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Taking time to water garden soil makes a difference.
If you’re planning to put in new plantings, be sure to water garden soil first. Of course, if you’ve had rain, your soil may already be sufficiently moist. Or, if you have an irrigation system, you may not need to water garden soil again before planting.
But, if the ground is dry and hard, watering before you plant makes a lot of difference.
In fact, most gardening professionals will tell you that getting watering dialed in “perfectly” may be one of the most difficult things a gardener learns to do. That’s because different soils and different plants and different environments and seasons require different watering care.
But there are some basics that will really help you understand why to water your garden soil before planting!
BTW: If you’re really stumped on this issue or if you’re struggling with any gardening challenges, sign up now to be first notified when we open enrollment to our gardening education programs. That way you can get on board to get our personalized help so you stop struggling so much with gardening!
Okay, let’s get into why watering before you plant is a really good idea. (Plus, some tips to help you get even really dry soil moist again.)
Adding moisture makes gardening a lot easier on you.
No gardener wants to pull out a pick-axe to dig holes. That makes for a painful, back-breaking experience. And, it may make gardening a lot more expensive and depressing for you. That’s because what you plant isn’t likely to do very well in rock-hard dirt.
No plant wants to be stuck into bone-dry earth.
If you plop a new plant into a hole you hacked open with an axe, it’s probably going to struggle. And, in fact, it may just give up the ghost. That’s because plant roots need moisture. Not only do they need water to run their physical systems, but moist soil also enables them to root into the ground well.
But, what if I water everything after I plant?
Okay, yes, you should plan to water after you plant. But, when you plant into already dry soil, it may be really difficult for the water and soil to attach to each other. And, that will lead to run off. So, those thirsty, newly-installed plants may shrivel up and die fast.
Yes, it seems crazy to put a sprinkler or hose on bare soil and apply water. But it will save your back and your plants, which may cost a pretty penny to procure.
A few tips to easily water garden soil before planting:
If your soil is really, deeply dry, try putting sprinkler on it on low. Or hand-water with a gentle sprayer attached to a hose. And run the water for about 15-20 minutes. Then, turn it off. And, let it drain for a half hour to an hour.
After that, stick your finger in the soil to test how well the moisture saturated. Is, it wet just on top? Or has it gotten wet down deep where the roots will go? You may need to water garden soil again and again.
If your soil is really dry and deeply dry, you may need to repeat watering multiple times. That way you will build a deeply moist layer in the soil.
Depending on the health and composition of your soil, how much water is needed will vary.
When should I start wetting the garden ahead of planting?
If your garden is dry, start this re-wetting process a few days ahead of your planting date. That way you should have sufficient time to wet, drain, test and repeat sufficiently.
And, on planting day, don’t try to water garden soil sufficiently once just before you plant. That’s because gloppy, soggy soil can cause a number of problems for plants too.
The goal is to water the soil well to saturate it into the planting root zone. And give the soil plenty of time to drain slightly but not dry out completely before you plant.
Gardening in containers?
If you’re gardening in containers and wondering what to do about the soil in them, this article might help.
After planting, be sure to water every plant in well.
Even if you’ve pre-moistened your garden, be sure to give each new plant a drink after planting. Do this with a gentle spray. Plant roots connect when you water garden soil and them right when they meet the first time.
And, continue to water until rain — real, saturating rain — begins to fall consistently. That’s because allowing new plantings to dry out or sending any plant into winter with dry roots is just asking for them to stress and potentially die.
Thanks. Sounds real good..
I have read again and again that you should NOT garden with wet soil: it compacts it. Especially where I live because we have heavy clay soil. Walking on the wet soil will just turn it into a brick.
JA, Thanks for writing in. Just to clarify: if your soil is already wet, there likely isn’t a need to water it before you plant. But, watering it when it is dry AND allowing it to drain but not dry out before planting is what we’re suggesting here. Good luck with that clay. We garden in a lot of clay too!
Does lime break down clay? Thx
Deborah, lime is added to soil to adjust pH. Clay is actually minuscule mineral material already broken down from larger rock. If you’d like to learn more about soils (& much more), we dig deep into soils in our online gardening lessons. You’ll find more information on signing up for these programs here.