Source: Thomas Fowler

How does your garden grow? No grow or slow grow? It could be your H2O.

How and when you water your garden often makes the difference between healthy or diseased plants, says University of Missouri Extension horticulturist Tom Fowler.

Fowler offers some simple watering tips that can provide a bushel of benefits.

First, water at the right time for the best results. Watering in the morning allows leaves to dry if they get wet. If watered at night, plant foliage stays wet longer.

Secondly, do not spray water on leaves. Try to water only in the root zone. Wet leaves create an environment where diseases, especially fungi, thrive.

Give your plants’ roots a good soaking. Light, daily watering creates shallow root systems. Long, less frequent waterings allow the soil to remain wet 6-8 inches below the surface. Fowler suggests keeping a long screwdriver or similar device near your garden spot. If the screwdriver tip easily penetrates 6 inches or so into the soil, it is watered enough.

Drip or trickle irrigation also provide good results in home gardens, Fowler says. Watering by hand allows water to go only where needed.

Water during dry spells and during critical plant development stages such as flowering.

Most Missouri gardens need about 1-3 inches of water per week.

Finally, Fowler recommends soil testing to determine your garden’s nutrient needs. See the MU Extension publication “Steps in Fertilizing Garden Soil: Vegetables and Annual Flowers” at for more information.

Fowler shares other gardening basics:

• Choose your garden site well. Garden plants need 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. Plants prefer morning to early afternoon sunlight.

• Avoid locating gardens near trees. Tree roots can extend 30 feet or more and take water and nutrients that garden plants need. Walnut and pecan trees produce a chemical that causes wilt in some fruits and vegetables.

• Gardens should slope to allow proper surface runoff and subsoil drainage.

• Locate gardens near water sources to avoid carrying water or running long hoses.

For more gardening tips, go to MU Extension’s Master Gardener website at or contact your local MU Extension center.