How to water your vegetable garden

How to water your vegetable garden

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford

Guide written by:

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford

33 guides

Watering your vegetable crops with care ensures healthy growth and a good harvest. But it's important to find the right system for your vegetable garden. From watering cans and lances to automatic systems such as a sprinklers, drip lines or soaker hoses, read on to find the best way to water your vegetable garden.

Important features

  • Manual watering
  • Drip irrigation system
  • Underground watering system
  • Sprinklers
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Above vs. below ground irrigation


Like all living species on Earth, plants require water to live and grow. Without the right amount of water, they'll simply shrivel up and die. Watering your vegetable patch is therefore a task that demands a great deal of attention. You need to meet the individual watering needs of each plant and think about how weather conditions will affect how much and how often you need to water.

This guide will deal with the two main watering methods – namely, above ground and underground watering – to help you water your vegetable patch as efficiently as possible.

Above ground watering

Manual watering


The basic idea behind manual watering is very simple: all you need is a watering can, a garden hose, a watering lance or spray gun to supply your plants with all the water they require as and when they need it. Here are the main pros and cons of manual watering:


  • No need to purchase an expensive watering system.
  • Gives you direct control over how much water you provide.
  • An easy solution for small vegetable patches. 


  • Not economical in terms of water consumption and not very precise.
  • Not suitable for larger vegetable patches.
  • More time-consuming.

Manual watering is best suited to small areas but will work just fine for any vegetable you might want to grow. It also easily allows you attend to the individual watering need of each plant.

Sprinkler systems


Sprinklers use equipment such as rotating sprinkler headsoscillating sprinklers and other watering devices to simulate natural rainfall. These tools will effectively water anything within a set radius. They are ideal for watering larger vegetable patches or fields without wasting water. Here are the pros and cons:

Advantages of sprinklers

  • Provides even watering.
  • Portable and easy to move from one area to another.
  • Easy to set up on any type of terrain.

Disadvantages of sprinklers

  • Not suitable for sensitive crops that could be damaged by the size of the sprinkler droplets.
  • Does not allow for targeted watering of different crops.
  • Can promote disease as the water is sprayed directly on foliage. 

Sprinklers are primarily used for agricultural purposes, particularly in monoculture farming. They are generally not used in polyculture farming as it is not possible to adjust the sprinklers to the needs of different crops.

Drip irrigation


Drip irrigation is a type of micro-irrigation that involves setting up soaker hoses or drip lines along your rows of crops.

Advantages of drip irrigation

  • Programmable: it is possible to schedule the exact start time, frequency and the duration of watering via a controller.
  • Helps to save water.
  • Possible to adjust watering to crop requirements.

Disadvantages of irrigation

  • Fixed system: not easy to move around the components once set up.
  • Hoses can get clogged by limescale.
  • Installing and adjusting the system requires a bit of time and patience.

Drip irrigation is the best option for small vegetable gardens. Accurate and economical, this system is perfect for home vegetable patches – even though installation requires a little patience!

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Pegged drip heads

Underground watering systems


Underground watering systems work according to the same basic principles as drip irrigation systems with one big difference in that the hoses are buried at the foot of the plants.

Advantages of underground watering systems

  • Saves water.
  • All settings are programmable (e.g. start time, flow and duration).
  • More attractive (no hoses on show).

Disadvantages of underground watering systems

  • May require installation by a specialist who can plan out your underground network with precision and point out any obstacles such as water pipes or electrical cables.
  • Expense initial purchase.
  • Can be challenging to maintain.

Underground watering systems are ideal for both small vegetable gardens and large scale crop production. However, these systems can be a challenge to set up and maintain. 

Just like above ground watering systems, your water supply can be drawn from different sources. This includes things like water butts, wells or underground water tanks (in which case a surface pumpsubmersible pump or even a petrol water pump will be required).

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Petrol water pump
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Guide written by:

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford, 33 guides

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford

From a background in waste transportation, I became a farmer specializing in organic market gardening. A graduate of a professional baccalaureate in Agronomy and Horticultural Production, I tried for several years as a young farmer to settle in the beautiful region of Oxford.   After many disappointments, I finally started a small-business in home services, specifically in gardening, assisted by my loving, dear husband. Passionate about nature and wild edible plants, I am very attentive to ecological solutions and respectful of our environment in all aspects of my daily life.   From the vegetable garden to the flower beds, from seed to harvest, I have all kinds of advice up my sleeve. Do not hesitate to ask me your questions.

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