In spring, after any seeds you have direct sown are now up and growing, and any seedlings you transplanted are now putting on new growth, you will receive your greatest reward from gardening — the time of bloom and harvest that you’ve been looking forward to! Here are a few tips for garden watering throughout the growth season.

The best source of water for your garden is rain. As long as rain keeps your soil moist beneath its mulch, no irrigation is needed. An actively growing garden requires at least 1 inch of rain per week; if this is lacking, or if you see your plants wilt during the warmer part of the day, then you probably need to irrigate.

During the first 3 weeks after direct-sown seeds have sprouted and seedlings transplanted into garden soil, check the moisture level at least weekly. Do this by plunging your index finger into the soil. If it is dry beneath the mulch, dig down about 6 inches with a trowel. If the soil is still dry at that depth, water your garden. Later in the season, after roots have reached deep into the soil, you need to water only if signs of wilting appear.

A good guideline for watering is to do it deeply rather than frequently. Soak the garden for up to 4 hours at a time, letting water sink deeply into the soil. Then let the upper soil layers dry out before watering again. This promotes deep root growth, more lasting beauty and better harvest from your plants.  It can also help retard weed growth.

Several irrigation methods are effective. Ground watering, with trickle tubes or a carefully placed hose, soaks deep and avoids wetting foliage or flowers (which often encourages disease), but these devices are sometimes hard to set up or move. Impulse jet sprinklers lay down a lot of water fast and are easy to move around, but can beat small or tender plants down. A fine spray sprinkler of the oscillating or whirling type is both gentle and easy to move, but slower.

Whichever method you choose, supplement it with a heavy layer of mulch around the plants. This helps keep water from evaporating, helps maintain steady soil temperatures, and chokes out weeds.

Your garden will repay wise watering with beautiful growth, more blooms, and bigger harvests. Happy gardening!

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