How to Water Plants for Healthy Growth | The Old Farmer's Almanac

How to Water Plants for Healthy Growth

The Editors

Keep plants hydrated and happy on hot days! It’s sounds easy, however, it’s very important to know how much to water a plant so that it’s not too wet nor too dry.

There are also some plants that need more water than others. In this video, we explain share tips on how to water efficiently in a way that saves you water and time! We’ve also included the full text from the video below.

Get more tips and techniques by subscribing to the Almanac Garden Planner here: https://gardenplanner.almanac.com/

Watering the Vegetable Garden: How to Water Plants for Healthier Growth

Many gardeners water more often than they need to, encouraging plants to produce shallow roots that make them ever more dependent on you for water. For deeper roots, water less frequently so that the roots draw on the moisture found further down in the soil. A thorough drenching once a week is better than a light sprinkle every couple of days. 

In dry weather prioritize seedlings over established plants, as they need more water until they have developed their root systems. Some crops, such as leafy salads and celery, require more water than others, while others appreciate extra water at crucial stages in their development, for example peas, tomatoes and squashes as they come into flower and produce their pods or fruits. Tall plants such as climbing beans will draw a lot of moisture from the soil, so will need more watering than other crops.

Apply water as close to the roots as you can, and try to avoid wetting the foliage, which is wasteful and can promote disease. A watering can will help you to get in among the foliage. Avoid watering in the middle the day when much of the moisture applied will quickly evaporate.

Sometimes the soil surface can look dry while, just beneath, there’s plenty of moisture. Dig a hole to see how dry the ground really is. If it’s moist where the roots are, you don’t need to water yet.

Water-wise Irrigation

Drip irrigation is the most efficient type of irrigation system as it delivers water close to the roots. Use a timer to deliver water early in the morning or in the evening, when evaporation rates are lower and little will go to waste.

You can add irrigation setups in the Garden Planner by selecting the irrigation layer from the toolbar. To select an item, click once to pick it up, move your cursor to where you want to place it, then click and drag to position it. You can create curves in irrigation tubes by clicking on and dragging the middle ‘handle’.

Plant Strategically

Planting strategically can help save water. Create miniature reservoirs for thirsty plants such as zucchinis by banking up a miniature levee around each plant. This holds the water you add in place and allows it to slowly drain into the soil, rather than running off. You can also sink plant pots into the soil then water into these, or cut the bottom off a plastic drinks bottle, prick holes into the cap, then bury it upside down into the soil to slowly irrigate the roots.

If the weather is dry when it’s time to sow, water along the seed drills first. Let the water drain away, then water again before sowing your seed and covering over with soil. There’s no need to add more water after covering the seeds over. In hotter climates you may also need to rig up some shading until seedlings are well established.

When planting out seedlings or young plants, water into the planting hole before planting, set the seedling into the ground, then water again to settle the soil around the rootball. The additional moisture around the rootball will get the plant off to a really strong start.

Larger containers dry out much more slowly than smaller ones. If you won’t be able to water regularly, mix some water-retaining granules into the compost before planting, and group pots together to help raise humidity, which will slow down evaporation.

Collect and Store Water

Rainwater is better for plants than treated water. Collect as much of it as you can by installing water barrels to downpipes. You can link up multiple barrels using connectors.

Water barrels can also be added to your garden plan. Simply click to select, move to where you want it on the plan, then click and drag to place it. Use the corner ‘handles’ to adjust the area of the barrel to accurately reflect the size of your model.

Add Organic Matter

Mulching with organic matter can dramatically slow evaporation from the ground. Suitable mulches include dried grass clippings and compost, replenished as necessary during the course of the growing season.

The best results come from repeatedly applying organic matter such as compost over a number of years. This will gradually improve your soil’s structure and its moisture-holding ability, ultimately ensuring the health and vigor of your plants.

Watering exactly where it’s needed, when it’s needed, will save a lot of time—and water!

We’d love to hear how you keep water-wise in the gardenplease share your tips below.

eunice (not verified)

5 years 10 months ago

I attached a sump pump hose to the top out flow of the rain barrel and punched small holes in the hose(starting at the edge of the garden) so when raining, the overflow will water the flowers under a wide eve where rain dose not reach. Seems to work very well.

Mark 8b (not verified)

7 years 11 months ago

These videos are very helpful. Do you have someone that can adapt this advice to other regions? I'm in south Texas. IS there a scale for how much more water is needed per plant per 10 degrees over the norm?

The general principles in this video should apply to where you live, although very hot and dry climates may need additional strategies--extra watering, drip irrigation, use of shade cloth etc.
We don’t know of a calculation for how much extra water is needed depending on the exact temperature, and we doubt a reliable one exists - there are too many variables e.g. soil type, the amount of organic matter in soils, maintenance techniques used such as mulching, variable weather conditions and so on.