Watering Basics

Vegetables are at least 90% water, so obviously they need lots of water. Vegetable plants use water quickly, especially in hot weather. You need to water them regularly—it may be once a week or every day. How often depends on weather and soil conditions in your garden. For example, rich soil and clay hold water better than poor sandy soil, and pots dry out faster than the ground.

Observe Your Plants

Most of the time you can tell if a plant is thirsty just by looking at it. Before the leaves ever wilt, you will notice a telltale curl to the edge or tip of the leaf. Some typically green plants will have a gray cast to the foliage. Or, stick your finger into the soil a few inches. If it's dry, water.

Encourage Deep Rooting

Plant roots follow water, so they grow deep if you water deeply. Give soil a good drenching when you water. Generally, veggies need at least an inch or two of rain each week to moisten the soil deeply. In hot, dry climates, moisture evaporates quickly and you may have to water more frequently than in cooler climates. Only you will know. This is part of the art of gardening.

Time of Day

What time you water matters. A sprinkler in the middle of a summer day loses lots of water to evaporation. Watering in the evening lets moisture stay on the leaves for hours, allowing diseases to get a start. The ideal time to water is early in the morning. Once the sun comes out, foliage dries quickly.

Tips from Experience »

  1. Collect water in a can to know how much your sprinkler or drip system is delivering. An inch of water in the can under a sprinkler or soaker hose means you've likely applied close to an inch to the garden. Just be sure you put the can where it collects "fairly" and not where there might be a gush of water.
  2. If you aren't around during the day to run the water on and off, consider a water timer that will not only turn on the water, but turn it off, too. Just be sure your faucet does not leak and that you have washers on all your hose connections.
  3. If you have several different areas to water, look for an adjustable sprinkler. You can adjust both the length and width of the spray so you do not water the driveway unnecessarily.
  4. The best way to water veggies and herbs is to wet the ground without wetting the leaves, because wet leaves encourage diseases that can ruin plants. Do this with a soaker hose that runs through the bed at the base of the plants. Lay the hose out first and plant beside it.
  5. For hand watering containers, try a watering wand with a breaker nozzle that allows you to reach with ease. The breaker nozzle breaks up the flow into a gentle cascade and allows you to water the soil, not the foliage.
Posted in: Growing Basics