One of the most common questions MommyMatter receives from new gardeners is “How much water does my garden need?” Unfortunately, the answer of approximately one inch per week leaves many of them with the “deer-in-headlights” look, which tells me that I have some explaining to do. It’s not their fault really.
You see, gardeners don’t always talk in ordinary English. One inch per week refers to one inch of rain a week, but even gardeners aren’t always sure how much that is. Fortunately, there is an easier way to tell if your garden has enough water.
Check the Soil
I know it sounds silly, but it really is the most reliable way to tell if your garden needs water. But, don’t rely on looks alone, as it can be deceiving. What seems like a significant rain to you may only wet the surface of the soil. Stick your finger into the soil to a depth of at least one inch. If the soil feels dry, your garden needs to be watered.
Water your garden until the soil is saturated to the root level of the plants. This encourages roots to form deep in the soil. Light watering causes roots to form near the surface of the soil and builds their dependence on you for supplemental watering as soon as the top few inches become dry. Plants with deep roots are better able to withstand periods of drought and have a stronger support system.
Watering in the Morning
Water your garden in the morning when air is typically still and cool. This prevents water from evaporating or being swept away in the wind before it reaches the soil. It also gives you plants the water they need to meet the demands of the hot afternoon sun. If morning watering is not convenient, water your garden once temperatures drop in late afternoon or evening. Watering too late in the evening, and leaving foliage wet overnight poses the risk of disease.
Water the Soil, Not the Plants
Apply water directly to the soil whenever possible. When you water the foliage, much of the water evaporates before it reaches the soil. The exception to this rule is when you are applying water-soluble fertilizer at the same time.
Check Your Soil Often
Most plants thrive with deep watering once a week, but during hot, dry spells, or during periods of active growth or fruiting, you may need to water more often. Plants grown in raised beds or containers may require daily watering.
Water is vital to healthy plant growth. Developing a regular routine and checking your garden often prevents the stress from lack of water. Keep in mind that some plants, such as tomatoes, are heavy feeders and may require more frequent watering than plants such as green beans or lettuce.