Your plants need water to survive. So, unless you're fortunate enough to be getting regular rainfall in your area, you will have to supplement it by watering your garden regularly. And, yes, watering each plant by hand can be a hassle, even though it is an effective option.
Here are a few things to consider that can reduce the amount of time you spend watering. Some of them are inexpensive, others require a significant investment. All of them will save you time, and maybe even water, to some degree.
1. Use an ergonomically-designed watering can
If you have a small garden, watering each plant by hand might make the most sense. But there are now ergonomically-designed cans that have a second handle to evenly distribute the strain of watering through both arms, protecting your back and shoulders and, perhaps, make the job seem like it's not taking as long.
2. Lay a soaker hose in your bed
Soaker hoses are practical for people who don't want to water one plant at a time. They do help conserve water and save you some labor. They are not as convenient as an automated system because you may need to move them around and turn the water on and off.
3. Make your soaker more effective with newspaper
Cover your soil with a few layers of newspaper or one layer of cardboard, and put the soaker hose on top of it. Hide this with a layer of dark-colored mulch. The soaker hose will be even more effective since the paper will help regulate the soil moisture.
4. Target your plants with a drip irrigation system
Available in kits or as a do-it-yourself project, these systems can provide consistent drip action for several long rows at a time. A small-diameter water line, with perforations every 12 inches, allows you to apply water to individual plants. There is a fair amount of work setting up the system, but once it's in place, your work is pretty much finished.
5. Sprinklers for area watering
Although there is labor involved in moving a sprinkler and hose around the bed, sprinklers are an inexpensive solution to hand watering and can cover a fairly large area. Just remember that while these are great for ground cover, perennials, and lawns, certain plants don't like their leaves watered, so sprinklers are not appropriate for every situation.
6. Automated spray or rotor systems to cover lots of ground
The system is made up of a controller that operates the whole system and valves that release water to underground pipes. Sprinklers or sprayers (fixed or rotating) distribute the water. Generally used in larger beds, these systems make watering easy but can be expensive to install.
7. Use larger pots for container gardening
Use large pots (16" to 24" diameter) when you plant in containers. They hold more soil and don't require as much watering. Use glazed or ceramic-type planters. Unglazed, terra cotta pots lose moisture quickly.
8. Choose plants that don't need frequent watering
Save yourself some watering by picking plants that are drought-resistant. If you populate your beds with plants that have their needs met by natural rainfall, you will have less work. There are many perennials from which to choose including sunflowers, daylilies, lavender, coneflowers, goldenrod, thyme, and coreopsis.