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How to Water a Square Foot Garden: 4 Methods That Work

By July 9th, 2024No Comments

watering methods for gardenHow much should you water a Square Foot Garden? We’ll be vague and say “enough,” which likely isn’t the answer you wanted. But one of the hallmarks of Square Foot Gardening is that it conserves precious resources, including water. But the system you use is really up to you.

So, let’s do a quick run-down of different ways you can successfully water your Square Foot Garden to keep your plants growing and your harvest hopping!

  1. Hand-watering: If you’ve been a Square Foot Gardener long enough, you already know that this was our founder, Mel Bartholomew’s, preferred method of watering, and it’s the one we continue to encourage as well. Place a bucket of water next to your Square Foot Garden, allow the sun to warm it, and then water each plant around the root zone with a cupful of water. You may need to adjust the amount given to each plant as it grows and its need for water grows along with it, but this method allows you to customize your watering as you get farther into the gardening season.watering methods for garden
  2. Hose-watering: Hose watering can be a highly efficient way to water a Square Foot Garden as long as you remember a few guidelines. First, in the summer the initial water that comes out of the end can be scalding hot, so be sure to run the water until it cools before watering plants. Second, aim to water only those plants that ask for a drink, direct a gentle flow at the base of your plant by the root zone, and avoid spraying water onto the plant itself.
  3. Drip irrigation: Drip watering systems are highly efficient ways to water your plants, because they get the water where it needs to go and avoid the inevitable evaporation of overhead irrigation systems. Drip irrigation uses a system of small-diameter (1/4”) tubes with drip-emitter heads that deliver water to each individual plant rather than broadcasting it over the entire soil surface. While it’s possible to put this drip irrigation system on a timer, be sure you also regularly inspect your plants so you’re watering on their schedule rather than the timer’s.
  4. Watering grids: You know the grid that we recommend for planning/planting Square Foot Gardens? You can use PVC plumbing pipe to create your grid, while employing some ingenious adaptations to turn your grid into a double-duty watering system. Use ¾” Schedule 40 PVC pipe (with appropriate fittings) and drill small holes for the water to seep out, then attach a corner fitting to allow you to hook the system up to your garden hose. Minimal construction skills are required. You can find directions for creating a watering grid on pages 174-175 in All  New Square Foot Gardening 3rd Edition.

Want the convenience of full-coverage watering & a grid in one? Try a Garden In Minutes® Garden Grid™ watering system!

watering grid

3 Quick Watering Tips

  1. Know when your plants need a drink. Water only when your plants need it, as overwatering can be just as damaging to underwatering. Aim for a daily inspection of your Square Foot Garden so you can become familiar with subtle changes in your plants as the weather warms up. Look for signs of wilting or faded color, then water. You can also check the soil. The soil in your SFG should remain about as damp as a wrung-out sponge.
  2. Water regularly but carefully. Because Mel’s Mix™ is so loose, it drains well and poses little risk of over-watering. However, it can also dry out a little more quickly as a result, so be sure to give your plants a drink when they ask for it rather than flooding your garden weekly and allowing it to dry out in between.
  3. Avoid overhead watering with automatic sprinkler systems. Those systems are designed for large areas (like lawns) that need a broad application of water, not your Square Foot Garden that’s designed to take up little space. The overhead spray never gets to the root zone beneath your plants’ leaves, so the watering winds up being insufficient. That overhead spray also quickly evaporates, leading to water waste, and leaves foliage wet which can lead to pest and disease issues.

Learn more about the Square Foot Gardening Method in our introductory course. 


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