Efficient watering

Watering your garden efficiently not only saves water, it helps your plants to grow strong and healthy too.

Efficient garden watering means only using the amount of water needed to keep your plants healthy with deep, strong root systems that enable them withstand dry times.  Watering deeply and infrequently encourages a deep, healthy root system.

The key to efficient watering is to ensure the water infiltrates the root zone without any runoff.  Cyclic watering is an efficient watering method to do this.

  • Water an area until pooling or runoff just begins and then turn the water off.
  • Wait until water has soaked into the soil (e.g. 15 to 30 minutes) and then repeat the cycle.
  • In between cycles, dig down to see how far the water has penetrated the soil.
  • Repeat the cycle until the water reaches the depth of the root zone (about 300 mm).

You could also consider drip irrigation. This has many advantages, including delivery of water at low volumes and low pressure, and it can provide effective cyclic watering. It allows time for the water to infiltrate the soil and the root zone, and reduces the chance of runoff.

Your soil type and the rate that it absorbs water (infiltration rate) are particularly important to watering requirements. 

  • Sandy soil or sandy loam has a fast infiltration rate, as long as it isn’t water repellent.  It needs frequent watering with smaller amounts to prevent water being wasted by draining away from the root zone.
  • Clay soil has a slow infiltration rate and runoff occurs if you deliver water too quickly. You may need to deliver water intermittently, giving the soil enough time to absorb a small amount of water before applying more.

Take into account your site slope, soil type, plant requirements and microclimate when deciding how much water to apply and how often to apply it.  The impact of these garden characteristics is explained in WaterRight Gardens Fact Sheets (links are provided in More Information below).

Remember to adjust your watering schedules when the seasons change and also to take into account any recent or forecast rainfall.

More information

For more information on efficient watering can be found in the fact sheets on: