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What is the Best Time of Day to Water the Garden?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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In addition to thinking about water conservation when watering the garden, gardeners should also consider the health of their plants. Fortunately, the needs of plant health and water conservation actually coincide, and the same advice about watering holds true for people in drought areas as it does for those with plentiful water who merely want healthy plants. As a general rule, watering should be deep and infrequent, as this helps plants to establish a strong root system. The time of day that gardeners water the garden is also important.

The best time of day to water outside plants is early morning, before the heat of the day has set in. This reduces the amount of water lost through evaporation, and also provides water for the plants to help them get through the heat of the day. Every few days, the garden should be given a deep soaking of water in the early morning, and gardeners should use drip irrigation, watering cans, or targeted hoses, rather than sprinklers and other devices that diffuse the water all over the garden. Sprinklers are inefficient, and they can also cause plant damage. As a rule of thumb, try to water the garden with 1 inch (2.54 cm) of water every week, through a combination of precipitation and watering.

Do not water the garden during the heat of the day, because the water will evaporate rather than penetrating the soil. The goal is to deeply soak the soil, encouraging the plant to put out more roots to search for water, rather than creating a shallow area of moisture and keeping it wet. A plant with ready access to water through daily watering will develop a shallow root system and become weak. Plants that are used to the stress of less frequent watering will also do better in varied weather conditions, or when a gardener forgets to water.

If watering in the evening, after the heat is passed, make sure to water early enough that the leaves of the plants will completely dry before night. Fungal infections can colonize leaves that are left moist overnight, and the roots will also suffer from being watered in the late evening. Being left moist and cold at night can lead to rot and fungal infections.

If you are trying to conserve water, use reclaimed water and rainwater on the garden, and make sure to check your irrigation system for leaks frequently. If you have time, hand-water all of the plants to ensure the most efficient use of water, checking the soil for moisture levels. If you do not, invest in a quality irrigation system that will help your garden to flourish. Gardeners with fewer water concerns should still water wisely, as extra water will not lead to healthier plants.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By myharley — On Oct 22, 2012

I have planted a back yard garden for many years, and I am always learning something new. There is so much more to it than planting a few seeds in the ground and hoping the sun and rain will take care of everything for you.

I take old garden hoses and poke holes in them to lay along side the plants in my garden. These hoses are hooked up to the faucet at the back of the house so all I have to do is turn the faucet on.

My garden gets a good soaking and I don't have to carry watering cans out there to water it by hand. Part of my morning routine in the summer is to turn on the hose for a hour or so and make sure my garden gets watered for the day.

By Mykol — On Oct 22, 2012

I like to plant a lot of tomatoes because we make a lot of salsa and I also like to can them. One year I lost almost all of my tomato plants because we had too much rain.

I learned that too much rain like that causes the leaves to rot and the tomatoes never produced. Now I understand why they say to make sure the leaves of the plants have a chance to dry out before it gets cold at night.

By golf07 — On Oct 21, 2012

@andee-- I have drip irrigation in my garden and I really love it. It has made all the difference for me. I know my garden is getting the water it needs and doesn't have to rely on me for that to happen.

It is interesting how infrequent watering is actually better for your plants than daily watering. That might explain why some of my vegetables didn't do so well in the past. I always thought it was best to water tomatoes every day, but now I am wondering if that is the best thing for them or not.

We have very humid, dry summers so having a drip irrigation is perfect for me. If I had to rely on rainfall for my garden to get the water it needs, it would probably shrivel up and die.

By andee — On Oct 21, 2012

This is my second year of having a garden and I sure learned a lot from reading this article that I didn't know before. I never realized the time of day you watered your garden was so important.

With my busy lifestyle I just thought as long as the garden got some water it didn't matter what time of the day it was. I do enjoy gardening, but if I am going to increase my garden space I need to set up some kind of drip irrigation or some way to make watering not such a cumbersome task.

By Kristee — On Oct 20, 2012

@seag47 – It's true that watering plants in the middle of the day in hot weather is more dangerous than doing so in cool weather, but remember that your mums will need plenty of time to dry out before sunset. If you water them at noon, they most likely won't have enough time.

I actually did scorch some flowers during the first summer I tried gardening. I didn't know a thing about when to water them, and I did it in the middle of the afternoon in the hot sun. The petals shriveled and the plants looked horrible by the next day.

You're right that this isn't likely to happen in the fall. However, rot is a possibility, so try watering them in the morning instead.

By seag47 — On Oct 20, 2012

I got some fall mums a few weeks ago, and I've been watering them around noon when I get home for lunch. My neighbor, who is big on gardening, saw me and told me that watering plants in the middle of the day might kill them. I think that since the weather is cool, it shouldn't matter. Who's right?

By feasting — On Oct 19, 2012

I have a couple of outdoor garden fountains, but the water just keeps circulating and doesn't come out onto the plants. I wish there was a way to make the fountain water the flowers.

I have been using a hose with a spray nozzle and lightly misting the plants, but it takes forever to get enough water on the ground this way. I've also tried watering cans, but since I have a big garden, refilling my one gallon can over and over is tiring.

I think I would have more success with a drip hose. It would just slowly let moisture out right on top of the ground instead of onto the leaves and petals.

By healthy4life — On Oct 18, 2012

For years, I have been watering my plants at night. This is because I don't have time to go out there and do it before work.

However, my zinnias have been suffering from some sort of fungus. A couple of my rosebushes rotted at the roots. After reading this article, I think my watering method was to blame.

By AZgirl32 — On Jun 14, 2010

I love to garden, but I live in the hot Arizona desert and find it extremely hard to keep even potted plants and flowers alive in the summer. I’ve tried more expensive soil that is supposed to help prevent over and under watering and I also give them vitamins, but no greenery ever lasts longer than two months. I just invested in more greenery, including two sweet potato vines the sales associate said thrive in direct sunlight. While the vines will be planted in full sun, the potted plants are only in direct sunlight in the late afternoon and shaded the rest of the day. I was lightly soaking each plant or flower pot each morning, but after reading this article I’m going to change my frequencies but not the time of day; I think I was overcompensating for the heat and over watering.

By tiffer5555 — On Jun 04, 2008

"As a rule of thumb, try to water the garden with one inch (two and a half centimeters) of water every week,..."

***how much is two and a half centimeters? i spray lightly with a garden hose all plants until the water is slightly puddled.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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