Hand watering depends on the skill and experience of the gardener for success. It’s easy for an inexperienced gardener to wet only the surface without getting the entire root area wet. Because of the way water moves in soil, the surface gets muddy quickly, looking as if it’s been well watered. However, it may be wet only a few inches deep.
To be sure you are watering enough, go back an hour after watering and dig a hole to see how deeply the water penetrated. It should go as deep as the roots in that part of the garden. After checking like this a few times, you will develop a good sense of how long to water each spot.
Watering Plants in Containers
Containers are very simple to hand-water because they have a built-in basin to hold the water in place while it soaks in. To allow this system to work right, when you fill the pot with soil, leave enough exposed pot rim to contain all the water you need to saturate the pot. (The space between the soil and the rim of the pot is called the head space.) After the first time you water the pot, be sure an ample amount of water drains from the bottom from one filling of the head space.
In the future, just fill the head space of each container. If the head space is ample, one filling is adequate.
Hand Watering Tools
Several hose-end attachments make hand watering easier.
- A water breaker looks like a spray nozzle, but there are so many holes that the water comes out in a gentle rain instead of spraying some distance. Breakers are designed to break the force of the water so you don’t wash the soil, without lessening the volume. They work very well with containers or anyplace you want to flood the soil with water quickly.
- A watering wand is a tube that extends the reach of the hose. They are available in different lengths, but about 2 feet is common. They usually have a bend to make the wand more comfortable to hold in a good position for watering. Some have a sharp bend at the end for watering overhead hanging baskets from below. Wands can be used with breakers on the ends to soften the flow of water, and are often sold that way.
- The familiar spray nozzles come in many varieties. One of the simplest is the fan-spray nozzle that throws a broad spray of water 10 feet or more. Others are adjustable so you can use the same nozzle for a sprinkler, jet washer, or unbroken stream of water.
- Jet nozzles do the same job as the strong spray on an adjustable nozzle, but with more force. They are made of solid brass, and are handy for washing decks and walks.