Ways to water your garden efficiently

Water is a precious resource. Jean Vernon explains the best way to water your garden and plants.

man watering raised vegetable bed

Gardeners don’t waste water, but find effective ways to use it economically. There are lots of ways to water your garden to not only save and store water, but to also concentrate your watering efforts on the things that really need extra moisture. To make the best use of every drop of water it’s important to establish the plants and areas that really need help. Here’s our handy guide on the ways to water your garden efficiently.

Lawn care

Have a look around the garden. Have you just sown some lawn seed or laid some turf? The lawn is an area that new gardeners often worry about, but unless it has been recently started, it really shouldn’t need watering. Even if an established lawn goes brown in a drought, it will still recover. The only time you need to water a lawn is if it has been sown or turfed in the last six months or so. And then it is important that you really soak the area and allow the water to seep down to the roots. Otherwise you will encourage surface rooting that will be more susceptible to sunburn and drought.

Ways to water your garden

Plan ahead now before the real summer starts in earnest. Can you install a garden water source down the garden, so that you can move watering cans of the clear stuff to your plants with less effort?

water butts
Connect water butts to your gutters to collect rainwater. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Have you got water butts connected to your garage, shed, house and greenhouse gutters and are they collecting water correctly? If not then it’s time to rethink, it doesn’t take much effort to connect up the gutters and harvest your rainwater. It makes no sense using drinking water to water your garden plants. Just one or two heavy showers will fill a water butt from a suitable greenhouse roof. Rainwater is the very best water to use to water garden plants and can be used for established and mature garden plants. But take care watering seedlings and young plants as sometimes stored rainwater can carry plant problems that are more likely to affect juvenile plants and seedlings. Instead water these with tepid tap water until you are able to plant them out.

watering lettuce
Water seedlings and young plants with tepid tap water. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Pots and containers

The other group of plants that will need more care and attention over the next few months are those growing in pots, baskets, growing bags, containers and window boxes. While the odd rain shower will help keep them hydrated they do dry out much quicker than plants growing in the garden soil. Cluster them together to make it easier to water them. Move them to a sheltered, shady spot at the height of summer. Place them into saucers or trays to capture any run off and allow you to soak them every few days when required, but don’t leave them standing in water for weeks on end.

Water supply

With a garden tap you can connect a dual splitter and divide the source into two providing water on tap for the seedlings that need clean mains water and a micro drip system that will keep your plants hydrated in the heat of the summer and if you are away. These days there are some excellent, water efficient timers and kits to ensure your pots and planters are well watered. 

micro drip watering nozzle
Install a water efficient kit to keep your plants hydrated in the heat of the summer. Image: Martin Mulchinock

You’ll read a lot about using grey water for the garden this summer. It’s the recycled wastewater from the house. Take care. While you can use cooled bath water on the garden it’s not a good idea to use it to water edible plants or crops, so restrict the use of recycled house water for the established ornamentals. If you can, siphon off the final rinse water from the washing machine (a great reason to choose ecological washing liquid) you can use this on ornamental garden plants too. Likewise, cooled, non greasy washing up water (another good reason to choose ecological washing up liquid) can also be used. Place a couple of watering cans by the back door and empty any vegetable washing water and cooled washing up water into them. They will soon fill up and the water can then be used on your garden plants.

Don’t get into the habit of watering your garden plants. Water on demand, i.e. only if the plants are showing signs of stress, keep a check on anything you’ve planted recently because it’s usually those that start to wilt in dry spells. Greenhouse plants are a bit different as they succumb quickly to the warmth of the greenhouse and the compost that they grow in can dry out quickly. Keep it moist using self-watering trays or micro drip irrigation. Shade the greenhouse to prevent excessive heat and water at night or in the early morning so that your plants have time to really soak up the moisture. 

Watering tips

Don’t dig over the soil unless you need to. Every time you do you bring moist soil to the surface and the water evaporates in the sun and wind.

Water gently in the evening when possible so that every drop gets to where you want it to go and your plants really benefit.

watering plant container in the evening
Water plants gently in the evening. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Remember that when you do need to water, it is much better to really soak the ground around your plants once a week than water them superficially daily. 

After a rainfall or a watering session, scrape away the topsoil to see how far down the water has soaked, it’s a good indication of whether you need to water or not.

Use micro-drip irrigation set to an automatic or smart phone timer to water your pots and containers effortlessly.


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