Watering can make or break your gardening success. Too much and the plants drown. Not enough and they turn to a crisp. Here’s what you need to know about watering your plants to ensure they stay happy, healthy, and beautiful.

Read About Your Plants

Some plants, like sage and rosemary, are native to the Mediterranean and thrive with little water. Others, like cucumbers, need consistent moisture to produce well. Knowing a bit about the plants you have can help you create a watering schedule.

Opt for Less Frequent Drenching Rather than Frequent Quick Showers

The best way to water is to give your plants a thorough soaking once or twice a week rather than a quick watering every day. This allows water to soak deep into the soil and helps plants develop deep roots, which will make them more drought-resistant.

Learn About Your Soil

The frequency with which you need to water will, in part, depend on what your soil is like. Heavy clay soils tend to hold water better than lighter, sandy soils will. However, water takes longer to soak into clay soils and may run off if there’s a lot of water at once. Adding organic matter, like good quality compost, can help regulate moisture levels in either soil type.

Let Your Soil Dry Out Before Watering

Your soil doesn’t always need to be perfectly moist. Letting your soil dry out between waterings can encourage plants to develop deep root systems and become more resilient.

Check Your Soil

Soil should be moist, but not soaking wet. This is particularly true for potted plants. If you grab a handful of soil and gently squeeze, it should form a clump and not crumble apart. However, if you can squeeze water out, it’s too wet. Don’t just check the surface though, dig down about 3 inches into the soil. If you do this periodically while running your sprinkler, you’ll be able to identify approximately how long you need to water each time. For plants that need consistent moisture, plan to keep the soil about as moist as a wrung-out sponge.

Get a Timer

One of the best ways to stay on top of your watering is to install a timer for your sprinklers or drip irrigation. You can also get flow timers that can be set based on gallons of water rather than time. Make sure you turn it off if you get more than an inch of rain at a time. Too much moisture can be just as damaging as too little.

Remember That Plants Need Change

Over the course of the season, your plants’ water needs may vary significantly. Their needs will vary with the weather. They’ll need more if it is hot and dry, and less if you’re getting regular rain. Watering needs also change with the light. As summer turns to fall, the daylight grows shorter and plants grow more slowly, taking up less water. Keep this in mind throughout the season.

One of the easiest ways you can improve your garden is to water well. Follow these tips to make sure you’re watering properly this summer. As an additional tip, if you struggle to keep up with watering, try planting native varieties. Plants that can naturally be found in Maryland like bee balm, coral honeysuckle, and Black-Eyed Susans typically require less frequent watering.

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