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Garden Watering: The “Finger Test”

Garden watering is the most important aspect of your productive year of produce. Learn how to know when to water your garden, the signs of overwatering, and 6 tips for successful watering. Find more gardening tips here!

I yawned and twisted the spicket to turn off the water that had been spraying on the garden all night. I smiled as a robin danced in the sparkles and I heard my feet squish on the soil as I walked over to look at my growing jungle.

I watered once a week through the night with the idea that it was a deep watering that the plants needed, but I never checked to see if they actually NEEDED the water.

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Seems like a pretty elementary thought though: water if the ground needs it and not on a schedule.

I’ve learned so much since then and now only water my garden after checking to see if there is a need for water.

Watering a garden is quite obviously a very important part of gardening. But when do you water? This "finger test" will tell you exactly when you should water.

You can watch this information in the video provided below or you can scroll past and read it too!

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Garden Watering

How much water do plants need daily and how do you know when to water?

The finger test!

• Stick your finger in the ground, under the mulch you are most definitely using. (Right??)

• If it comes out dry, water.

• If it comes out wet, don’t water.

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There are so many reasons that you don’t want to overwater your garden and just as many reasons you don’t want to underwater as well.

Three areas will be affected by overwatering:

• Roots

• Stems and Leaves

• Flowers and Fruit

The three mentioned above are the keys to healthy plants, for obvious reasons. So, when you’re over-eager in your quest to keep your plants watered, this is what is happening beneath the surface.

These are the reasons not to overwater your garden:

• The roots will die.

The saturated soil fills all the air pockets and therefore leaves no room for oxygen. Oxygen is just as important for plants as it is for us.

All the extra water drowns the plants and gives a great place for fungi and bacteria to settle in and usually leads to root rot.

Although unseen, this extra water is killing the roots, which causes all sorts of problems above the ground, including the nutrient intake of the plants.

• Their leaves will turn color and wilt.

Seems like an oxymoron, right? Wilting should mean that they need water, but in this case, the overwatering creates a sad state of affairs for your lovely plants. The plants wilt because they are unable to soak up water through the root damage.

This damage to the roots can also cause them to turn light green or yellow because of the lack of oxygen. This damage may also cause dieback where they lose leaves and it may also stunt growth.

Your plants may also experience edema, which is, in short, abnormal water retention in plants. It will look like bumps or blisters.  In some plants, there may be curling or distortion.

• Premature blossom drop and poor fruit set

Blossom end rot affects tomatoes and squash when their fruit is already set. When the soil is fluctuating between dry and moist, a calcium deficiency causes the fruit to develop black scars or soft watermarked areas where other pathogens affect the plant and cause soft rot.

So. Yikes. That can be a real deal-breaker, giving too much water.

But going to the opposite extreme can be just as hazardous.

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Plants that are underwatered can have some of the same symptoms:

• Wilting

• Slowed growth

• And of course, dry soil

It’s worth it to take a moment to check if your garden or even potted plants need water before actually watering. And it’s so easy. Stick a finger into the ground, pull out and do what your finger tells you to do.

6 tips below for successful garden watering.

Here are a few more pointers about garden watering.

It is very important to know how often to water a garden. But first, did you know that some plants need more water during certain times of their growth than others?

For instance: when lima, pole, and snap beans are flowering, they need more water. And likewise for sweet corn, when it is silking, tasseling, and developing ears. And peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes require water from flowering to harvest.

Follow these top tips and guidelines for successful watering:

1. One inch per week

Vegetables need an inch of water a week

2. Water Deep

Deep watering encourages the plant roots to grow deep, which will help them be less susceptible to drought.

3. Keep evenly moist

Don’t let it go from one extreme to the other.

4. Deep mulch

Deep mulching will not only protect the roots of plants from temperature extremes but will also keep moisture from evaporating as quickly.

5. Water late or early

The best time of day to water vegetable gardens is either late in the evening or early in the morning. Less evaporating will take place and the water will prepare the plants for the next day’s heat.

6. Keep leaves dry

Keeping the leaves dry will keep leaf mold diseases at bay and will also help them not get sun scorch. Imagine those little droplets on the leaves as tiny magnifying glasses for the sun to burn the leaves.

As gardeners, this is one thing we just have to get right.

Water only when needed. It’s as easy as that. You may have a dirty finger when you’re done…wait, your fingernails and knees will be filthy because when you go out to your garden you have an impulse to look at every plant, on your hand and knees, to make sure it’s doing well and producing. You may even talk to those little growing beans.

It goes something like this: “Why, hello there! Little beans…it’s so good to see you…you keep growing now, you hear? I’ll be back to check on you…”

And that means you’re a good gardener.

Garden watering is the most important aspect of your productive year of produce. Learn how to know when to water your garden, the signs of over watering and 6 tips for successful watering.


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What happens when you overwater plants?


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Kara P

Wednesday 27th of April 2022

I have never thought to do the finger test! I have so many house plants that I have ended up over watering.. I didn’t realize realize until I saw all of the water damage on my carpets! I eventually had to get my carpets cleaned carpets cleaned but this will be so helpful so I stop overwatering my plants and ruining my carpet! Thank you!!