IMG_6852This is the time of year I field the most questions about watering best practicesWhen should I water? For how long? What equipment works best? Do I always personally have to take care of it, or can I please just automate my system? My answer tends to unfold along the following lines:
1. It depends!! (Sorry — I know that’s an annoying answer. But it really does!)2. First and foremost, make sure to consider your whole situation, and be proactive and intentional in your approach. Incorporate water conservation best practices into your routine, like watering in the morning and/or evening and mulching to reduce water loss via evaporation.

3. Watering by hand is a really good option, because over time it gives you, the gardener, a sense of how your plants are faring, and what their needs really are. With a manageable-length non-kink hose or two, a good hose organizer, and a multi-spray nozzleyou give yourself a lot of flexibility. You can shower the soil surface carefully and often, putting water where newly planted seeds or starts need it. You can soak the roots of established plants that need a good deep watering less often. In short, you’re in control! Plus, while you’re out there, you get to keep an eye out for any weed or pest problems, and stop them before they get out of hand.

4. However, for a lot of people, watering by hand feels like a burden. I get it! It can take quite a bit of time and energy on a regular basis, oh my goodness, even the best of hoses can be really annoying to deal with…and then sometimes you have to go to work (!), or you leave town during the summer and simply aren’t there to keep up on watering. This is wherealternatives to hand watering come in. Drip systems, soaker hoses, automatic timers, and conventional irrigation systems are all ways to address this challenge in the garden. These systems have a cost associated with design and installation, generally require expert assistance, and (most importantly, I think) still demand your attention. But, when set up and maintained correctly, they definitely work. We partner with licensed contractors on irrigation systems, and use/recommend high-quality local supplier DripDepot for system components.

5. Ultimately, the best bet is usually a combination approach. Set up a drip system on an automatic timer for your maintenance watering, and water by hand when you have the time, or when your plants specifically need it. Strategize so that your plants are well-established before you go on vacation, and can handle not having you there to give special attention, including overhead water. But don’t forget to check on them when you get back!