I’m always asked, “How often do I water my garden?” I reply, “Don’t ask me, ask your plants.”
As a general rule, you want to water seldom and deeply and only when your plants are thirsty. You’ll know this because they will lose a bit of their shine and droop just a bit. Then give them a full drink and make sure the water soaks deeply into the soil. A 3 by 8 raised bed might take five to eight minutes to water. To be sure, wait a few minutes after watering the very first time and then stick your hand deeply into the soil. It should be moist and not bone dry. Because these are raised beds you shouldn’t have any problems with too much water, as long as you don’t go crazy.
I’m also asked about automated irrigation systems like lawn sprinklers. I discourage their use for the garden because it often leads to “garden neglect.” You think the plants are getting the water they need and don’t feel you have to go out and check on them. Often this ends up with a gardener finding bug infestations or critter problems when it’s too late to do anything about it or having some parts of the garden covered too much or too little.
I strongly suggest you use a water wand that can deliver a good amount of water at low pressure. This will water your garden quickly without displacing any seeds or washing away any soil. I don’t like soaker hoses, because they get in the way and don’t water evenly or where needed. Water early in the day whenever possible so the plants and soil have time to dry out before nightfall. Don’t water the leaves since this encourages fungal growth.
The only time you want to water often and shallow is when you’re planting tiny seeds like carrots and lettuce.
Eric Eitel is a farmer, father, personal trainer and owner of Instant Organic Garden Southern Maryland, a business that builds raised bed gardens for homeowners, schools, restaurants and businesses. He gives talks and teaches classes on how to make gardening easy. Call 443-771-3003, email email@example.com or check his website at