Watering & Irrigation

The Best Times to Water Plants in a Veggie Garden

Plenty of sources suggest that morning is one of the best times to water plants. That doesn’t tell the whole story.

What are the best times to water plants? Well, you might as well grab an iced tea and have a seat, because the answer isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Of course, the easy answer is to just tell you that morning is the best time for watering your garden. And in general, that’s true enough. So why go any deeper? 

If you had to pick one single answer to the question, one single time when you should water your plants each day, it would be the morning. That gives the water plenty of time to saturate the soil before it gets hot and begins to evaporate. And it’s early enough in the day that any water on the leaves will evaporate before mold, mildew, and disease have a chance to settle in. 

But plants, especially those plants outside in your veggie garden, aren’t all the same. They have different root depths, different nutrient requirements, and they like different amounts of sunlight. So it stands to reason that the best times to water plants will also vary, and the way they like to be watered, by drip irrigation, timed sprinkler or other method, will too.

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Discover the best times to water plants (+ find out how often they need to be watered)

Before we talk about the best times to water plants, let’s talk about plant biology. Don’t worry, I won’t get too nerdy here; just the basics. Although some plants do absorb some water through their leaves, most plants use their roots to get water and nutrients from the soil. Through photosynthesis, they turn those nutrients into “food.” The roots and leaves work together to carry out this process. 

That means that it’s actually the soil that needs water so the plant roots can absorb it. When you water, the ideal is to water the soil around the plants; the leaves and stems don’t need to be watered. That’s not to say you can’t water them; it just won’t do much to help your plants.

That leads us to soil. Your plants need time to absorb that water. Rocky or sandy soil won’t hold water for long, meaning you’ll need to water more frequently, assuming the plants need it. Rosemary, for example, is native to the Mediterranean and thrives in sandy soil with minimal water.

Soil that is rich in organic material will hold moisture longer, giving your plants more of an opportunity to take in the water and nutrients they need. Regardless of what kind of soil you have, the key to healthy plants is a strong root system. And just like humans need exercise and exertion to grow healthier, plants need to do a bit of work to be healthy. Water them too often, and they won’t develop strong or deep roots. They won’t need to. 

Because we want our plants to have deep roots, it’s better (for most plants) to water them less frequently, but more deeply. Obviously, this will be more often in hot, dry weather, and less so in cooler weather when the soil maintains moisture more easily. The only way to know for sure how often you need to water is to dig into the soil an inch or two and see if there is moisture. Remember, too much water is just as bad as not enough. 

Now back to the question at hand: What are the best times to water plants? As it turns out, morning is ideal, but the time of day you water is really only one small part of the overall equation that gives us a healthy garden. 

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There’s no rule that says you can’t water your plants in the middle of the day, or at sunset, or even the middle of the night. It’s just that you’ll find your efforts are more efficient if you water in the morning.

When do you water your garden? Have you noticed a difference in watering early vs. late in the day? Share your experiences in the comments! 

By Amanda MacArthur

Amanda MacArthur is Senior Editor & Producer for Food Gardening Network and GreenPrints. She is responsible for generating all daily content and managing distribution across web, email, and social. In her producer role, she plans, edits, and deploys all video content for guides, magazine issues, and daily tips. As a best-selling cookbook author, Amanda cooks using ingredients from her outdoor gardens in the summer and from her indoor hydroponic garden in the winter.

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