How to Manage a Urban Gardening Watering Regime

Urban Gardening

1) How to Water…

Gardening in the City means you most likely have to utilize limited outdoor space, often resorting to growing plants in containers to maximize every square foot. Container gardening can be just as fun as having an in-ground garden, it can also be more challenging if you have or you are thinking about creating an outdoor landscape then you are going to need to learn how to water urban garden containers and plants.

Investing in any garden requires a little planning, especially if you are traveling or often away from home. Watering is one of the most difficult aspects of gardening to get just right and with containers and an exposed rooftop gardens it’s critically important to find the right balance.

Experienced Gardeners know that watering little and often is a golden rule when it comes to taking care of container grown plants during the growing season.

I am often asked how can you tell if a plant is thirsty; leaf plants have a built-in ability to preserve water in their stems and leaves, however, should there be a shortage of water, then the plant will begin to conserve water and you will see signs of wilting, especially in the leaves that are exposed to the elements. If you see a plant wilting check the surface of the compost and if it appears dry, then watering is essential and should not be

Here are some basic watering disciplines by season to explain how much your container-grown plants need and when they need it. The following guidelines will help you figure out when is the best time of day to water and how much your plants need to thrive.

Spring: Longer days and warmer weather encourage your garden plants to break dormancy and as the fresh growth begins to unfurl it is essential that your plants are provided adequate water, although early Spring plants begin to grow a little early in the season to turn on the automatic irrigation lines in fear of a late frost. Instead in Spring apply reduced amounts of water every few days by hand watering, especially if your plants are actively growing or flowering. Bear in mind that whilst Spring rain and snow will help prevent your plants from drying completely once the containers have
Tip: Most small containers will need watering up to three times a week in Spring more often on warm sunny or windy days.

Summer: Warmer weather and hot sunny days can spell problems for in-ground plants and containers, installing drip-feed irrigation systems are recommended to ensure your plants get a regular water supply right where they need it at just the right time of day.

In extreme cases I during a Heatwave it will also be necessary to hand water occasionally and during this time it would be a good idea to add a little liquid feed to maintain plant vigor and encourage flowering.

Removing spent flowers and dead leaves are a good weekly habit to keep your garden containers in top condition and also an opportunity to check the general health of plants and moisture content of compost in your pots.

Tip: Daily watering is essential during warm Summer months irrigation systems are often set to water twice daily.

Fall: Typically associated with cooler weather and a reduction in light levels, Fall can also bring some hot, dry days that will continue to bring stress to actively growing plants and flowers, so although watering is less critical it should be closely monitored. Irrigation systems are generally deactivated ahead of any frost warning and therefore hand watering becomes essential. During the Fall season reduce the amount of water and the regularity to suit the growth pattern of your chosen plants. Plants that are actively flowering and growing will require extra water that the that are becoming dormant.

Tip: Early Fall watering regime will be very similar to Summer, as with hand watering your irrigation could be dialed down a little to reduce the time spent watering but keeping a close eye on the forecast is essential.


Winter: Cooler weather will encourage your plants into dormancy, they have spent the Summer gathering all the seasons stored energy for hibernating through the winter months. Reducing your watering regime is critical at this time of year. If you use irrigation during the Summer then early November typically means it is time to switch off the irrigation as winter frost can damage the lines. Regular watering is essential, even during the winter months, but instead of a daily routine once a week or even fortnightly may be sufficient.

Tip: During cooler weather, it is a good idea to alter the time of day you water, whereas in the Summer watering is typically associated with early mornings and evening. In Late Fall and through Winter this is best adjusted to once a week or bi-weekly and best between the hours of 10am and 3pm due to cooler night temperatures.

More top tips:
1. It is important that you never let your container compost dry out completely, they should always have a little moisture content to prevent soil erosion and a dry compost will not absorb water efficiently.
2. Watering little and often will provide your plants with adequate water when they need it, in-ground plants roots would go searching deep for the moisture content they need to survive however in containers this is simply not possible and the plants rely on your intervention to keep them healthy.
3. During periods of heavy rain your plants may well get a dose of rainwater, however, this is not to rely upon as often building rain shadow or heavy leaf canopies prevent rainwater from accessing the container compost and simply drains away elsewhere.
4. Several passes with a watering can or hose are often required to properly water, directing the sprinkler nozzle toward the compost rather than simply wetting the plant leaves is also more effective, and allows the compost to absorb sufficient water.

5.  Try a homemade coffee grind liquid feed as a high nitrogen fertilizer it also helps keep pests at bay, it is said that the caffeine feeds micro-nutrients essential for plant vigor. I reuse a mason jar and used coffee grinds from the morning’s filtered coffee, fill your large jar with tap water, secure lid and allow to stand for 24hrs shake on occasion to strengthen the mix. Once you have allowed the mix to stand simply filter and dilute as a garden plant feed to encourage more leafy growth and greener grass.


6. I found a use for banana peel’s! All you need is a blender, some ripe bananas (that i set aside for freezing for future use when baking yummy, honey, banana bread.) A mason style jar, I usually use a large pasta sauce jar. I blend the banana peel with a jar full of water, pouring the entire blended contents into a large jar. and topping up with water. Allow to stand I usually chill for over 24hrs before filtering and diluting as a garden plant feed to encourage more flowers.

Join me on


Stephen Pryce-Lea

Head Gardener and International Horticultural Consultant

Greening the City, painting the gray.
Urban Landscape Specialist and Guest Speaker

#Gardening4Good Advocate #Philadelphia #Garden




“It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion grow together, when you find it in a Garden it’s like finding Paradise“

iGrowHort – A Head Gardener’s Horticultural Journey of love, life and learning.


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About Head Gardener 291 Articles
Award winning, 40 something year old professional plantsman and horticulturalist with National Trust, private parks and estate management background. My vast plant knowledge and hands on techinical experience, afforded me the opportunity to work in various horticultural landscapes, in the UK, USA & Eastern Europe. Having worked in both garden retail & the design service industry gave me the practical diversity and managerial skill set, required for running a large prestigious gardens and stately homes. I strongly believe knowledge is to be shared and have worked closely with people and staff of all ages and abilities keen to develop their passion for gardening, including groups of children, special needs and adults. I have hosted guided walks, talks and tours for those keen to learn about cultivated and wild plants, garden development, history and design. As an member of the NNCPG and National Trust, I am actively involved in the preservation of several important plant collections both in public and private gardens throughout the UK. “It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion grow together, in a garden it’s paradise” Follow @IGrowHort on GardenTags. Stephen is passionate about gardening as Head Gardener with a team of ten staff he manages a prestigious Cheshire country estate of 55 acres, inc wild flower meadows, woodland, organic kitchen and formal gardens. Follow Stephen today”

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