How much should I water my vegetable garden? Overwatering and underwatering are the cause of many garden problems. Find out how much to water and when.

How Much Water Does Your Vegetable Garden Need?

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Overwatering and underwatering are the cause of many garden problems. How much should I water my vegetable garden? Find out here. And more about gardening for beginners here.

person watering garden with hose and a table full of produce from the garden.

How often to water vegetable garden

Watering once a week is the best practice, up to twice a week in the dry heat of the summer. Watering every day can encourage fungus and also causes your plants to be lazy and grow shallow roots because they don’t have to go down deep to get water. Shallow roots make a less sturdy plant. Think about wind storms that will come later.

We have rain in the forecast almost every day this week. The past few weeks have given our garden a lot of rain. If our beds were in the ground, they would have drowned by now. Our raised beds help ours drain, and it’s wonderful not to have to use the hose.

water and rain in the garden

How much should I water my vegetable garden? 

The amount of water the garden needs is about one inch per week. How do you figure out what an inch of rain or water hose water is? You need a rain gauge to measure rainfall. As part of our curriculum, we use empty tuna cans to measure our hose water. Tuna cans are about one inch tall. We place them all around the garden, let the sprinklers run, and timed how long it took to fill them.

It works very well. Making sure you water deeply helps prevent many problems in the garden. You can even get a timer for your hose so it will come on and go off at the right times, once you know how long it takes to get an inch of water.

It’s best to water in the early morning or late evening so the sun does not evaporate the moisture. We always water in the early morning to prevent fungus that can develop from evening watering. It gives the water a chance to soak into the ground before the hot sun burns it off. It doesn’t stay on the leaves overnight, so you have less disease in the garden.

There are many ways to water including sprinklers and soaker hoses. Sprinkling does cause some water loss, about 4% evaporation when it is not windy. Do some research into different kinds of watering systems and see what is doable for you.

For us right now, sprinklers work to meet our needs, and they are budget-friendly. As we get our garden more established, we will be looking into other ways that may be more efficient. The best kind of sprinkler or waterer to use is what you have or what you can afford to get. 

One more word about sprinklers, invest in a good hose. We have replaced our hoses every year or two for years and when we started the garden, we invested in some good hoses that don’t kink.

They are heavy, but we have them split to go all over the garden areas and yard and they stay outside year-round. They have lasted for 8 years with no fail. It was definitely worth paying twice the price to use them 8 times as long. Invest in good quality equipment to begin with to save money.

child watering seedling tray with small watering can, how much should I water my vegetable garden?

It’s amazing how much better and greener the garden grows when it rains than when we water with the hose. Why is that? The chemicals in our tap water including chlorine are the difference. Plants don’t like drinking them any more than our bodies do.

Best time of day to water vegetable garden

It’s important to water in the morning or evening to prevent to sun from burning up all the water in summer before it can soak in. But watering in the evening can have the consequence of inviting fungus to develop.

If the sun goes down while the plant leaves are still wet, it can allow fungus to develop on those leaves. Watering early in the morning is best practice becuase it allows the water to soak into the ground before the sun evaporates it, but the sun can come up and dry the leaves before any problems arise there.

If you have to water in the evenings, that’s far better than middle of the day when the sun is hottest. So do whatever works for you, but try to follow the best practice you can.

Another great tip for lowering water requirements in the garden is to heavily mulch your garden around the plants with straw or wood chips to keep the top of the soil from drying out and losing water to evaporation. Mulching has so many benefits, but it will keep your crops moist too.

Water requirements for vegetable crops

That’s why rain barrels are great for storing rainwater until your garden needs watering. A good soaking rain will perk and green up a garden like mad. I’m amazed every time.

With all the rain we’ve received recently, our garden is growing by leaps and bounds and it’s as green as can be. Think about that when deciding whether you need a water filter for your own drinking water. The garden tells us many secrets if we listen.

Did you ever notice after a thunderstorm everything is amazingly green? The air and clouds contain nitrogen which plants need. When lightning strikes in the air, it forces the nitrogen out of the air and brings it to the ground. So the lightning is actually “fertilizing” the plants. Amazing, huh? And I love it because I don’t have to water my vegetable garden after the rain. 

Every day you learn something new in the garden, it’s a wonderful teacher. We need to be patient and listen to what it’s telling us. What great lessons have you learned?

More information on how to build raised beds, build a trellis for your plants, and basic gardening information you need is available here in these beginning gardening videos. Click here for more information. You can even download a tour of what types of beds we have in our preschool gardens for free. 

Beginning Gardening Videos

Find out more about how to start an herb garden here.

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8 Comments

  1. First time Gardner here. I have a couple of raised beds, that are only about 11 inches deep. I do have about 2 inches of mulch on top of the soil. I am finding that in this OK hot weather, I have to water every morning. I am putting my finder in the soil knuckle deep, and it feels dry. I do a good soaking until I see the water run out of the bottom. What are your thoughts please? Thanks.

    1. I am having to water twice a week instead of once during these 100 degree weeks. I water 1 inch deep. So i take a bowl or tuna can and water until there is an inch of water in it. It may depend on your soil, so if you have a lighter soil than I do, you may need to water daily. It’s hard to say without seeing it. Or maybe it’s a different mulch. I find that straw keeps the beds very moist but when I used wood mulch, my beds dried out much faster. When I have used leaves they stayed moist as well. I would put your finger in a little deeper, about 3 inches down through soil should tell you. Don’t just check down in the mulch, but about 3 inches under that. If it’s dry there, definitely water. But you might have to water a little longer or more often to keep in moist on these super hot days. Summer in Oklahoma is hard!

  2. I would like to use rain barrels and soaker hoses myself this year to water my garden beds. We have plenty of gutters to drain into the barrels, but only one spigot for a hose. I live in Maryland, and we get a decent amount of rain throughout the summer, but we do get a few dry stretches. When I lived in Texas, it felt like I had to water every day because it was so dry and hot in the summer! I haven’t had a vegetable garden in Maryland yet, so hopefully we won’t have to water so often!

    I love the tuna can idea.

  3. I love the idea of placing the empty tuna cans in there to gauge how long to leave your sprinkler on. I’m definitely going to do that this summer!

  4. Wow, I never knew that about lightning! Can’t wait to tell the kids about that one! And you are so right; the garden seems so happy after rain. Hand watering with tap water doesn’t do the same at all. I’d like to collect more rain water for this very reason. Great post!