The best time to water the garden is during the morning, as this will minimize evaporation. Watering during the night may promote disease. It is important to soak the soil thoroughly so the water reaches the root zone. Light watering encourages the plant roots to grow near the surface of the soil, where they may become damaged by foot traffic and exposure to sunlight. To test for soil moisture, place your finger into the soil and note the moisture level. For established plants, if the first four inches of soil is dry, watering is needed. For new plants or transplanted plants, water when the first two inches of soil is dry. Annuals may need to be watered more frequently than perennials as their root system is not as established.
Watering can be accomplished by a variety of methods: with a sprinkler, a soaker hose, by using a watering can, or by collecting water in a container. Sprinklers work well in that they can distribute water where needed within the garden, however, the entire plant gets wet. Water left on the foliage of plants may result in disease of the plant if there is not ample drying time. A soaker hose is simply a length of hose with many small holes in it. This hose is considered a semi-permanent fixture in the garden. The hose should be placed within the garden among the plants, at least 6 inches from the base of the plant. The hose can be covered with an inch or two of mulch to hide its appearance. The use of a watering can may require several trips to the garden area, and sufficient watering levels may not be reached. A watering can is ideal for plants grown in planters. Water collected in containers is a great way to supply a plant with sufficient water. To use this technique, first cut the bottom off of a plastic gallon milk container or a 2-liter pop bottle. Place a few inches of the top end of the container in the ground near a plant and secure with mounded soil. Fill the container with water – the water will drain into the soil at a relatively slow pace, ensuring a good supply of water. Containers may be placed within the garden at strategic locations for even water distribution and container concealment; perhaps between two plants.
Some caution must be taken in order to not over-water plants. Too much water will result in mud, which will harden when dried and may harm the roots and development of a plant. Over-watering plants may result in the loss of foliage, disease, and death of a plant. To know exactly how much water is needed, it is best to know as much about a particular plant as possible.