneath the soil or the mulch. This way, you preserve even more moisture. It’s best to use them in heavy soils, as they allow the water to spread sideways rather than just sinking in, like it does with the lighter soil types.

Automated irrigation system

If you want to save yourself some back pain, you can get rid of those watering cans and hoses, and replace them with an automated irrigation system. You have two choices: a drip or trickle model. The only parts of the soil that should be watered are either the root area or the top 60cm. There’s no point in penetrating deeper because most plant roots won’t be able to reach it anyways.

Different types of water and their effect

If you want the best for your plants, you need to learn not only the rules or watering but the best types of water, as well.

Rainwater

Fresh rainwater is considered to be the best option for your garden. It is chlorine-free and there aren’t any dissolved minerals, which might harm your plants, while building up in the soil. And why does it have to be fresh, you ask? Well, stagnant water can develop diseases, no matter if it’s rainwater or coming from the tap. Whenever you store rainwater, just make sure to use it quickly.

Tap water

Tap water is very convenient, thus making it the most widely used type. Still, one cannot rely solely on this tap water, as it contains a number of chemicals. These hard elements could be very harmful to both the plants and the soil.

Purified water

Another choice is purified water that you buy from stores. It has similar benefits to the rainwater, as it comes distilled and deionised. Still, it’s a very expensive option and it’s usually recommended to use it with fertilisers, due to the lack of minerals.

Boiled or cooled tap water

If you don’t trust your tap water, but still don’t want to spend any money on purified water, a good alternative is to just boil regular water. The heating process, followed by the cooling afterwards, gets rid of most of the calcium, thus making the water harmless to green life. However, it’s a long and tedious procedure, especially if you have a whole garden to take care of.

Waste water (gray water)

If you’re really into recycling, you can always use the waste water from baths, showers and when you’re cooking vegetables. Again, it’s an alternative that is good for a couple of pot plants and not for watering a whole garden. However, when you do use it, make sure that there are no cleaning detergents in the water, so you don’t damage your plants permanently.

***

Who knew that there were so many angles to a simple task as watering your backyard? It may sound a bit complicated, but at the end of the day a beautiful, well maintained, and loved garden is worth it. Especially on those rainy days. Happy gardening!

Image header source: Deposit Photos/ Author: elenathewise

Posted in Garden Advice

Last update: March 1, 2019
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