Article updated July 15, 2002
Watering your garden may seem like a simple chore, but there's an entire science behind nourishing those plants. Some of the most common problems found in the average garden include overwatering and underwatering. You may have even heard of deep watering as an important part of growing a successful garden. Discover everything there is to know about deep watering as you cultivate a yard that's full of blossoms, fruits and healthy foliage.
What Does Deep Watering Mean?
Generally, deep watering means that the soil is saturated to about an 8-inch depth. Healthy plants usually grow their roots down deep. In fact, some plants grow roots that are nearly two feet long for optimal nutrient and moisture uptake. There are only a few plants, such as cacti, that have shallow root systems.
Watering deeply means that the moisture reaches these long roots. If you're unsure of how deep the water penetrates, inserting a garden trowel into the ground and looking at the soil's consistency is a great way to find out.
Reasons Deep Watering Is Beneficial
You probably want to understand why deeply watering is beneficial in the first place. Primarily, it encourages the plants to produce deeper roots. They seek out the water at lower levels, which promotes stability for the entire plant. Roots also find more nutrients this way.
The soil loses less water to evaporation when the water is held deeply in the ground. Any extreme weather fluctuations from hot to cold are no problem for deeply watered plants. They actually have an easier time of surviving the elements when the roots and water remain low in the ground.
Breaking Down the Skill
There's an art to deep watering. Try this strategy for your garden. Water the plants with a gentle stream for about an hour. The water should slowly saturate the soil without creating puddles. Any puddling means that too much water is falling at once.
Consider drip irrigation as a clever way to saturate the soil for an hour without holding up the garden hose or running the sprinklers. Drip irrigation allows water to seep into the ground at a slow rate by way of tubing snaked around the garden.
Timing the Deep Watering
Timing your deep watering depends largely on the season. The spring usually offers moderate temperatures and a few rainy days. Try to deeply water every two weeks. During the summer, you might be watering up to twice a week.
Treat autumn watering like spring watering, and reduce the watering frequency to once a month during the winter. These general guidelines can be flexible based on your location and weather conditions.
Testing the Soil
How often should you deep water? There's a simple test that you can perform to see if the garden needs another round of moisture. Dig a trowel into the soil to about 4 inches deep. Feel the soil's moisture content at that level. If the soil is only a bit moist at 4 inches deep, it's time to deeply water again. The soil below that level may be dry.
Keep in mind that your soil type will also dictate how often to deeply water. Clay holds moisture longer than sandy conditions, for instance.
Protecting the Watered Soil
Watering deeply won't be very effective without a helpful tool in your garden. Remember to sprinkle mulch onto the garden at a 2-inch depth. Wood chips are a favorite because they can break down over time as they add nutrients to the soil.
Mulch protects the soil from moisture loss and fights off pesky weeds. Depending on your location, mulching is only necessary about once a year. Maintaining a 2-inch depth of mulch will keep the moisture where it belongs: at the root tips.
Keeping a Consistent Schedule
Once you commit to deeply watering, keep up with a regular schedule. Cycling between deep and shallow watering will only create issues for the roots. Long root tendrils that are now deep in the soil won't be able to reach shallow water at a 1-inch depth, for instance.
If you must be away from your garden for longer than a week, consider automatic watering or ask a trusted friend to perform the task. Deep watering will prolong your garden's lifespan, with masses of blossoms as a thank you each growing season.
Every garden will have unique soil. Be patient with the water volume, duration and frequency. With some trial and error, you'll discover the perfect amount of water to give your plants. They'll thank you with vigorous growth that's bound to thrill every gardening enthusiast.
For more general watering information, read the following articles: