While a sprinkler, soaker hoses or even watering with a garden hose may seem more convenient, there are just far too many benefits to watering your garden by hand. We have three rain barrels on the property and we water all of our gardens by hand using watering cans. Considering none of the rain barrels are actually close to the gardens and carrying water to the gardens is heavy work and takes a long time, there must be a good reason why we do it right?
Now you don’t have to use a watering can like us. Many of the benefits of “hand watering” can still be obtained with a hose and spray nozzle as long as you take the time to look at each plant/crop to assess how they are doing and what they need.
Not a drop is wasted
As far as efficiency goes, drip irrigation systems are by far your best bet, but it’s not always possible to install these (expense being the main reason). The next efficient choice would be watering by hand, preferably a watering can. Sprinklers often water pathways, fences and garden boxes as much as they water plants. If water is scarce where you live this is not desirable at all. Each drop of water is precious and none should be wasted. This holds true everywhere, but is even more important in parts of the world that experience droughts. While we have an abundant well (as we’ve been told by our landlord) we don’t want to test that theory and instead water using collected rain whenever possible. We have had a very dry spring here in southern Ontario and we’ve been forced to water using the garden hose (well water) a couple of times.
As a note, mulching can also drastically reduce the amount of time you spend watering your plants. Mulching helps to retain water in the soil (which is where you want it) and it also helps to keep weeds at bay.
No over-watering or under-watering
Taking the time to observe each plant and how they are doing is vital to the health of your garden. If you are using a sprinkler, or even standing back using a hose, it can be difficult to see all of your plants. Watch for signs of over-watering (yellow leaves is a common one) and underwatering (wilting or dried leaves are examples). Watering in this manner means that each crop gets exactly what they need. This will result in higher yields and and healthier plants. Remember that freshly seeded beds need frequent light watering (heavy watering could result in the seeds being washed away).
Spot plant issues right away
There is nothing worse than catching a pest infestation or another plant problem after it’s already too late. Watering by hand and taking the time to observe and inspect each crop will allow you to catch disease, pests and other problems as soon as they show symptoms. For example we have a big problem with cucumber beetles right now. My eyesight isn’t fantastic and if I weren’t watering my squash plants by hand I wouldn’t have caught it until almost all the leaves were eaten. By then it’s too late to do anything about it.
Do your peas need trellising ASAP? Or perhaps you have a million tomato suckers to pinch off. There is no better way to solve these challenges in a timely manner than watering by hand.
As a note, once the garden is mulched and growing well we don’t need to water as much. Once that happens I make a habit of spending a minimum of 15 minutes daily walking the gardens. Pulling weeds when necessary and looking for potential problems that need solutions.
Keep leaves and foliage dry
There are many plants that are much happier when their leaves remain dry. These plants still require water and can simply be watered from beneath. Squash plants are a great example of this as their leaves are often weighed down by watering. Certain crops can be susceptible to fungus if their leaves stay damp for too long. Wet leaves can also cause burning if you water too late in the day.
Simple, easy and error-proof
Have you ever heard the expression; “you can’t mess up breakfast”? Well, I feel like watering by hand is in the same camp as breakfast (which isn’t exactly true cause I have a story about a terrible breakfast I had a local place… for another day). You don’t need to worry that your sprinkler broke partway through and drowned half your garden and left the other half parched. Soaker hoses spring leaks, automatic timers stop working and expensive drip-irrigation systems break down or need replacement parts. The more complicated the gadget the more likely it is to break in some way. Watering cans are pretty fool-proof!
Last year we bought a sprinkler and it stopped rotating two weeks into use. Money well wasted! I could have bought 3 watering cans for the price of that silly sprinkler. Hose nozzles are also inexpensive and have lots of different settings depending on what it is you are watering. Not a bad investment either!
Spend time with your plants
This one might be the most important reason of all to water your garden by hand. There are tons of studies and evidence to support that spending time in nature and with plants is therapeutic. A garden may feed your family, but it will also fill your heart and soul. It gives you a moment in your busy day to slow down and take a deep breath. The benefits of gratitude for what you have and stress reduction should not be overlooked.
Now stop reading this and go water your garden