Water is necessary for life, for all living creatures including humans, and for plants. In natural environments, plants rely on rainwater from the heavens. But when you are cultivating a garden at home, you can’t always rely on Mother Nature.
So what is the best time to water plants in your home garden? Generally, it’s accepted that the best time to water your plants is in the early morning. But that assumes warm conditions and excludes frosty mornings. It’s also important to know how much water your different types of plants need and how often to water them.
Why do plants need water?
Water is a vital nutrient for all plants. As Jodi Richmond, an extension service agent at West Virginia University points out, 95% of a plant’s tissue is comprised of water.
Plants need water for seeds to sprout and to carry nutrients through the plant as it grows. They also need water for photosynthesis so that they can use energy from the sun to generate food.
Transpiration, where water is evaporated on the leaves of plants, is another important function. It keeps plants from overheating, ensuring plants have sufficient water from the soil.
Water is also the key to the structural support of cells, making them strong and flexible and able to maximize photosynthesis by bending toward the sun. Sugars and other nutrients from photosynthesis are dissolved in water so that they can be used throughout the plant for growth and reproduction.
If plants don’t have enough water, plant tissue will start to brown and their leaves will curl. Eventually, they will die.
How much water do plants need a day?
The key question when it comes to watering plants is how much water they need. But it isn’t how much they need every day. In fact, most plants definitely don’t need to be watered daily.
Rebecca Finneran and Mary Wilson from the Michigan State University Extension point out that sometimes natural rainfall supplies all the water you need for your plants to thrive. But, of course, seasonal rainfall varies, sometimes quite dramatically, so it’s important for you to know how much to water and when it’s the best time to water.
A good test is to feel the top six inches of soil. If it’s dry, water your plants.
How often should plants be watered?
While there is no doubt that some plants need more water than others, when you water garden plants, it’s important to provide deep, thorough, penetrating watering. Avoid more frequent light watering that won’t encourage deeper root growth.
You also need to be aware of how dry the soil is. Stick your finger in the soil, and if it’s dry below a few inches, dig a bit deeper to see if you need to water immediately.
When should you water plants on a hot day?
Knowing when to water plants is just as important as knowing how much water to feed them. If it’s a hot day, the best time to water is usually any time between 5 and 9 in the morning.
The reason is that on a hot day water on the plant foliage will dry quickly, helping to prevent the development of fungal diseases. The water is also more likely to soak deep into the soil, minimizing evaporation.
The experts at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach explain that if you water in the middle of the day, you are encouraging rapid evaporation. When you water in the evening, the moisture is unlikely to dry out, which generally invites diseases on plant foliage.
How to water your plants
There are so many different ways to water garden plants it might be difficult to decide which route to take. Options range from hand watering to overhead watering, drip irrigation, and soaker hoses.
Hand watering is reliable provided you can maintain an effective schedule when time permits. One big benefit is that you can take natural rainfall into account.
You can also do the finger test, judging how dry the top few inches or so of soil are before you water. If you opt for hand watering, you need to be sure that you have a faucet or hose nearby.
Overhead watering is another option, and sprinklers are relatively inexpensive and very easy to install. But, be warned, this is not an efficient way to water, even if it seems to mirror natural rainwater.
Unfortunately, overhead watering tends to encourage diseases on plant leaves. Also, a lot of water tends to evaporate before it soaks into the soil.
Drip irrigation systems and soaker hoses are both great solutions that are particularly well suited to a vegetable garden.
Both methods use less water and concentrate it at the root zone where it is needed most. They also don’t wet the plant foliage, so you can also water them in the evenings.
Learn Proper Watering Methods
But there’s more to water techniques than many people realize. A lengthy publication published by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension shares invaluable information about the Efficient Use of Water in the Garden and Landscape.
The authors, Larry Stein and Doug Welsh, level a stern warning that proper watering methods are very seldom practiced by home gardeners. We need to acknowledge that most of us either over or under-water our garden plants, both of which are detrimental.
Ultimately, you need to thoroughly moisten the soil when you water your plants. But then you need to let them use what you have given them before you water them again.
You can achieve this by watering less often but more deeply.
It’s important to know when the best time is to water plants. But it’s also important to know how much water they need and how to water them most efficiently.
Unfortunately, for many of us, it’s a hit-and-miss scenario that often results in our flowers and vegetable garden plants suffering. Hopefully, these garden tips will help you ensure that your garden plants thrive when you water your plants more efficiently.