Most people who own and maintain their own garden know the importance of watering to keep their precious plants appearing healthy and lush, but not everyone knows how they should be watering their garden and often ponder questions like “how much water does my garden need?” or “how frequently should I water?”.
Whilst watering your garden is not and should not be complicated, there are several factors that should be considered, such as the type of soil you have, the climate or weather conditions, and the type of plants you are growing.
Sources of water for your garden
Rainwater is a great choice for watering plants and your garden as it’s freely available if you are able to store it. Having a water storage device like a water butt will allow you to water your plants using a watering can with sustainably sourced water, as tap water requires treatment and energy to your home. Another reason why watering plants with tap water is wasteful is that it contains more minerals than your plants actually need. Learn how to save water with our helpful guide. As well as rainwater, grey water from your home can be used to water your garden during particularly dry spells.
How to water
Plants can only use water effectively through their roots by taking it from the soil or compost, therefore, you will want to make sure that the water gets to where it’s required – the tip of the roots and not the leaves.
The common methods of watering include:
Watering cans are useful for aiming water specifically at the stem bases of plants, leaving the surrounding soil dry. This makes it much easier to ensure the water goes to the roots where it’s needed, and not to any surrounding weeds.
Self watering pots and containers
These pots have an in-built reservoir that stores water away from the root zone, that allows the plant to access the water via a capillary system or wick. The benefit of self watering pots is that the plants will only draw water into the root zone as and when required, meaning you can go longer between watering.
Seep hoses are pipes with holes in them that deliver water to the root zone by being positioned accurately in rows depending on the plants. The benefit of seep hoses is that they can be hidden beneath the soil or mulch, however they are tricky to set up and work better on heavy soils where the water can spread sideways more easily.
Automated irrigation systems
Automated drip or trickle irrigation systems are best suited to bigger, more water-demanding areas such as fruit and vegetable plots. They ensure only the root zone is wetted as any water that goes any deeper will be inaccessible to plants and stop nutrients in the soil reaching the roots of the plants.
Sprinklers use a large amount of water and are only appropriate for use in large gardens. They are not useful for watering plants as the water is spread over a large area and does not target the root zone.
When should you water your garden?
The best time to water your garden is in the morning, as the cooler temperatures and calmer winds prevent the water from evaporating or blowing away before it reaches the roots of your plants. Watering in the morning is also beneficial as any plant foliage that gets wet dries quickly, which is important as fungal diseases can attack plants much more easily when their leaves are wet.
How much water should you give your garden?
It is generally recommended that you should give your garden between 1-2 inches of water each week, preferably in deep infrequent watering sessions as opposed to frequent and shallow. A deeper watering helps fight against problems related to evaporation and weak root growth. However, this is a general rule of thumb, and the reality is that the amount of water your garden needs varies based on a variety of factors.
Firstly, you should consider the composition of the soil. Sandy soil has much less water retention than the denser clay soil, making it susceptible to drying out faster and leaving your plants dehydrated. On the other hand, clay soil is much better at holding onto moisture longer, meaning that it is easier to over-water. A solution to aid water retention whilst allowing sufficient drainage is to apply compost or mulch to your soil, reducing its watering needs and allowing your plants to remain sufficiently hydrated between watering.
This may seem a little obvious, but you should also consider the weather conditions. In hot, dry conditions you will have to water more often, whereas in rainy conditions you can afford to water less often.
Type of plants
Finally, the amount of water you give your garden will also depend on the type of plants you have, as they all have their own various watering needs. The plants that require most water tend to be larger as well as newly planted ones. If you are growing vegetables, bedding plants, or perennials, you may want to water more frequently, especially in hot weather, as these plants have shallow root systems and cannot access the moisture retained deeper in the soil. Any container plants should be watered daily, especially in hot, dry conditions.