Efficient Watering Techniques for Your Garden: Save Money, Conserve Water, and Nurture Your Plants

by Ethan Kim
efficient gardening

In my pursuit of a more practical approach to watering my garden, I decided to install soaker hoses across my vegetable beds this year. The repetitive task of hand-watering had become tiresome over the years.

Standing outside, clutching a garden hose was far from an enjoyable experience. However, I realized that it was a precise way to direct water to the soil, ensuring it reached the roots where it was needed. This method eliminates wastage and significantly reduces the risk of diseases like powdery mildew. It benefits the plants, the environment, and even your water bill.

Another effective method of irrigation is using flexible, porous rubber or fabric soaker hoses placed on the soil around plants. These hoses allow water to seep slowly into the roots. Drip irrigation hoses, which consist of rigid tubes with emitter holes that drip or stream water, work on a similar principle.

In addition to these techniques, there are several other simple ways to conserve water in your garden.


Watering your garden in the morning allows ample time for the water to penetrate deeply into the soil before the sun becomes too intense. If you wait until later in the day, a significant portion of the water will evaporate from the soil surface before being absorbed. On the other hand, watering too late in the day can lead to moisture retention overnight, promoting mold, mildew, and fungal diseases.

The way you water your plants is just as important as when you water them. A quick, daily sprinkle may not benefit the roots, which can extend a foot or more into the soil depending on the plant. Instead, water less frequently but deeply, ensuring the water reaches the deeper roots.

When the soil is extremely dry, it’s crucial to slow down the watering process. Otherwise, the water will run off without effectively penetrating the surface, similar to how a bone-dry kitchen sponge struggles to absorb a spill.


Rather than pouring water down the drain, consider recycling water from activities like boiling pasta, vegetables, or eggs, as long as it hasn’t been salted. Water collected from dehumidifiers can also be utilized. Adopting these practices helps minimize waste.

Redirecting a downspout to fill a rain barrel enables you to capture rainwater, which can then be used to fill watering cans. Alternatively, you can use an adapter to attach a garden or soaker hose to the spigot hole at the bottom of the rain barrel.


When planning your garden, it’s important to consider the water requirements of each plant, in addition to their appearance and sunlight needs. Avoid overwatering drought-resistant plants in an attempt to satisfy the thirstier plants nearby.

If you use an automatic sprinkler system, it’s advisable to separate lawns from trees, shrubs, groundcovers, perennials, and annuals. Sprinklers wet the foliage of plants within their spray range, making them more susceptible to diseases.

Native plants, which are mostly drought-tolerant, are an excellent choice for your garden. While they may require regular watering during their first year or two, once established, they can generally rely on rainwater alone, except during prolonged heatwaves. To find native plants suitable for your area, you can refer to online databases such as The National Wildlife Federation and Audubon Society websites by entering your zip code.


When planting in the garden, incorporating a generous amount of compost into the holes enhances the water-holding capacity of sandy soil and improves drainage in clay soil.

Applying 2 to 3 inches of mulch around trees, shrubs, and plants helps retain soil moisture, reduces surface evaporation, and prevents weed growth. It’s essential to wait for the soil to warm up before mulching and keep the material a few inches away from stems and trunks.

For container plants, look for potting mixes that include vermiculite, a mineral that retains moisture. Soil moisture polymer granules, such as SoilMoist, can also be added to decrease watering needs by up to 50%.

For an innovative trick, you can open a clean baby diaper and mix the absorbent hydrogels with your potting mix. Alternatively, place an unfolded diaper at the bottom of a container (plastic side down, with drainage holes) to absorb and retain moisture. However, avoid using these techniques for containers that house succulents or other plants that require dry, well-draining soil.


If you use an automatic sprinkler system, set the timer for the early morning, preferably just before dawn. Investing in a timer with a rain sensor or manually overriding the programming on rainy days helps avoid unnecessary water wastage.

Most lawns generally need about 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week, including rainfall. However, it’s essential to test your watering system to determine its output. Simply place a tuna fish can on the lawn during a watering cycle and measure the water accumulated in the can.

A rain gauge, which resembles a test tube with marked measurements, is also helpful in keeping track of rainfall amounts.

Jessica Damiano regularly contributes gardening columns to the AP and publishes the acclaimed Weekly Dirt Newsletter. You can sign up for weekly gardening tips and advice by visiting the provided link.

For more gardening stories from AP, visit https://bigbignews.net/gardening.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about efficient gardening

Q: How can I save money and water while watering my garden efficiently?

A: To save money and water, consider using soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems that deliver water directly to the roots, minimizing waste. Water in the morning to allow for deep penetration and avoid evaporation. Use mulch to retain moisture, recycle water from cooking or dehumidifiers, and choose drought-tolerant native plants.

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GardeningEnthusiast23 July 8, 2023 - 9:24 am

wow! such helpful tips for watering my garden more efficient! gonna try those soaker hoses and save some $$$. thx for the advice!

GreenThumb87 July 8, 2023 - 4:15 pm

gr8 article! i didn’t know watering in the morning is so important. gonna make sure to do that from now on. and mulch sounds like a lifesaver for my plants. thx for the info!

PlantLover99 July 8, 2023 - 7:07 pm

never thought about reusing water from cooking. gonna start recycling it for my plants. also, those native plants sound interesting. gonna check out the links. thx for sharing!

SustainableGardener July 8, 2023 - 7:21 pm

love the focus on water conservation and sustainability. we all need to do our part. gonna implement these techniques in my garden and save water. great article!

GardenGuru101 July 9, 2023 - 2:19 am

omg, the diaper trick?! that’s genius! gonna try it for my container plants. always looking for ways to retain moisture. thx for the tip!


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