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How Often Should You Water Seedlings?

Seedlings need consistently moist soil so that they can grow. This means that they’ll need water once or twice a day in summer.

The amount of water your plants need can be very variable. Primarily, it depends on the weather, where your plants are situated and how quickly the soil dries out.

So, how often should you water seedlings?

As an experienced gardener, I don’t follow any hard and fast rules when it comes to watering. I just look at the plants and the soil to determine if a plant needs water.

However, for beginners, this can seem a little daunting so I’m going to give you some general guidelines.

How often to water seedlings in summer

Seedlings need consistently moist soil so that they can grow. This means that they’ll need to be watered once or twice a day in summer depending on how fast the soil dries.

Another aspect to consider is whether your seedlings are growing in pots or punnets or if you’ve planted them in the ground.

Generally, the soil in pots does dry out much faster than ground soil. This means you have to be vigilant and perhaps water them twice a day.

watering seedlings | Plant care

Of course, you want to ensure that the pots have drainage holes so the excess can easily drain away.

Seedlings that are grown in a garden bed will still need a constant supply of water because their roots are still quite small and can’t go in search of water.

This means that they should be watered at least daily and during hot weather, at least twice a day. However, if it rains, you can hold off watering until the following day.

Once the seedlings have grown large enough (after around 3 weeks), it’s a good idea to place some mulch on top of the soil to help reduce evaporation.

mulch on seedlings | Plant care

After you’ve done this, you’ll only have to water your seedlings every second day.

How often to water seedlings in the cooler weather

When it’s cooler, the water in the soil won’t evaporate or dry out as quickly. This means that your seedlings may only need to be watered every second day.

However, if they’re growing in the ground and you get rain on a regular basis, then you might only need to give them supplementary watering on days when it’s dry.

Watering in the morning is best

As your seedlings will need consistent moisture throughout the day, it’s a good idea to water them early in the morning. This will ensure that they have enough moisture to stay well hydrated when the sun is shining.

Lettuce seedlings 1 | Plant care

You’ll find that during warm sunny days, plants transpire moisture through their leaves in order to stay cool. That’s why it’s important that they get a good drink early on in the day.

Let the moisture level of the soil guide you

Once you become a little more experienced, you’ll be able to tell when your seedlings need water just by examining the soil. Remember that seedlings need consistently moist but not wet soil.

Soil Moisture Meter | Plant care

So, how do you tell whether there is moisture in the soil? There are a few easy ways to test this.

Use your finger to feel the soil

If you don’t mind getting a little dirt on your finger, then testing the soil is really easy. All you have to do is poke your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle.

When you pull your finger out, if there’s soil sticking to it, then the soil is still damp. However, if your finger comes out clean, then your seedlings will need water.

Check the soil with a chopstick

While using your finger is relatively easy with plants in the ground, it’s not as easy when you’re dealing with small pots or punnets. For this, you might need something like an ice cream stick or a wooden chopstick.

Just poke this into the soil gently, being careful not to disturb the roots. If the stick comes out clean, then the soil is dry and your seedlings need water.

On the other hand, if the stick has damp soil clinging to it, then you can hold off watering until the following day.

Use a moisture meter

If you want a more precise tool to measure soil moisture, you can purchase a relatively inexpensive moisture meter.

This tool has a probe that you poke into the soil and, often, a digital display that will tell you how much moisture is in the soil. 

By using one of these methods to check the soil moisture, your seedlings should remain well-hydrated and grow happily.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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