Of all factors that affect the health and longevity of plants, correct or incorrect watering has a major impact on whether they do or do not live. So obviously, how to keep gardens correctly watered is an extremely important thing to know for the gardening and landscape industry and for home gardeners. If you are tending your own garden, educating yourself and understanding water is critically important to your success.

Knowing how much water your garden needs is an art that you will learn over time. Weather changes from season to season and from year to year. For instance, while the average October rainfall in northern New Jersey is six to seven inches of rain, we only got a half-inch of rain in October 2013. As a result, the soil was extremely dry, almost sand dust like. You probably were watering your garden as much in October as you were in July.

Plants need frequent watering because, like us, their thirst is constant. To keep plants well hydrated, water them until the earth around them is moist: you don’t want mud, but you want the earth to be wet. Season after season, you’ll learn how much water you need to get to that perfect point of moist-not-muddy. As you are learning, some plants will die from too much water, and other plants will die because they don’t have enough water. Under watering causes excessive wilting, a lot of drying up and plants turning to yellow and gold colors. Too much water also turns plants yellow, which is a sign that the roots are rotting in water. Don’t be discouraged when your plants show signs of improper watering! Every year you’ll learn more and more about how to adjust your watering habits.

Even though every year and every season are slightly different, there are some general “tricks of the trade” to get you started. There is usually a lot of rain in the spring, so water once or twice a week. If it rains leave it alone, if it’s dry, water twice a week. In the spring the earth is still cool, so the water won’t evaporate as quickly. In summer you have to water a lot. Water every day if it’s over 90 degrees. If the temperatures are a little lower, water every other day. Try overwatering on Monday, and then not watering again until Wednesday night or Thursday. This way, the roots will get just thirsty enough to have to dig deeper for water and grow stronger in the process. In the fall, the temperature of the earth is still warm, even if the air outside gets cooler. Keep watering in the fall: the plants still need water.

When fall ends, remember to drain your garden hose and store it in the basement so it’s ready for your next season of watering correctly!