Today, we’re making the case for hand watering. While sprinklers or even drip irrigators can be convenient, they’re not always the best option for raising healthy, happy plants. We find they can even take some of the joy out of gardening.
Here’s why hand watering is a worthwhile chore for you and your garden:
1. You control when you water
The best time of day to water is in the early morning, right as the sun is coming up. By watering at this hour, you’re allowing water to penetrate the soil and subsoil without evaporating in the warm sun or cooling the soil surface down. Get in with your hose in the mornings to give your plants turgid, strong stems and leaves to carry them throughout the day.
2. You control where you water (at the roots!)
Water at the roots, not over the tops of your plants. Why? Firstly, overhead watering is a wasteful because your foliage isn’t as efficient at water uptake than the roots. Secondly, you don’t want soil to splash up on plants that are susceptible to fungi and disease (like tomatoes, squash and other summer, fruiting plants). Instead, direct water low to the ground to keep foliage dry and maximize water uptake in your garden.
3. You control the amount of water
One of the worst things you can do in the garden is overwatering or underwatering your plants. Hand watering with a hose
allows you to tailor the amount of water given to each crop and to ensure that water is actually penetrating into the soil.
Try the water-wait-water technique. To do this, saturate the surface soil first, then leave it for a few minutes before watering again. This will encourage water to soak deep into the first few inches of soil. Do the finger test to get a sense that the first few inches of soil are wet. If not, go back in with your hose until you’ve got a finger-deep section of moist soil.
4. You can customize your watering
One of the best things about hand watering is that you can give plants the right amount of water for the stage of life they’re in. For example, imagine a vegetable garden with newly planted seedlings and tomatoes that are ready to fruit. The seedlings have shallow, narrow roots so they need a little bit of water once, if not twice, every day, applied directly to the base of the plant. On the other end of the spectrum are the tomatoes, with wide root systems and big, juicy fruits starting to develop. They need lots of water applied at and around the base of the plant. Hand watering allows you to serve the watering needs of every plant to optimize its growth.
5. You never waste water
Overhead sprinklers don’t discriminate. They give an even dosing of water to everything in their path, from your thirstiest plant to your concrete pathway. Not only is that a wasteful use of water, but it’s also a surefire way to invite weeds and slugs into areas you’d prefer stayed dry. Hand watering allows you to conserve water by directing it only where it needs to go, without any haphazard spraying or unnecessary evaporation into the air.
6. You don't have to fuss with gadgets and gizmos
You want to spend your time enjoying your garden, not fussing with unreliable sprinklers that clog, break, or just simply don’t get the job done. When you go the hand-watering route, all you need to bring life to your garden is to grab your hose
7. You notice the little things
Hand watering gives you plenty of time to stop and smell the roses. Or, to stop and notice the aphids making their way through your vegetable patch. Either way, hang watering provides an opportunity to get a close look at your plants on a regular basis. This way, you can catch any concerns before they become problems. Better yet, you can catch countless beautiful moments in your garden that you would have missed with an automated watering system.
Spend some time with your plants this season and try out hand watering. Chances are, you’ll find yourself looking forward to your morning watering sessions. It’s the perfect time to enjoy the serenity of your garden and appreciate the results of your attentive care.