Best Ways to Water
Make every drop of water you apply to your garden count. Keeping soil consistently moist yields a healthier landscape, including lawn, edible crops and container flowers. Learn what you need to know to tend a well-watered garden—without spending every free moment with the garden hose.
- Aim for roots. Applying water to soil is ideal for several reasons. First, you lose less water to evaporation, even on record-breaking hot days. Second, you’re applying water to the root zone, making it readily available to plant roots. Third, leaves stay dry, which helps keep diseases from developing and spreading. To deliver water directly to soil, use soaker, sweating or weeping hoses, drip irrigation systems or micro sprinklers.
- Slow it down. Give water a chance to soak into soil. Whether you’re holding a watering wand or programming a timer, it’s better to apply water in several shorter bursts than for one extended period. This is most important on sloping sites, where water tends to run off before it soaks in. Drip irrigation or micro sprinklers both work well on slopes.
- Water deeply. Each time you water, soak soil to a depth of 5 to 6 inches. By providing fewer waterings that soak soil deeply, you encourage plants to drive roots deeper into soil, which is one secret to a thriving lawn and landscape. The best way to tell if you’re watering long enough is to dig into soil and feel it. With practice, you’ll learn how long to water to soak soil to that depth.
- Choose a sprinkler. With oscillating sprinklers, up to 50 percent of the water never makes it to soil. Instead it’s lost due to evaporation or wind drift. For a more efficient sprinkler option, look for small sprinklers that allow you to change water delivery patterns. For large areas, the most efficient sprinkler is a pulsating, revolving sprinkler. This type of sprinkler shoots water out horizontally at a high speed that overcomes loss due to evaporation or wind. Look for models that attach to a garden hose.
- Time it right. Water in the morning, between 5 and 10 a.m., when air is still and cool, to minimize water loss due to evaporation and drift. Most municipal water pressure is highest in the morning, too, which means you’ll cover more garden area and soil depth with the water you apply. Watering early in the day also allows leaves to dry before nightfall. Wet leaves after dark can lead to fungus and hasten disease spread.
- Automate the process. Invest in a timer so you don’t overwater. A manual timer is cheapest; a digital timer that measures rainfall, temperature and other weather factors that affect plant use is the most expensive. An ideal timer includes a rain sensor, which turns off the water if rainfall has occurred. The most important aspect of using a water timer is to reset it monthly, changing the irrigation duration and frequency. Why? Because you don’t need to apply as much water during cool seasons as during summer.