This is the best time of day to water a vegetable garden – experts reveal the ideal hours to water, and the times to avoid

Knowing the right time of day to water will result in the healthiest plants and vegetable crops

(Image credit: Getty Images/Di_Studio)

Watering is a constant in the vegetable garden during the summer months. No matter where you live or the size of your vegetable garden, you will undoubtedly spend many hours watering your plants when the temperatures rise.

There are lots of ways to water crops; you can use a watering can, hoses, sprinklers, or an automated irrigation system. No matter how you irrigate your vegetables, choosing when to water plants can help maximize the water you use and keep plants healthy.

Some times of day are better than others and there are certain times you should avoid watering a vegetable garden. If you can fit the better times to water into your busy schedule, your plants will benefit the most.

Woman watering a pumpkin plant

Watering a vegetable garden at the best time of day will help to grow large crops

(Image credit: Getty/Maxim Chuvashov)

When is the best time to water a vegetable garden?

To help you grow the healthiest and happiest vegetables in your garden we reveal the best times of day you can choose to water. In addition, we look at the times of day to avoid watering your vegetables, and why.

Water early in the morning

Watering plants at sunset

Watering a vegetable garden can be a daily task in the summer

(Image credit: Getty/Klaus Vedfelt)

The best time of day to water a vegetable garden is early in the morning. If you have the time to add watering to your daily schedule early in the day, before going to work or taking the kids to school, your plants will benefit greatly from it.

Watering at this cooler time of day means there is more time for the water to soak into the soil and get taken up by the plants, rather than being lost to evaporation. As the day warms up, more water evaporates away from the soil and plants start to transpire, so try to avoid watering any later, and definitely not at peak heat of the day.

Mariah Henry, director of Urban Agriculture at Carolina Farm Trust, claims ‘5am-7am is best’ and recommends avoiding the afternoon during the hotter months ‘to increase water retention’.

She says: ‘When it's warmer outside the water can evaporate and reduce the plants' ability to absorb water.’ It would be a garden watering mistake to head out with the hose or switch the sprinklers on in the middle of the day as plants won’t gain as much at the hottest times.

Another advantage of early morning watering is that any water that gets on the foliage has a long time to dry before the cooler temperatures of nighttime arrive. Wet foliage left overnight makes plants more susceptible to fungal diseases like powdery mildew and downy mildew.

Gerry Murphy, owner of Growseed, also adds that getting out early to keep the soil moist in summer means your plants are best prepared to face the sun. ‘Morning watering ensures plants are well-hydrated before the heat of the day, which is especially important during hot weather,’ says Gerry.

Mariah Henry
Mariah Henry

Mariah Henry serves as the Director of Urban Agriculture for the Carolina Farm Trust, and she is on a mission to re-educate, reform, and lead communities into economic resiliency through food. 

Or, water in the evening

watering squash plant

Watering earlier in the day gives foliage lots of time to dry

(Image credit: Pavel Rodimov / Alamy Stock Photo)

The morning is the most efficient time to water a vegetable garden, however, if you cannot fit that into your schedule then the next best option is the evening. Again, it is cooler in the evening and water is not lost to evaporation.

‘If you miss a morning watering, don't fret. Pick back up in the early evening,’ says Mariah Henry. However, one added risk of watering later in the day is that wet foliage cannot dry off and sits wet overnight. This is primarily a cause for concern if you water your vegetable garden with a sprinkler or garden hose.

For some, it may depend on how you water

Drip irrigation watering system

Drip irrigation gets moisture to the roots where plants need it moist

(Image credit: Getty/firemanYU)

When is a good or bad time to water the vegetable garden may depend on how you water plants. Using sprinkles or hoses magnifies the risk of wet foliage, but the risks are less with drip irrigation.

Drip irrigation or soaker hoses can be useful tools to get water to the base of the plants and into the root zone where it is most needed. Shawn Jadrnicek, extension agent for Virginia Tech, claims you can water ‘anytime’ with a drip irrigation system as the leaves won’t get wet, however, there are still preferred times to use such systems.

‘The best time with drip is when the plants need the water which will be when the sun is shining,’ says Shawn. ‘With drip irrigation, you want to keep the soil around the plants close to saturation and you don’t want to push water past the root zone. Typically this will involve more frequent watering for a shorter time.’

To avoid potential fungal problems, always soak the base of the plants and avoid getting the foliage wet by not simply watering from above with a can or hose.

Shawn Jadrnicek
Shawn Jadrnicek

Shawn Jadrnicek has worked as a farmer, nurseryman, extension agent, arborist, landscaper, manager of Clemson University’s Student Organic Farm and manager of Wild Hope Farm. Shawn has learned how to cultivate food in a variety of climates and landscapes over 25 years of working with the land.  

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Can I water a vegetable garden overnight?

It is not advisable to water a vegetable garden overnight. Watering plants at night not only increases the risk of diseases from wet foliage but may also lead to an increased presence of slugs and snails that are more active in wet conditions. You cannot monitor overnight watering and this may lead to an increased risk of waterlogging and overwatering unless you invest in timers for any irrigation system.

If you have a small vegetable garden or grow crops in pots as part of a vegetable container garden, you can use drip irrigation set-ups and DIY garden watering ideas. Such DIY solutions can be a budget-friendly way to hydrate your plants efficiently and are particularly ideal for watering plants while on vacation.

Drew Swainston
Content Editor

Drew’s passion for gardening started with growing vegetables and salad in raised beds in a small urban terrace garden. He has gone on to work as a professional gardener in historic gardens across the UK and also specialise as a kitchen gardener growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers. That passion for growing extends to being an allotmenteer, garden blogger, and producing how-to gardening guides for websites. Drew was shortlisted in the New Talent of the Year award at the 2023 Garden Media Guild Awards.