Planning and starting a garden is a worthy endeavor, but plants will not flourish without proper irrigation. As a general rule, water established gardens deeply, but not too often, and aim to provide the plants with about an inch of water each week, according to the University of Illinois Extension. Clay soils take longer to dry out than sandy soils, so take that into consideration when watering. Choose the right method of watering for your circumstances and you may find maintaining your garden is less of a chore and be rewarded with healthy, vigorous plants.
Trickle irrigation is a method of supplying water directly to plant root systems by means of tubing or soaker hoses. These have the advantage of watering the plant efficiently, without wasting water to evaporation. Obtain trickle irrigation supplies through garden catalogs, garden centers or hardware stores. Small-scale complete packages are available, as well as individual parts to suit your needs. One thing to keep in mind with trickle systems is that the pores of the tubing or hoses can become clogged with hard-water buildup and other debris over time.
Typical oscillating lawn sprinklers are inexpensive and readily available. Most sprinklers waste a lot of water, however, and must be moved around frequently to reach all areas of the garden. Especially on hot, windy days, water is lost to evaporation. Use a rain gauge or straight-sided cans in the garden when using lawn sprinklers to determine how much water is reaching the plants during use.
Hand-held hose attachments are inexpensive and get the job done, but can be very time consuming, requiring your presence in the garden during watering. This is fine for small gardens, but may be burdensome in a large yard with many garden beds. If your garden is small, however, this may be a good option because it encourages time spent close up with plants where you can see pests and other problems before they have a chance to spread. As with other watering methods that wet the leaves, water early in the day or early enough in the afternoon that leaves have a chance to dry, discouraging the development of fungal disease and reducing water loss due to evaporation.