The Pros and Cons of Hand Watering Plants

Hand Watering Plants

Long before sprinklers, soaker hoses and irrigation systems were part of the landscape, people hand-watered the plants in their gardens. Hand watering is still practiced today, especially among folks with small yards and those who like an up-close view of the plants. This article will walk you through the pros and cons of hand watering.

Different methods of hand watering

hand watering using a hose

You don’t need a hose to hand water. You can hand water with a bucket or watering can. However, the hose makes it easier to get water to plants without the heavy lifting.

If using a hose, measure the distance from the spigot to the farthest point in the garden. Buy a garden hose closest to that length. Purchase a watering wand that has a showerhead nozzle. The wand adds another 30 inches of reach, and showerheads provide a gentle sprinkle that won’t wash out the soil around the plant. 

Punch small holes in a 5-gallon bucket and place it in the area you want to water. Center the bucket amid three or four plants so they get watered all at once. Fill the bucket and let the water seep out. When the bucket is empty, move it to a new space, fill the bucket, let it drain, or store it until next time. This method uses less water and reduces the chance of overwatering.

The pros

Timing isn’t everything

The time of day is not as critical when hand watering. When using a sprinkler, it’s advisable to water in the early morning ahead of the midday heat. During the hottest part of the day, water evaporates before it has a chance to soak into the ground and nourish plant roots. You also don’t want to use a sprinkler in the evening and allow water to sit on plant leaves all night, creating a moist environment for fungus to develop.

With hand watering, gardeners can direct water at the plant’s base. This mostly negates the effects of evaporation and fungus development.

Uses less water

Sprinklers project water into the air and over plants, allowing some of it to drift in the wind or evaporate from leaves. But hand watering allows gardeners to direct water precisely where it’s needed, minimizing drift and evaporation. 

But how much water does your garden need?

Plants need 1 inch of water a week during the growing season as a rule of thumb. That’s a little over .6 gallons per square foot. A rain gauge tracks how much rainfall you’ve had. Supplement rainfall with hand watering as needed to get to that magical 1-inch mark.

Puts water where it’s needed

Water the bases of the plants rather than the tops. Watering at the base ensures the roots will get to the root system.

Also, plants do not all have the same water needs. For instance, impatiens may need frequent watering, but lantana may not. Skip those that don’t need watering. A mechanical irrigation system doesn’t make allowances for the water needs of different plants; it waters the entire garden evenly.

Ensures proper irrigation of potted plants

Water plants until the water runs out the bottom of the pot of seasonal plantings, houseplants or container gardens. As a general rule, containers may need more frequent watering, especially in hot weather.

Allows close inspection of plants

Hand watering gives you the opportunity to examine your plants. Do you see any insect damage? Are leaves covered with fungus, such as powdery mildew? Has a plant grown too tall, and does it need to be staked?

Identifying and correcting problems early keeps insects or diseases from taking hold in the garden. 

It’s calming

Hand watering allows time to admire and appreciate your plants. You can let your mind wander, take in the earthy aromas, solve the world’s problems and relax.

The cons of hand watering

Hoses are unwieldy

Dragging a hose that kinks or gets hung up on rocks, plants or other objects can be frustrating. You can opt for a hose that doesn’t kink, but charged hoses still get heavy when the spigot comes on.

Requires more effort

Holding the hose can fatigue your hand, wrist and arm, especially if you have to lug around a bucket or press a lever to get water. Look for a hose-end accessory that can be locked in the open position.

Is time-consuming

Hand watering is time consuming. A mechanical irrigation system allows you to go about your business while the sprinkler does the work for you. Hand-watering requires you to do the work, of course.  

The final word

Hand watering takes time, but it can be a great way to ensure your plants get exactly what they need. Of course, you may prefer to have a professional handle lawn and garden duties for you. If so, give Lawn Love’s lawn care professionals a call.

Main photo credit: Ron Lach | Pexels

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp award-winning garden writer, editor, and speaker. (She speaks at libraries, garden clubs, public gardens, home and garden shows, Master Gardener groups, and horticulture industry events.) Known as a hortiholic, she frequently says her eyes are too big for her yard. She blogs at