Garden Irrigation: Choosing the Type of Irrigation | When to water | How much to water

Irrigation in the garden is a fundamental task and we must plan it well. Today we will see how to water a garden and how to choose an automatic or manual watering system . Once you have chosen the irrigation method, you have to know how much to water and how often. Let’s see!

How the garden should be irrigated

It is necessary to ensure that the substrate remains humid but without getting waterlogged, so that the plants can grow and develop correctly.

The lack of water in periods with little rain and / or a lot of heat can cause “water stress” in the plant, which will produce less, or it can even wilt and dry out.

But excessive watering is also harmful , because the excess water that comes out from under the culture container takes part of the nutrients with it. In addition, the roots can suffocate because with so much water around they are not able to capture oxygen, and the chances of pests and diseases , especially fungi, also increase due to the humid environment that is generated around the plants.

Irrigation in its proper measure, neither more nor less. 

Therefore, you will have to be careful and water frequently with light waterings, taking into account some important aspects on which the frequency and time of irrigation depend , such as:

  • The water needs of the crops (there are plants that need more water and others that need less).
  • The size of the  container (plants in small containers should be watered more often).
  • The density of plants (the less volume of land there is for each plant, the less amount of water can be stored and for less time, so you have to water more when there is little space between the plants than when the separation is greater).
  • The type of substrate (some retain more water than others).
  • The climate (water contributed by the rains, temperature, sun …).

How much water does a garden need?

Of course, plants need more water in summer than in winter , since if the temperatures are higher and the sun shines on the containers, the water will evaporate much faster. Conclusion: as a general rule it is enough to water once or twice a week in winter and, in summer, you should do it every day. In spring and autumn you will have to adjust the irrigation according to the temperatures and the rains.

The key is to check the humidity of the soil, either by dipping your finger into the substrate or a pencil, for example (if it comes out clean, with no soil attached, the substrate is very dry) or by using a moisture meter, a Very useful gadget to know when to water and not too expensive.

The water that each plant needs is not exactly the same, so to make better use of it you can associate the crops  in groups and give the right irrigation to each one, taking into account that there are more demanding crops and that others, such as garlic or garlic. onion, are able to develop with less water:

  • Little irrigation: garlic, onion, chickpea, lentils or aromatic herbs such as lavender, rosemary, thyme, oregano …
  • Medium watering: pea, tomato, cucumber, turnip and some flowers that we use to drive away insects, such as basil, calendula or marigold.
  • Abundant watering: chard, artichoke, celery, zucchini, cabbage, leek …

If you have your garden in a dry area, it is advisable to choose undemanding crops (perennials) or, if you put seasonal crops like horticultural crops, water enough and be careful that the soil does not stay dry.

What time is best to water?

When is it better to water the garden, in the morning or at night? It all depends on the time of year.

In the dry season (summer) it is better to water once the sun has set, so that the water evaporated due to the heat is less.

In winter, and especially if there is a risk of frost, it is not convenient to water at night because if the temperatures drop too cold, the water that is too cold can damage the roots.

How to water a garden

What method to use to water the garden? The first question we must ask ourselves to plan irrigation is manual irrigation or automatic irrigation? We will see below the advantages of watering the garden manually or with an automatic system, as well as the irrigation systems of each type.

Manual watering

If you have time and your garden is not too big, opt for manual watering with a watering can or with a hose , since it is a very effective way to water, you will control the water applied and you can take the opportunity to take a look at your crops and check that have not been attacked by pests or diseases.

If you use a hose, you can incorporate a spray nozzle , to avoid making “holes” and puddles in the substrate. It is important not to wet the leaves of the plants too much , because this can cause fungi and other diseases to appear on them.

There are other types of manual irrigation traditionally used in rural gardens: furrow irrigation and flood irrigation . If you have a lot of water available (a reservoir, a well …) you can use one of these systems since they are very effective and wet all the soil that surrounds the roots.

Although they fulfill their function, surface irrigation in an urban garden is not convenient because it consumes too much water and is not efficient (there are large losses due to evaporation, much greater than in localized irrigation systems).

If you have chosen manual and non-automatic watering, you will have to think about how to water the plants when you are not at home . You can buy  sprinklers or sprinkler cones, which will keep enough moisture in the substrate for several days.

It is a very simple device, a kind of cone made of a porous material that receives water from a tank (bottle, bucket, carafe …) through a small plastic tube or directly by screwing it into a bottle. You can buy them at any garden store or make a homemade watering system (more information on how to do it in the post Watering on vacation: 3 home watering systems ).

Automatic watering

If you have decided on   automatic irrigation,  you have to take into account that you will need to have a tap or other type of water intake nearby and, if not, you must install a tank  at a certain height (two meters or more) so that the The water is going down by gravity with sufficient pressure.

There are many options for the automatic irrigation of the garden . The most used for its many advantages is drip irrigation , but you can also install exudative tape irrigation (a drip irrigation system using perforated hoses  that are buried),  micro-sprinkler irrigation   or containers with built-in self- watering (water tables). cultivation with a tank at the bottom that maintains constant humidity).

There is more information about the types of automatic irrigation in the garden in the post 6 Types of irrigation for your garden or garden . In other articles we will also see the peculiarities, advantages and disadvantages of each irrigation method and how to install them. I hope it is useful for you!  


  1. Vallés, JM, 2007. The Urban Garden: manual of ecological cultivation in balconies and terraces . Serbal editions. ISBN: 8476285078,
  2. Fernández Gómez, R., et al, 2010. Irrigation manual for farmers: module 4. Localized irrigation . Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Junta de Andalucía, Spain.
  3. Martín Rodríguez, A. et al., 2016. Garden irrigation manual . Ed. Junta de Andalucía, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

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