When it comes to watering the garden, how, when and how much you water makes all the difference! Although watering vegetable plants can seem like a trivial task, there really is a science behind proper watering techniques.

watering the garden
Watering the root zone of a cucumber plant.

Bad watering habits can damage plants and reduce harvest levels dramatically. 

Of course, watering needs vary based on location and the specific plants grown. But no matter where you live, there are a few simple rules of watering that can really help power a successful garden.

Here are 3 of the most common mistakes folks make when watering the garden, and how to avoid them!

The 3 Biggest Mistakes When Watering The Garden

#1 Watering During The Heat Of The Day

Watering the garden in the middle of the day creates a multitude of problems for vegetable gardens. Although it may seem like you are giving your plants relief from the scorching sun, in reality, daytime watering can cause serious damage.

Plants tend to be at maximum stress levels during the mid-day. And watering them at this point only adds to the stress. The leaves, blooms and even the vegetables themselves can easily be burnt from water spray heated by the sun.

In addition, because of that heat and burning sunlight, the water will evaporate quickly. That means less water reaches the critical root zones of your plants.  

The best time to water the garden is in the early morning. The sun is low, temperatures are cooler, and the plants low stress level allows them to soak up water easily. That cool drink of early morning water allows them to prepare for the heat of the upcoming day. 

If you are simply not a morning person, then early evening is a good second best choice to water plants. Many of the same advantages of watering in the morning are present in the early evening as well.  

# 2 Watering The Whole Plant – And Not The Root Zones

watering the garden
Watering the entire plant can cause big problems

This is probably by far the biggest mistake made by gardeners. Taking out a big hose and showering the garden and all of the plants at once is NOT a good way to water. I always cringe a little when passing by someone watering their garden with a big hose and a jet-force stream of water.

Watering with a full stream or heavy spray directly on plants can injure leaves and stems. It also can knock off the tender blooms needed to create vegetables. 

In addition, spraying an entire garden area at once allows water to easily splash soil on to the foliage of plants. That in turn can make it easy for soil-borne diseases to infect plants. 

When watering, concentrate efforts on the soil and root zone around the plants – and not on the leaves of the plants. Not only does it cut down on evaporation – it keeps plants much healthier in the long run.

Slow and gentle watering of the root zone is the way to go. When watering with a hose, remove all nozzles and use a slow, gentle, steady stream of water around the root zones of each plant. Removing the nozzle also makes it easier to reach under the top growth of plants to get to the roots.

You can also use drip hoses that deliver water right to the root zone at a slow and steady pace. They can be a great investment for those with large gardens and large areas to water.   Product Link – 50′ Soaker Hose

We water our garden with gallon jugs pulled from our rain water tanks.  It makes it easy to deliver a quarter to a half-gallon of water per plant right to the roots, without hitting leaves at all.

#3 Watering Too Often

And now to the 3rd most common mistake, watering the garden too often! As crazy it sounds, more damage is done by over-watering gardens than under-watering.

watering the garden
Mulching plants is a big key to reducing a plants water needs

The only time daily watering is needed are when young transplants or tender seedlings first go in the ground. Transplants usually need watering every day for the first 5 to 7 days. After that, watering every day will create more problems than it solves.

Plants that receive water every day never send their roots deeper to look for moisture and nutrients. This creates a weak root system, leading to a feeble plant. Plants that establish deep root systems absorb more water and nutrients. That creates healthy plants that are less vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, and need less watering.

Once a plant has become established, and is mulched properly, they usually only need water every 4 or 5 days, and that is only if mother nature hasn’t provided any. See: How To Mulch Plants In The Garden

And when you do water, water deeply. Be sure that each plant receives a quarter to a half gallon of water around the root zones. Water slowly so that it can be absorbed. You will be amazed how your plants thank you in return!

Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary! If you would like to receive our DIY, Gardening and Recipe articles each week, sign up via email at the very bottom of the post. You can also follow us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram to receive all of our latest tips and articles. This article may contain affiliate links.

7 thoughts on “Watering The Garden – How To Avoid The 3 Most Common Mistakes!

  • July 8, 2017 at 8:43 pm
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    I live in New Mexico if I only watered every 4th or 5th day my garden would burn up. We water daily thru the summer months

    • July 8, 2017 at 8:45 pm
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      Hi Rick We totally understand – that is why we put in the article that it is totally dependent on location. As hot as it has been lately, I would imagine even watering twice a day is necessary! Jim and Mary

  • July 4, 2017 at 10:23 am
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    Totally agree.. watering is one of the basic yet overlooked activities when gardening. When I was starting my garden (https://www.gardenloka.com/), I always end up drowning my tomatoes as well.

  • June 22, 2017 at 9:30 am
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    I understand about not pounding the whole plant with forceful water. I use a spray attachment on the hose. How is this different from when it rains? Thank you for all the helpful advice on your column.

    • June 22, 2017 at 12:24 pm
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      Wet leaves invite mildew, mold, and a lot of other disease organisms. Rain does knock off flowers from lightweight plants like tomatoes & peppers. I use a 4-foot wand with a defuser head (soft spray) which I drags along the ground to water the root zone. About 8-10 seconds per plant every 4-5 days keeps the plants happy in NW Washington, and allows me the use of the other hand to pick off pests and prune the plants. I plant well established peppers and tomatoes in a 8 inch deep trench so the trench focuses the water to the roots and allows some dirt fill-in as the plant grows, so additional rootlets will emerge from the newly buried stems. Enjoy!

  • June 22, 2017 at 8:37 am
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    Thanks so much for all your tips. Because of your great advice we have our best, and low maintenance garden yet!

    • June 22, 2017 at 8:42 am
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      Thanks so much Mary – and glad to hear that! We would love to feature your garden on our new This Is My Garden website! People really like hearing first hand how others garden, and it sounds like this would be a perfect one to feature. All you need to do is write a few paragraphs of what you grow, and email it to us at thefarm@owgarden.com along with a few pictures and we will put it up! It is so incredible to see all the people that love to garden – and we love sharing it! Jim and Mary

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