When someone asks us the question "how often should you water your garden?" we immediately know that the person asking doesn't understand the physiology of plants, and you kow what, that's OK. Most people don't.
Everyone wants the simple answer: every 2 days, once a week, twice a week, etc. However, nature just doesn't work that way.
We won't go into depth about the way plants grow and their water needs, because we believe you don't need to know that level of detail to be a successful gardener. However, we DO want to explain why it's not so simple an answer.
Watering Factor #1 - The Plant
To answer the question of how often should you water your garden we first need to focus on one thing, the plant. Some plants require more water. Some require less.
That being said, when we say more or less, we don't mean you should drown the plant in water. If you do that, you'll know you're watering way to frequently.
A good way to think of it is this. Think of the soil and how wet or dry it is currently, and how wet or dry it will be in 1 day, 3 days, 5 days, etc. All plants, both in pots and in the ground, like the soil to be moist, which will allow them to absorb nutrients. Some plants like the soil to stay moist at all times and if it dries out, they will wilt. Others are OK with the soil drying out for a bit before re-wetting.
A great example of this is the Impatiens plant, a summer annual that likes shade.
First you have the most common impatens, for the sake of ease, we'll call them "bedding" impatiens. Even though there are a variety of colors and cultivars, they look very similar to each other. The bedding impatiens are most commonly known as simply, impatiens.
This variety of impatiens will be OK if the soil dries out for a short time. They might wilt a little and when they do, you know it's time to water them.
There are other cultivars that look much different. The one we like the most is the New Guinea Impatiens.
We love this variety of Impatiens because of it's beautiful leaves that are darker green and larger than regular impatiens which allows the flowers to pop. However, we never use them on client jobs and even in our own gardens, we usually don't plant them. Why? Because they dry out quickly and wilt, often within a day if the weather is hot and dry.
We could never expect our clients to keep that close an eye on their gardens and water their New Guinea Impatiens every day when they need it - expecially in today's unpredicatable weather.
The bottom line is... you need to know the water needs of the the plants you're using in your gardens...TO A POINT... because of the next factor...
Watering Factor #2 The Weather
If you want to know how often to water your garden, look up.... at the sky, that is.
As we mentioned previously, instead of thinking of the plants' individual needs and how often to water them, you should think about the soil and how long it will take to dry out in the current weather.
For instance, if you're getting rain every 2-3 days, you probably don't need to water. If you haven't received rain in a week and the weather is hot and sunny, you probably need to water. If the weather is cooler and cloudy, water may be needed but maybe not.
If you've received rain every other day, but it's been light sprinkles, the water has probably not penetrated the soil deep enough to wet the roots, so watering more frequently may be warranted.
As a general rule of thumb, in hot sunny weather plants in the garden (not in pots) can usually go a few days without watering, depending on the plant. In cooler weather, a week or more is not that long to go without water.
The Moisture Test
If you're still unsure how often you should water your garden, you can do 2 things.
How Often Should You Water Your Garden - The Bottom Line
Here's the bottom line. Nature is not perfect. Most plants will still grow in less than ideal conditions and that means too much or too little water. However, they may not grow as well.
It's rare for plants in the ground (not in pots) to be overwatered. If they get too much, the water will drain through the soil and away from the plant and the roots will stay moist, so it's OK.
If however, you have clay-ish soil that doesn't drain well, plants in the ground can indeed get too much. It's like planting in a fish bowl that holds water, and you don't want that.
Think about this... how often does it rain at your house? I know for us, there are times it rains for 2-3 days straight, and huge downpours at that! Do the plants die? No, they survive. Why? Because the soil is draining the excess water away.
Another common misconception is when the weather for a week consists of cloudy days and rain and some plants go down or even die, it's because of too much rain and, therefore, overwatering. While this is a possibility, more often than not though, it's because of lack of sunlight.
That's why it's important to add soil amendments and especially peat moss to your gardens so they drain well.
Read our article on "How To Prepare Your Flower Beds For Growing Outstanding Plants" to learn more about that.
So the bottom line is this. How often should you water your garden? Look to the sky and the weather and think about keeping the soil moist. Get comfortable with knowing how the soil is drying out in your own environment so it will get to be second nature.
And that, my friend, is the answer.
We have many more beginner gardening tips for you in our free guide... 10 Pro Landscape Tips To Improve Your Home's Curb Appeal. This free guide is available CLICKING HERE.