Learn five easy watering techniques that save water AND time watering your garden while cutting down on chores, creating healthier plants, and allowing you to enjoy your garden more.
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During the warmer months, it seems like all we gardeners do is water - pots, vegetables, shrub and flower borders, and of course lawns.
And then it feels like as soon as everything's been watered, it's time to start the whole rotation again.
While the chore of watering can't be eliminated completely (unless you have everything automated, which would be amazing), there are definitely some ways you can save water, and the time it takes to water, making it easier for you and your plants.
Using these water saving tips will help the environment, too, because you'll actually use less water than overhead watering from standard sprinklers or hand watering. That's a win!
The watering techniques that I'm sharing with you are my absolute favorites - I have used them for years.
And I can promise that if you don't have an automated sprinkler or drip system, these easy tips are the next best thing to cut down on the chore of watering - whether it's flower borders, vegetables, or keeping your flower pots watered while on a vacation.
Five Ways to Save Water and Time Watering
1. Lay soaker hoses in beds, borders, and garden rows.
How: Simply hook a soaker hose to your main hose and let it soak the ground for two to four hours every 5 to 7 days, depending on the bed's location (for example, beds under trees will need more moisture), the weather, and your home's water pressure.
To know how long for your garden, use your finger to see if the soil is moist 1-inch down (about to your first knuckle) - if it is, then the bed has received enough water (this is also the way to see if you need to water - too much water isn't good for plants, either).
Why: Less frequent, deep watering creates healthy, established roots that can withstand dry spells easier.
PRO TIP: Invest in quick connect hose ends that make hooking the main hose up to the soakers a snap – literally.
And when they sprout a hole (they all will, eventually...) here's how to easily repair soaker hoses.
2. Lay down newspaper or cardboard and mulch.
How: Cover bare, moist ground with 5-8 layers of newspaper (or 1 layer of cardboard if you won't be planting there), top with soaker hoses, and then with a layer of dark-colored mulch (see our video here for step-by-step tutorial).
In the vegetable garden, lay paper between the plants and on the paths before covering with straw or grass clippings. You can also use plastic mulches like red for tomatoes and black for peppers to conserve water - in these cases, you won't need to lay anything on top of them. See how I grow healthy tomatoes using red plastic and row covers early here.
Why: This tip makes the soaker hoses even more efficient by helping to regulate soil moisture and not dry out as fast. It's especially helpful in the vegetable garden, as some plants will become stressed with uneven soil moisture (example: blossom end rot on tomatoes is caused by this as well as low calcium in the soil).
PRO TIP: This is also the secret to a weed-free garden, which I've written about a lot because gardening became SO much easier after I started implementing this in all my garden areas!
3. Use large pots for flowers.
How: Use pots at least 12 inches in diameter, but aim for 16 to 24-inch (or larger) pots and keep them close to your house for the easiest access.
Why: Larger pots hold more soil and require less frequent watering.
4. Add water absorbing crystals to your pots.
How: Add a teaspoon to a tablespoon to each planter, depending on the size, and mix it into the soil at planting time.
The water-absorbing crystals look like rock salt, but they soak up water becoming 10-20 times larger and then slowly release it back into the soil.
Why: The crystals help keep the water at the plants roots longer. This is my #1 tip to lush pots even in the hot heat of summer (see my other tips here - you won't be sorry!).
PRO TIP: These crystals are sometimes hard to find, but you can usually find them in most nursery centers in the potting section as well as online at places like Amazon.
5. Use a kiddie pool for vacation watering.
How: It was so freeing when I discovered this technique! Instead of paying a neighbor or imposing on your family, place all of your small to medium (but of course, not that small, if you're using tip #3!) pots into a basic plastic kiddie pool and fill with water.
The water will last 4-5 days, even at the height of summer, before needing to be refilled.
Why: Your pots will take the water up from the bottom and stay hydrated for about five days.
PRO TIP: If your vacation is longer (like a full week) the pots may become waterlogged and show some browning, but they should bounce back once removed from the pool (unlike if they are burned from drought). I've found 3-5 days is about perfect, though I have used this successfully for week-long vacations.
So there are my five tried-and-true watering tips that help us through the summer - what about you?
Do you have some favorite tips you use to save water and time in the garden?