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How to Choose the Best Time for Watering the Garden

The best time of day to water a garden is in the morning, since that gives the plants time to dry off before nightfall. Leaving water on plants overnight can lead to mold. Watering your garden at the right time and using the right method will keep your plants healthy.

Part One of Two:
Choosing the Right Time of Day

  1. 1
    Water in the morning if possible. This is the best time to water your garden because it works with the plants' natural growth cycle. The plants are ready to drink early in the morning, when the sun is up but not quite high in the sky. During the rest of the day, they'll be able to drink in the water before the sun gets hot. Hydrated plants are better able to withstand extreme heat.[1]
    • If you wait until noon or later, when the sun is very hot, the water can actually burn the plants. The sun-heated water will get too hot for the fragile stems and leaves, and it will leave damage in its wake.
    • Try to water your garden before 10 am, to make sure the water has plenty of time to seep into the soil and dry a little before the sun gets strong. Watering in the afternoon wastes your water, since more of it will evaporate before soaking into the soil.
  2. 2
    Water in the late afternoon if the morning is inconvenient. It's not always convenient to water first thing in the morning when you have a million other things to do. If you miss the morning watering, wait until late afternoon, when the sun is no longer at its hottest. This way your plants won't get burned, and there will still be time for them to dry out a little before nightfall.[2]
    • If you wait until the afternoon, aim to water from 4 pm on, since before that time the sun may still be strong enough to burn your plants.
    • If you absolutely must water when the sun is strong, try to do so only occasionally, rather than making it an everyday habit.
  3. 3
    Do not water your garden at night. When you water at night, the water sits on the leaves and stems of the plants instead of evaporating. The soil may become water-logged instead of draining properly with help from the sun. This is detrimental to your plants because it leads to mold and fungal growth around the roots and on the stems and leaves.
    • Only water at night as a very last resort, if your plants are very thirsty and you can't wait until morning.
    • If you must water at night, water the soil to avoid getting the plant itself wet, and use less water to avoid waterlogging. Irrigation tape or a soaker hose makes this much easier.

Part Two of Two:
Using the Right Method

  1. 1
    Water your garden with the correct frequency. The general rule for gardens is that they need about one inch of water per week. However, certain types of plants need more water than this, and certain types need less. The best approach is to research your plants' water requirements, and to keep an eye on their health.[3] If a plant wilts, it needs more water.
    • Another good test is to insert your finger a few inches into the soil. If it feels completely dry, it's probably time to water. If it's wet just below the surface, give it more time.
    • Use common sense when it comes to the frequency with which you water your plants. For example, if it has been a rainy week, your plants don't need as much water. If you're in a drought, they might need extra water.
  2. 2
    Water near the roots, not over the leaves. The roots absorb water that nourishes the plant; water that hits the leaves just drips off or evaporates. When you're watering, point the hose, watering can or sprinkler low on the plant, near the roots, to make sure the plant gets adequately watered there.
    • Watering over the plant and getting the leaves all wet is also detrimental to the plant's health. Water that sits on the leaves can either cause mold to form or cause the plant to overheat.
    • If you find it difficult to water the roots using your hose, look into a special watering system that waters plants close to the ground, such as a soaker hose or a drip-tape irrigation system.
  3. 3
    Water long and deep. Most plants are healthiest when their roots grow deep into the ground, rather than growing outward and closer to the surface. Watering deeply, so that you completely saturate the soil, ensures that water gets all the way to the tips of the roots, and it encourages downward root growth.
    • That's why it's healthiest to water plants sparingly, but deeply. Instead of watering just a little bit every day, choose one or two days a week to give the plants a good, deep watering.
    • That means spending a full thirty seconds or more on each area, rather than just spraying the garden down quickly.
  4. 4
    Check for signs of overwatering. Plants that are getting too much water are just as likely to die as plants that get too little water. Make sure you're watering your plants at the correct frequency, and try not to overdo it. Look for these signs that your garden might be getting too much water:
    • Leaves that are yellow or brownish at the tips
    • Limp, soggy foliage
    • Signs of rot

