Watering Your Garden: When, How Often, and How Much?

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Watering Tomatoes

Water is one of the main requirements for any vegetable garden’s success. I have tried many different watering methods based on information on the internet. It can be a bit confusing because everyone has a different opinion! I’m here to give the best information I have found and methods that have worked in my own garden.

So when should you water your vegetable garden?  In general, the best time to water a vegetable garden is in the early morning or late evening. Plants should get an average of one inch of water per week with deep, infrequent waterings.

It is very challenging to answer this question in one simple statement!  Many factors need to be considered such as soil conditions, weather, type of plant and watering method. I will cover all of these factors in a simple way when you read on!

How Do I Know if My Plants Need More Water?

One of the best signs that plants are struggling with the amount of water they are receiving is by seeing if the plants are wilting and droopy.  Wilting can be a sign of either under-watering or over-watering.  

Plants will become droopy from over-watering because the roots are literally drowning. Roots need air to breathe and if they are saturated with too much water they will eventually die. In this case, the leaves will be very soft and wilted.

Under-watering will cause plants to wilt because the plant is stressed and is going into survival mode. In this case, the leaves will be dry and crisp. Plants hold much of their water in their leaves, but when the roots are not getting enough water, the plant will transfer the water from its leaves down to its roots in order to survive. This also causes the leaves to have less exposure to the sun in extreme heat.

How do you know which problem you have if your plants are wilting? More than likely you’ll be able to figure this out by asking yourself a few questions:

Have you been watering a lot already? The plants might be over-watered.

Have you received a lot of rain in the last few days? The plants might be over-watered.

Are you in the middle of a heat wave of temperatures consistently above 85 degrees Fahrenheit? The plants might be under-watered.

If it’s not obvious whether your plants need more water or have too much, you can also use a soil moisture meter to measure the amount of water in the soil. Stick the meter into the ground at a depth where the roots of the plants exist to get a good reading. Some plants have more shallow roots and some plants have deeper roots, so adjust accordingly.

If you think your plants do need watered, you may still have more questions, such as: What time should I be watering? How do I water efficiently? We’ll explore more of those questions next!

What is the Best Time of Day to Water My Garden?

The best time of day to water the garden depends on current weather conditions, but for the most part it is best to water in the early morning or in the late evening. This is especially important during a heat wave.

If you water in the early morning, you are preventing the soil and roots from baking during a hot summer day. Water insulates the soil because it is full of air pockets and keeps it nice and cool. Soil bacteria, beneficial fungi, and microbes all need this water to survive so it is important to not let the soil dry out.

If you water in the late evening, you are giving your plants a longer chance to take up as much water as they can before the sun comes up. The least amount of evaporation will occur during the evening, so the soil will stay wet all night long. You may have heard that watering at night will cause mildew, but this would probably only happen during cooler temperatures in early spring and late fall. At these times you probably aren’t watering very much anyways. However, when there is a chance for frost in your area, watering can help prevent the roots of plants from freezing for the same reason above – water insulates the soil with tons of little air pockets.

Just because watering during the day is not ideal, it doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t do it! If that is the only time you can water, then go ahead and do it! Watering during the heat of the day will not hurt the plants.  Think about it: God sends rain at all times of the day and it doesn’t kill your plants! In Florida, a stray afternoon thunderstorm happens quite often during the heat of the day. The plants will take the water whenever they can get it if they need it!

What is the Best Method for Watering Vegetable Plants?

Have you ever noticed how plants in the garden perk up after a fresh rain? Have you ever wondered why? Water is hydrogen and oxygen. It carries oxygen down to the roots of your plants. It does this by catching dissolved oxygen through the air. The more water molecules that travel through the air and the slower they move, the more oxygen will be given to the roots through that water. This is why rain is so good for plants. And why wouldn’t it be?! God designed it that way! 

But we aren’t always fortunate enough to get a good rain whenever we need it. Here are some options for watering the garden that mimic God’s design in nature.

Misting.  If you have a small number of plants to water, consider misting those plants. This has the tiniest and most water molecules flying through the air and collecting the most oxygen. Obviously it will take longer to give your plants a significant amount of water this way – at least by hand – so if this may not work for your situation, read on.

Nozzle with as many holes as possible.  If you water with a watering can or hose, get an attachment or nozzle with the largest amount of holes possible. This slows down the water and separates it into many water molecules.

Drip irrigation.  This is a popular method that also fits into these principles. While you may think this isn’t as beneficial because this method doesn’t allow the water to fly through the air, the water is still moving very slowly and collecting oxygen as it drips down into your soil.

We have some different watering products we have tried and recommend on our Best Garden Tools page that you should check out!

How Much Water Should I Give My Vegetable Plants?

A general rule of thumb is that a garden needs about one inch of water per week. This highly depends on weather conditions, though, so plants and soil should be well monitored, as mentioned above, for best results.

If you’re curious about how to give your plants one inch of water, here is a great way to measure. Set any container out in the garden that collects water. Then, water the garden as you normally would. Measure the depth of water being collected in your container. This is the amount of water the plants are receiving! Once you know your soil, it will be easier to identify whether or not the plants need more water.

To be honest, I don’t exactly measure the amount of water I’m giving my plants anymore. I simply pay attention to the weather and look to see when the soil is dry a few inches below the surface. 

When you do water, it is important to water deeply and infrequently.  Try not to water every single day unless you are in an extreme heat wave. Water a larger amount, skipping days in between watering. This encourages the roots of the plants to grow deeper to look for water instead of staying closer to the surface. Let the surface dry out to encourage those roots to travel deeper. Deeper roots will be able to find and uptake more nutrients to your plants.  They will also be able to resist disease and drought more efficiently if those conditions occur.

You may be feeling like you don’t have time to water as often as you should be or water is scarce in your area. Next, I’ll give you some tips to help you with these problems!

How Can I Save Time and Money By Watering Less Often?

If you follow the number one principle of this site (#donotdisturb), it will help you to water less often and save yourself time and money on your water bill.

Do Not Disturb the soil and continue to add compost and organic matter to it every year. Applying one to two inches of compost on top of the soil each fall, as well as always having the soil covered in some type of mulch will do the trick!

Over time, this organic matter will improve the quality of the soil. It will help the soil drain excess water and hold the correct amount of moisture, longer. A mulch on top of the soil at all times will keep the soil cooler and help it to retain moisture by causing less evaporation to occur by blocking the sun.

Check out Our Favorite Products page to find everything you might need to help make your garden a success!

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

Isaiah 44:3

Related Questions

Do raised garden beds require more water? Yes, in general raised garden beds have much better drainage because they are above soil level.  This may require more watering if the plants are taking in a lot of water.

Can I save a plant that has root rot? As long as the entire root system is not mushy, the plant can be saved by removing the entire plant from its current location and transplanting it to high quality soil that has effective drainage.

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Corey Leichty

Hi, I’m Corey and I love using gardening as a way to provide food for my family, learn life lessons alongside my wife, Andrea, and teach life lessons to my two sons. Do you have gardening questions? Not finding what you are looking for? Please feel free to Ask a Question (Click Here!) and I will get back with you as soon as I can!

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