Is It Better To Water Your Outdoor Plants Every Day Or Heavily Once A Week?

Some 85 to 95% of a plant's weight comes from water, notes The Garden Continuum. So it's safe to say there are few things more critical to our flora than proper hydration. As gardeners, we understand this, so we diligently apply mulch to retain moisture, install drip irrigation systems, and schedule our sprinklers for the proper time of day (which is usually the morning for anyone who is unsure). Even so, we still manage to mess up the simple act of watering all the time.

More often than not, we unintentionally overwater our gardens and landscapes because we're only glancing at the top level of soil and thinking that if the top is dry, the whole plant must be thirsty. This is rarely the case, especially for plants in the ground whose roots have access to deeper water sources in addition to what we supply from the garden hose. As we teeter on the edge of watering too much or too little, one common point of confusion is whether plants prefer a daily sip or a weekly guzzle. The answer lies somewhere in between, and the solution involves getting in touch with the ground and everything that grows there.

When and how to water plants in the ground

Environmental factors come into play from time to time. Still, the general consensus on established vegetable gardens is to water them three times per week for a combined total of an inch of water, per the Old Farmer's Almanac. If all is going well, the only times your garden will need more than that are during periods of drought or when seedlings are just starting. Furthermore, the Almanac advises against flushing your garden with its entire allowance of water all at the same time. When in doubt, take a close look by digging into the soil with a trowel or hand-held cultivator at least a few inches down. Feel a clump of earth between your fingers to determine its degree of moisture. Only then will you know if your plants are in need of water.

For a landscaped yard or lawn, Hicks Nurseries quickly puts the kibosh on the idea that a daily sip of water is beneficial. All plants, including grass, need a chance to dry out before being doused with the sprinkler system again. Watering less often but applying more water each time you do is the best way to teach the root systems to keep growing deeper into the earth. Once or twice a week will likely be sufficient.

When and how to water plants in outdoor containers

Things are a little different for outdoor potted plants because they have no connection to the moisture in the ground. Therefore, they rely solely on human intervention and the occasional rainstorm. Couple that with the fact that potting soil tends to be less dense than garden soil, so it can't retain as much water, and you end up with plants that need a good soak much more often than the vegetable garden or the lawn. That said, Planet Natural Research Center still advises against giving them a daily sip and walking away. The same standard rule applies — potted plants should be watered thoroughly and left to dry before being watered thoroughly again; you're just going to repeat the process more often.

We've all heard about proper drainage and why it's important when container growing, so don't forget to keep an eye on what's going on underneath the pots. Are they creating divots in the lawn that morph into stagnant puddles? Is water pooling in the saucers and turning green with mold? Proven Winners reminds us that soggy soil and standing water are just as bad for our plants as forgetting to water them altogether. The goal is to find the happy medium, which translates to paying attention and getting to know your plants' needs. That's why we got into this hobby in the first place, right?