Watering the garden is one of those things that many gardeners think they are getting right, but they probably are not. The most common mistake that gardeners make is watering their plants too quickly.
Typically gardeners might either turn on a sprinkler system or just use a hose. They see puddles of water everywhere and think they are getting the job done, but in reality water is being wasted and it's not even making it down deep to the plant's roots.
What's really happening is that the water is being spread out due to runoff. When water is applied too quickly the soil doesn't have a chance to soak it in. So the water that can't be soaked in gets spread to surrounding areas.
Instead of the water only being used for the intended plant, it spreads out and waters weeds. This can waste quite a bit of your gardening time, because you'll be spending it weeding.
With this big mess of water everywhere it may seem like the plants are really getting hydrated; however, if you take a shovel and dig down you might be surprised to find out that the water may have only made it down a couple inches.
Another downside to applying water too quickly is that puddles form at the top of the soil. When water just sits there it has a better chance of evaporating, and that's wasted water that could have been used for your plants. If you happen to live in a drought prone area it is extremely important to not be wasteful.
The obvious solution to fixing this problem is to water slowly. Fortunately there are many gardening tools to help you water slowly without wasting your time and manually doing it yourself. These tools use drip irrigation to apply water slowly.
Drip irrigation works exactly how it sounds like it would; it drips the water onto the soil where it has a chance to soak in. Because the soil actually has time to absorb the water, very little is wasted and the water has a chance to soak in deeply.
One of the main benefits of water soaking deeply into the soil is that the plants roots are being trained to reach deep into the ground to retrieve water. The water that makes it deeper also stays in the ground longer than water at a shallow level. You are helping your plants become more drought tolerant if you give them an occasional deep soaking instead of frequent shallow watering.
Some of the tools that you can use to take advantage of drip irrigation include soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems that include drip tape or individual emitters. All these options vary in price and complexity. You could have a very simple hose with emitters or you could install an entire system with a timer.
Soaker hoses would be a good option for people not looking to spend very much money. Soaker hoses are porous and the water looks like it sweats out of the hose. An advantage of soaker hoses is that it is flexible and can bend around plants. A disadvantage of soaker hoses is that they don't water very evenly. Typically more water gets emitted towards the beginning of the hose than at the end. They can also be prone to blowouts if the water pressure isn't regulated.
A drip system is probably the best way to water a garden. A drip system can be customized to water exactly what you need and even less water is wasted than with a soaker hose. Because a soaker hose emits water all along the hose, water is being wasted on bare areas if your plants happen to be spaced out. In a drip system you can have individual emitters for plants that are spread out or drip tape for plants that are more crowded.
If you'd like to see how drip irrigation works without actually purchasing anything this can be done using a milk jug. Just fill the empty milk jug with water and poke a small hole at the bottom with a needle (or something of similar size). You want your hole to be small enough that the water just drips. Then you can place it near a plant you would like watered.
This milk jug trick is great to use if you ever have to be away from your garden for an extended amount of time.