The rules for watering are not hard and fast. You must consider all the variables: type of plant, soil, weather, time of year, etc. Checking the soil is just a matter of pushing a spade into the ground and removing it to see how the soil looks. If it feels moist to a depth of 8 to 12 inches, everything is good. If it's dry as a bone, you need to water!
Watering does little good if it runs down outside the root ball, leaving the roots dry. If you water too fast or use too much water at once, that’s what can happen. So, watering more slowly is the key. Your goal is to make sure that you’re getting moisture to the root area, and slow and steady is the way to do it.
Here are ten watering tips that will help you make the most of your time and give your plants what they need:
1. Keep the soil evenly moist
Most plants like even moisture, but a slight drying of the soil before watering can help promote root growth. The rule of thumb is to give your plants about one inch of water each week and twice that amount during the hottest days of summer.
2. Don't water as often but do it more thoroughly
One or two waterings per week are normally sufficient. It’s better to water your plants less frequently but more deeply so that the root system gets the water it needs.
3. Give them water in the morning
The ideal time to water outdoor flowers and vegetables is in the morning when the soil is cool and the water can seep down to the roots of the plants before evaporating. Watering early ensures that they have enough moisture beneath the soil to endure the heat of a summer day.
4. Don’t use broadcast sprinklers
Broadcast sprinklers are not very efficient. They will soak the plant’s leaves, which can increase the risk of a fungal disease. On a hot or windy day, much of the water that’s distributed evaporates before it reaches the plant, so less water gets to the base of the plant.
5. Water plants at the soil level
Directing water toward the base of your plants delivers it to the roots, where it’s needed most. Winding a soaker hose between the plants in your beds will allow you to apply water to the soil slowly and deeply, which will ensure healthy growth.
6. Ensure the water reaches the roots
Sufficient amounts of water must reach the roots of your plants. If you don’t put enough water into the soil, you will only moisten the top few inches and never get to the roots. It’s especially important to use enough water if you have to penetrate through the mulch in your beds.
7. Avoid waterlogging
Water only when it’s necessary. Too much water can be as damaging as too little. Waterlogging can keep oxygen from getting to the roots, and the root cells will drown without oxygen.
8. Invest in a rain gauge
When you place a rain gauge near the garden, you have an idea of how much water your plants already received. It helps you avoid allowing your plants get too dry or becoming waterlogged. One thing to remember: The condition of your soil will play a role in how much water it can absorb and retain over extended periods.
9. Use a wand to water container plants
A watering wand extends the reach of your arm, allowing you to water your plants at soil level in hanging baskets or in ground-level containers without using a stepladder or stooping to reach the base of the plant.
10. Mulch your beds
Mulch helps to reduce surface-water runoff, and it slows evaporation. It also helps to retain the required moisture in the soil and maintains a healthy balance so your plants can thrive.