Hold That Hose! Summer Garden Watering Advice

By Danny Klittich
Published: June 15, 2017 | Last updated: October 31, 2018 01:12:22
Key Takeaways

Watering is sometimes overlooked as an important part of the gardening process. A good watering schedule can improve plant growth and vigor, and a bad schedule can do the opposite. In fact, home gardens are generally overwatered, which can cause a variety of issues. Here are some tips you can use to gauge your watering needs and give your plants the water they need on time and in the right amount.

Garden Design & Summer Watering

As we all know, plants take up water from the soil using their roots. We also know that not all plants require the same amount of water. In light of this fact, gardeners should take these diverse watering needs into account in the garden design.


When planting, make sure the plants you are putting in the same bed or on the same sprinkler line have similar water requirements. This is why most sprinkler clocks come with many different programs so you can set each bed of plants with their own watering regime.

Automation of Summertime Watering in the Garden

One of my goals as a gardener is to have a beautiful garden that requires minimal effort so I can spend more time enjoying the garden than sweating in it. Irrigation can be a time-intensive practice if done by hand, which is why most gardeners use sprinklers and automated timers.


This also allows for consistent application of water. Most of us set that clock once when we install it and then let it do its thing throughout the year or growing season, but this is not ideal. As the seasons change, you should be adjusting your watering schedule to reflect the changing needs of your plants.

Here is a simple way to gauge the needs of your plants:

  • Water your plants deeply with a long irrigation cycle and mark it on your calendar.
  • Shut off your irrigation and let your plants grow with that allotment of water.
  • Wait for the plants to start to wilt.
  • When you notice the first signs of wilting, water your plants and then mark it on your calendar.
  • Count the days between watering and subtract by one day to get the ideal time between watering.

Using this method, if I watered deeply on a Monday morning and noticed on the Thursday that the plants were starting to wilt, I should set my irrigation clock to water every three days. When the weather cools, I can adjust the clock to 4-5 days, and when it heats up, I can reduce the watering schedule to every other day.


This method promotes the plant to grow deep roots to take up water from lower in the soil. When you water too frequently, the plant will only grow roots along the top part of the soil and then if you forget to water or the temperature increases too quickly, the plant will suffer.

It also decreases your water use and helps keep your water bill low. Lastly, it prevents the ground from becoming oversaturated, which causes root rot issues.


Best Time of Day to Water Plants in the Summer

Finally, let’s touch on the time of day to water. Many of us enjoy coming home from work, grabbing a beverage from the fridge, and then doing some light watering in the garden to wind down the day.

This is a nice way to relax, but watering in the evening can encourage a high overnight humidity in the garden. This makes a great environment for plant diseases like powdery mildew, rust and black spot to take hold.

Plant pathogens love damp, humid garden conditions, as do snails and slugs, so the best time to water is early morning before sun up. This allows the water to sink into the soil and the early morning sun to dry out the garden slowly.

Watering in the late morning may cause issues in hot places because the sun may already be too intense and the water on the leaves may cause sunburn.

Early morning before the sun comes up is best. You can also have the water come on twice, with a little time in between, to allow the moisture to soak in, reducing run-off.

Watering is a seemingly simple task but it does require some thought and effort to make your garden grow to its fullest potential. Follow these tips to ensure both healthy plants and minimal water wastage.


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Written by Danny Klittich

Profile Picture of Danny Klittich
Danny Klittich M.S. is a doctoral candidate in entomology at the University of California, Davis and a research consultant with CleanGrow. His research focuses on increasing plant resistance and tolerance to arthropod pests. Other interests include biological control, integrated pest management and woodworking.

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