The best way is rain. Naturally! There is nothing like a good rainfall to water the garden but with the right equipment, we can do a very good job at standing in for nature when rain isn’t forthcoming. Having said that, in the height of the growing season, a good summer shower may not be enough to penetrate deep into the soil and so always check by digging a small hole to see if it was actually a good soaking or if you still need to water your garden as well.
The key to a healthy garden is to ensure the soil stays evenly moist. A situation where the soil swings from bone dry to sodden and back again isn’t ideal for plants as it causes disruption to the essential processes occurring within the plant. Thick mulch is a great way to stop the garden drying out and conserve the moisture in the soil. It is best to apply it to wet soil.
Some plants have personal preferences in regards to how they like to receive their water. Plants like cucumber, potato, tomato, pea, pumpkin and zucchini really prefer to be watered at the roots. If they get their leaves wet, it makes them more susceptible to fungal diseases like mildew and blight. Other plants really don’t mind, however, watering at the roots is always preferable if you want to avoid wasting water because of evaporation.
Watering the garden is best done first thing in the morning when the water has the best chance of soaking into the ground before the heat of the day evaporates it away. Not all of us are fortunate enough to have a schedule that allows us to do this though so it’s fine to water in the early evening. The drawback with evening watering is that damp conditions can linger longer thereby increase the risk of fungal diseases, but if this is the only time you have then it is the best time for your garden.
Watering at midday isn’t recommended as the evaporation rate makes it wasteful and there is the added danger on hot days of sun scorch on wet leaves.
Now that we know when to water, it is equally important to know how to water. A deep watering every few days is much better than a quick splash every day. The water needs to penetrate deep into the soil to make the roots follow down deep to find it. Not only does this give your plants strength and stability against the wind, but also protects them from the effects of the surface drying of the soil around the plant.
To ensure a deep watering, set your sprayer or nozzle to the soft shower setting and start watering by waving it over the soil to soften any surface crusting that may have formed since you last watered. A well-placed sprinkler will also do the job. This crusting can cause the water to run off away from where you need the water to be. Once this has been absorbed, the water should be able to penetrate into the root zone resulting in a deep watering. Give your plants a good refreshing drink and then come back and give them a splash more remembering not to have the pressure too high or you will blast the soil away and harm the roots.