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If you were to describe how you water your garden or lawn, which do you think fits your style?

Are you a tough love kind of garden owner? If you think that plants are self-sufficient and can take care of themselves with just a little bit of sunshine, some soil, and the occasional ‘hi’ and ‘bye’, you probably fit into this category.

Sounds like an easy peasy piece of work, right? That is, until you walk into your garden and find yourself thinking that this is what the Sahara desert’s cousin must look like. Your once-vibrant plants are more dehydrated than a raisin and start making these weird crunching noises when you touch their now-very-brown leaves. Turns out, they aren’t well-suited for tough love. You’re telling yourself that maybe you should have gone for those succulents, after all.

If this doesn’t sound like you, would you say that your style is more similar to that of a helicopter parent? Smothering plant mums and dads water their garden ever so diligently, giving their plants so much TLC their plants literally choke to death from too much water. If you’re a smotherer, you’re probably thinking how a plant could die from too much love. You shower them with fertilizer and water them to your heart’s content.

But the love has proven to be a bit too much.Little by little, the leaves start to fall off. What used to be a thriving garden full of bright leaves and flowers has now become a pitiful looking mess. What could have gone wrong?

Before you throw in the towel and tell yourself that you’re not suited to own a garden, let’s assess the problem.

If you’d notice, both scenarios have one thing in common: watering. Watering too much and too little can be bad for your garden. Water them too much and they may suffocate or get mouldy. Water your plants too little and they will get dehydrated.

Of course, your watering method, frequency, and amount of water you’ll use will depend largely on the kind of plant you’re watering. There are, however, guiding principles that professional gardeners swear by. Following these guidelines can mean the difference between a lush garden and a sickly one.

In our Garden Like a Pro series, you’ll be learning the tricks of the trade on how to care for your garden the way pros do it. Once you learn the science on how to water your garden properly, you’ll see your garden transform right before your eyes.

Top pro tips on how to water your garden

Whether your gardening concern is overhydration or dehydration, it’s not too late to solve this. Here are the top tips that lawn care experts recommend on how to water your garden and lawn properly:

1. Less (water) is not more

Contrary to popular belief, watering lightly results in shallow weak roots. You’d want to water well at fewer intervals instead of watering lightly at frequent intervals. Make sure the water goes deep into the roots and delivers much-needed nutrients to the plant. We’re talking quality over quantity here. Think long, meaningful twice-a-week conversations with your plants, not frequent 10-minute small talk and chitchat.

watering the plants using a water sprinkler

2. Cold soil is your best friend

The last thing your plants need is a sauna or steam bath. Make sure to water when the soil is at its coolest, whether early in the morning or late at night. Doing this will help your plants retain water better because the rate of evaporation is slower.

Early morning when the soil is coolest is also the best time to water plants in hot weather. Watering when the soil temperature is warm and when the atmosphere is balmy may result in fungal growth and cause your plants to decay. Spraying water on plants on a hot day doesn’t help, either. In fact, it does more harm than good. Water droplets act as a magnifying glass to the sun’s rays and may cause the leaves to burn. Ouch.

3. Leave the leaves alone

When watering your plants, make sure to leave the leaves dry. Leaves that are left wet can result in mold formation and can cause your plant to decay. Make sure to direct your water source toward the base of the plant so that the roots can absorb all the moisture. Remember that your aim is to let your plants drink in as much water as they could, not give them a bath.

4. There is such a thing as too much water

For garden owners who think that plants can never have enough water, put down the hose gently and stop. There is such a thing as too much water. Even if plants need water for growth, too much of it is actually counterproductive.

Waterlogging causes plants to ‘drown’ or suffocate by clogging their airways with water. This either results in root growth retardation or root decay. When you see that your plant’s roots are not proliferating, it’s highly likely waterlogging is the culprit.

5. Suit your soil

In science class, we learned about the different kinds of soil and their properties. If your gardening soil is on the sandy side, you may need to water more often because water drains off quickly in this type of soil. The ideal soil for gardening is a clay-rich soil as this soil type can hold moisture and nutrients longer. This is particularly beneficial during hot summer days when water evaporates faster.

lawn with a cherry blossom tree and an outdoor dining set

The amount of moisture that should go into your soil goes hand-in-hand with the type of plants in your garden as well. The best way to water a vegetable garden, for example, is to keep it moist throughout the day. Adding a layer of organic mulch will help keep the soil moist and lessen your need to water.

6. More shade = less sun

With this in mind, you should take into consideration the area you’re watering. A shaded area is more protected from the sun than an area that is not shaded. This means that your plants will not dry out as quickly. An exposed, unshaded area, on the other hand, is more susceptible to moisture evaporation and should be given more water. This is done to ensure that the water penetrates deep into the soil and that the roots are soaked well.

7. Go low, not high

As we mentioned earlier, water should go to the roots or base of the plant and not anywhere else, especially the leaves. One way to achieve this efficiently is by installing an irrigation system to hydrate the roots of your plants adequately.

You may also opt to have a sprinkler system installed so that water distribution is even. Take care not to get sprinklers that shoot water high up in the air, though, no matter how much you think the Trevi Fountain would look good in your garden. Not only does this not help soak your roots at all, this is also counterproductive. During warm weather, water droplets evaporate due to the sun’s heat even before they hit the soil. Pretty to look at, yes. Helpful to your garden and the planet, no.

8. Mulching is key.

Among its benefits, mulching, or covering the soil with porous material, helps maintain the soil’s cool temperature and prevents moisture from evaporating. By covering the soil with a layer of material such as wood chips or straw, roots are able to retain water longer and are less prone to dehydration.

9. Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty.

How to tell if your garden is getting enough water? If you’re still not sure if you’ve watered enough, there’s no shame in crouching on the soil and pulling out a (very) small patch of grass to see if the roots are dry or moist. If they’re as dry as paper, it won’t hurt to water more until the water reaches the roots. If the roots are moist, there’s nothing left for you to do here other than give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.

a house's front yard with landscaped lawn

Think of the planet when you water.

Now that you know how to water your garden and how to water your lawn, you’ll find that you will also be saving up on our planet’s most precious commodity. During rainy days, you can lessen the water you use for gardening and even collect and store rainwater for future use.

When you know how to water your garden properly, you’re not only giving yourself a beautiful, healthy garden to own, you’re also doing your part in protecting the planet. By intentionally using only what’s needed, water wastage is lessened and there’s plenty more water to go around.

About Author

Jamie Donovan

Jamie is an Australian horticulturalist and landscape designer. He enjoys writing about landscape architecture, garden design and lifestyle topics.


About Author

Jamie Donovan

Jamie is an Australian horticulturalist and landscape designer. He enjoys writing about landscape architecture, garden design and lifestyle topics.