Pocket Guide to Watering Your Garden

comments (0) July 17th, 2014

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jgthegardener jgthegardener, member
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Gardening may be intuitive to a lucky few, but most of us need a little help when starting out. For those who require a primer, here are a few basic watering tips and facts to get you started.

What tools do I need?

The tools you need will depend on the size of your garden and the plants you are growing. Have a small container garden? You may only need a watering can. For larger personal gardens, consider at least a hose and a rain barrel. Have a few needy plants? Ivest in a soaker hose or drip irrigation. Want to go high tech? Indulge in irrigation or monitoring systems that can coordinate with your wireless modem.

Can the type of water affect my garden?

  • City water (chemically treated): Water treated for human consumption won't doom your plants, but natural water-like rain water-is best. Some times you just have to make the most of what you have, but if you can utilize a rain barrel or similar method, do so.
  • Water temperature: Water temperature matters more if you're applying water directly to the plant (leaves, etc). Water that is too hot will damage the foliage. It shouldn't matter too much when applying the water to the soil. However, when in doubt, avoid the extremes.

What time of day is best?

It's best to avoid peak heat times when watering your garden. Watering in the early morning or early evening (when it's cooler) gives the water time to sink in before high temperatures increase evaporation.

How does the soil affect the watering process?

A general recommendation is to give the beds one inch per week. (Of course, this is only a general rule, be sure to research the specific needs of your flower or vegetable.)

However, whether you'll need to water once a week or multiple times will depend upon your soil type. Sandier soils require you to water multiple times per week (say twice a week at half an inch, or three times at one third inch) because they do not hold and keep moisture as well. Loam or clay based soils hold their moisture longer, and won't need watered as frequently.

How should I water:


  • Carrots? Carrots do best in a sandier soil and require the general one inch per week. With a sandy soil, remember to spread the watering out to two or three times a week.
  • Celery? Celery tends to require a lot of water due to a smaller root system. Start with the average one inch per week, but check the soil regularly. If it keeps drying out, increase the amount of water (incrementally, until you find the right amount). However, don't turn your soil into soup.
  • Cucumbers? Cucumbers tend to be mostly water, so it stands to reason that they do best with a constant source of water. You can make do with a deep watering once a week, but drip irrigation or a soaker hose is best.
  • Herbs? Each herb is different (some like it a little dry, others a little moist), but no herb does well when drowned. Water only a little at a time (aim for slightly damp soil, not completely moist). If you are growing herbs in container gardens, make sure to provide adequate drainage.
  • Lettuce? Keep the soil moist (avoid soggy-boggy soil at all cost) and keep an eye on the leaves. If your lettuce starts to wilt, water ASAP.
  • Peppers? Peppers should receive one to two inches per week. Stay aware of the temperature. Peppers are more sensitive to heat, and may require daily watering depending on your climate.
  • Potatoes? Be consistent. Inconsistent watering can result in tubers with cracks or growths. Make sure your potatoes are hilled (this helps drainage), and that the watering is "deep" (penetrates 8 to 10 inches underground).
  • Squash? Give your squash a minimum of one inch per week, and make sure it penetrates the soil by at least 4 inches.
  • Tomatoes? Keep a consistent watering schedule of two inches per week.
  • Watermelon? Give the plants one to two inches per week, and make sure to water at the base of the vine (no splashing water over the whole plant from above). Once the fruit starts to form, scale back slightly on the amount of water (your melons will be sweeter).

posted in: Water, different soil types, how much to water vegetables, watering the garden, how to water a garden