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Why are some leaves yellow on my zucchini plant?
    Answered by Andrew Carberry
    • That could be a sign of over-watering or a pest infestation. Check the soil for moisture, and check the leaves for signs of insects.
    Thanks! 4 2
  • During the day, the plants are very droopy, even after a good soaking the night before. What can I do?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • You shouldn't water the plants at night because there is no sun to let the water evaporate. You should water them in the morning.
    Thanks! 9 3
  • I read somewhere that the best time to water is between 3 am-6 pm; is this advice correct?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • That's a very wide time range. Really, this article explains well what the best times to water plants are. The ideal time to water them is in the morning before 10 am. 6 am would be good; 3 am is a bit early but also okay. The worst time to water is between 10 am and 2 pm, when the sun is hottest. Late afternoon through around 6 pm, or even later in the summer when days are long, is okay.
    Thanks! 9 3
  • Is it OK to skip a day of watering?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • It depends on how dry your plants are. If they are very dry, then water them; but if they are still wet, you can skip that day.
    Thanks! 6 2
  • Would it be better if I watered my garden at 2 or 3 pm when it is very hot outdoors?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • The very best time to water is when the plant needs the water or when it needs to be cooled. If you suspect that the garden needs to cool off at 2 or 3 pm, then 2 or 3 pm is a fine option.
    Thanks! 5 4
  • I have a 60 year old Black Pine that was transplanted in June! Yes I know , not the right time at all to move a tree.but I had no say in the matter. Having got the tree home , and planted I watered it quite extensively initially.but have eased off to every other day. But it's not looking good! What can I do?
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  • Choose the watering device that's best for the size of your garden. If you have a large garden with daily watering needs, you might want to get a sprinkler and automatic timer.
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Expert Review By:

Professional Gardener

This version of How to Choose the Best Time for Watering the Garden was reviewed by Andrew Carberry on March 31, 2017.

306 votes - 95%
Co-authors: 13
Views: 111,470

Reader Success Stories

  • CG

    Carla Gary

    Jul 6, 2016

    "I have been growing houseplants for years, feeling particularly good about myself, as I have now seemingly mastered or perhaps gotten really good at growing jade and orchids. However, this summer, I tried my hand at vegetables in containers on my deck and I am pleased beyond measure, but didn't have the watering protocol down. This most informative information on watering frequency and amount has truly enlightened me about some of the problems that I have encountered with my vegetables. Thanks!"..." more
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    Jun 4, 2016

    "As a new gardener, I have been looking at different web sites. I found this article to be informative, with complete and easy instructions to follow. Appreciate the help. "..." more
  • BA

    Bobby Arey

    Apr 17, 2017

    "I never knew that I shouldn't water my plants in the night time at all. I have learned the ABCs about watering my garden in this article. Thanks for the great info. "..." more
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  • MH

    Michael Harvey

    Jul 4, 2016

    "This article was very informative. It answered all of the questions I had about watering my garden. Thank you. "
  • PC

    Patsy Campbell

    Jul 6, 2016

    "Clear advice about not over-watering my Goji Berry plant that showed signs of being water logged."
  • SH

    Sheri-Anna Henslee

    Jun 6, 2016

    "This confirmed what I knew about watering plants. Now I need to convince my husband I was right."
  • GG

    Gerald Giordano

    May 17, 2016

    "Little things like best time of day to water and how to water were really helpful."
  • PC

    Patsy Campbell

    Jul 6, 2016

    "It gave clear advice on how and when to water my plants. "
  • Sihle B. Hero Fakude

    Apr 17, 2017

    "This was very helpful on how to water my plants."
  • SA

    Sonja Adams

    Jul 25, 2016

    "Very well written, gave me the info I needed."
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