Hot Topics     Home and Family    

Are your plants are getting enough water?



Crazy weather matches what’s going on in the world

plants, water, roots

This year, the sun will reach its maximum distance from the equator on June 20th, marking our summer solstice in the Northern hemisphere. There are more sunlit hours on this day than on any other day of the year. In some traditions, the midpoint between sowing and harvesting, or “Midsummer” as it’s known, is a good time to do a little feasting and dancing (the fireflies seem to think so too). After all, the demands of spring have lifted somewhat and, like fledglings catching their own worms, young plants begin to show off their vigor and self-reliance.

At this midpoint of the growing season—when crops are past the time for tilling, but not yet ready for threshing—perhaps all that your plants want now is a bit of water.

At every stage of their lifecycle, plants use water. Water signals to seeds that it is safe to germinate, and once the first set of leaves emerge from the soil, water becomes fundamental to photosynthesis (the process by which a plant manufactures food for further growth). Plants use transpiration to “sweat” water through their stomata, which helps to cool them when they get too hot. And water allows nutrients from the soil to be drawn up through the roots to nourish other parts of the plant. 

With the mists (and snows) of May now in full retreat, we are well-advised to adopt a watering schedule for our flowers and vegetables. How much to water will generally depend on the weather, the soil conditions, and the drought-tolerance of individual species. We can determine whether our plants are parched or succumbing to sogginess by getting out in the garden to make a few simple observations. 

Some Visible Signs of a Watering Problem:

Both underwatering and overwatering can cause yellow or brown leaves, so look more closely, and examine the texture:

  • Are the leaves brittle and crispy? If so, you may be underwatering.
  • Wilted and limp leaves, despite moisture in the soil, point to overwatering.

Examine the soil:

  • Dusty, crusty, or cracked soil suggest underwatering.
  • Soil that drains poorly and remains slick and slippery might mean overwatering.

Ideally, your garden soil will drain well and maintain a loamy texture that will hold both moisture and oxygen. Sandy soils can drain too quickly and do a poor job at retaining water, leaving your plants perpetually thirsty, whereas the fine particles of clay can adhere too closely when moistened, making it difficult for roots to access oxygen. Soil can be improved by adding organic matter like compost and mulch; with time, these amendments will incorporate into the soil and help strike a balance between moisture retention and drainage.

Other considerations:

  • Seedlings and new plantings will generally want more frequent watering than established plants. Until they’ve matured, emerging root systems won’t be able to reach the moisture held in deep soil, so give them a little extra attention with the hose.
  • Read up on your plants to learn which conditions they prefer! For instance, lettuce might be stressed by the same dry, sandy conditions that sustain an herb like lavender or thyme.
  • Also, make a habit of checking the local weather forecast—and don’t expect a light shower to quench your crops. Flower and vegetable gardens will generally need at least one inch of precipitation per week. If temps are high and humidity levels are low, your plants are likely losing moisture.

The Rule of Thumb

With consideration to the above, a good rule of thumb for most flower and vegetable gardens is 1-2 good soakings from the hose per week. The idea is to water deeply enough that it attracts young root systems downward where they are more likely to find moisture during dry spells. You’ll want your weekly watering to seep 8-12 inches below the soil’s surface.

A rain gauge in the garden can also help you track weekly precipitations levels. No rain gauge? Check moisture levels the old-fashioned way: dig an index finger as far down into the soil as it will go. If it feels bone dry, then your plants are probably thirsty.

A few more essentials to keep mind:

  • If you have a large garden, break up the task by watering different sections on different days of the week. This way you are less likely to succumb to the urge to sprinkle rather than soak.
  • Unless your plants stay wilted through the afternoon heat and well into the evening, they can wait to be watered until the following morning. If plant leaves are wet through the night, you’re more likely to incur damage from fungus and slugs.
  • Water the roots—not the leaves! Sure, you’ll get some leaves wet while you water, but it’s best to aim toward the base of the plant to get that water into the soil rather than evaporating into the air.
  • Weeding and mulching keeps weeds from competing for water, so continue to mulch and weed through the season.

As “primary producers” in our ecosystem, terrestrial plants are well adapted to the conditions in which they typically find themselves and need no help from us. But most gardens are a combination of introduced and native species at different stages of development, and some introduced plants may be unsuited for survival beyond the growing season. This is why, like good hosts of Midsummer festivities, we gardeners provide our invited guests with well-prepared beds, protection from pests, good food—and, of course, enough to drink. Happy Solstice!

This article comes to you from the Hudson Valley Seed Company: your source for heirloom and open-pollinated garden seeds and beautiful garden-themed contemporary art. On our site, you'll find photos and artwork that stoke your horticultural imagination—along with tips to make your garden dreams a reality.




Other articles by HVP News Reporters


  • Calling all birdwatchers

    Check out Birdability which promotes birding for everyone

    Through education, outreach and advocacy, Birdability works to ensure the birding community and the outdoors are welcoming, inclusive, safe and accessible for everybody. We focus on people with mobility challenges, blindness or low vision, chronic illness, intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental illness, and those who are neurodivergent, deaf or hard of hearing or who have other health concerns. In addition to current birders, we strive to introduce birding to people with disabilities and other health concerns who are not yet birders so they too can experience the joys of birding. read more »
  • 9/11 Remembrance Ceremonies

    Come and remember the people who were lost, first responders & survivors

    Events to honor the victims, first responders, and survivors of the 9/11 attacks. read more »
  • Mother Shares Her Journey with Heroin-Addicted Daughter

    Read the gripping new book about this family

    September is National Recovery Month and one mom has shared her journey with her daughter struggling with addiction. read more »
  • Learn How to Help Your Struggling Adolescents Navigate Change and Overcome Anxiety

    Parenting expert Erica Komisar has a new book that can assist you

    Adolescence is a notoriously complicated time for kids as well as their parents. Plus, the epidemic of mental health disorders in young people has made parenting today even more challenging. But it’s not too late. Parents of adolescents can still have a profound impact on the health and well-being of their children. read more »
  • 5 of the best movies your teen can watch at home

    Entertain your kids with these flicks from Netfilx

    Writing for Popsugar, Sabienna Bowman shares her top movie picks for teens read more »
  • Master P On Rap Feuds, Conscious Parenting, Black Superheroes

    Allison Kugel interviews this rap icon

    Interview with rap icon Master P by Allison Kugel. Here he talks about family and more. read more »
  • Cool new food savers from Lasting Freshness

    Vacuum seal your food to keep it fresh longer

    Using this patented handheld Vacuum System your food is preserved up to 5 times longer than food stored using conventional grocery storage methods. read more »
  • The Mama Bear Effect Launches New Resource to Combat Child Sexual Abuse

    Parents of young children and those with special education needs now have a free tool to educate children about their bodies and boundaries

    Parents, caregivers, teachers, and therapists now have a new tool to educate the most vulnerable population of children, those who need specialized assistance with learning and communication. read more »
  • Dirty, sweaty laundry making your house stinky?

    Here is a great solution from STNKY

    STNKY Bags are the best way to sort, store, carry, wash and dry everything from sweaty gym clothes, laundry when you travel, scrubs, and just about anything else that gets dirty or sweaty. read more »
  • Get Green this September

    Be a Friend of the Environment

    NYS Department of Environmental Conservation offers tips on cleaning out your closet and recycling your discarded clothing. read more »