Do I actually need a watering can for my vegetable garden?
April 11, 2014 1:32 PM   Subscribe

First-time gardener here. Hooray—I inherited a half-plot in my neighborhood garden in Boulder, CO! Now I'm wondering if I should invest in a watering can or if I'm okay without.

Relevant details:

  • The plot is about 7'x8' in full sunlight
  • The garden has several water hose/pump style hookups
  • The garden also has a big box of borrowable items which includes a hose (I have an attachment at home that has a mist setting)
  • The person who had the plot before me told me she just used a hose and was fine
  • Thus far, I've just been using a teacup and a bucket or a pitcher of water
  • My first plants just emerged and appear to be doing okay
  • I am on a budget

    Is there any reason for me to upgrade to an actual watering can?
  • posted by mynameisluka to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
    Teacup + bucket and pitcher sound like great economic alternatives to a watering can, to me. I'd go easy with the hose when the plants are small.
    posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:38 PM on April 11, 2014

    There's always the ol' milk jug.
    posted by Madamina at 1:47 PM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

    Best answer: Watering with a hose is infinitely more efficient and pleasant than having to keep refilling a watering can and going back and forth (especially once your garden gets established and the temperature rises in the summer when you'll need to spend time giving everything a good soak on a regular basis.)

    If I was going to invest in something for watering my garden it would be a good hose attachment, not a watering can, and you've already got that. If it turns out you don't like the one you have or want to upgrade someday, I generally prefer the "wand" style attachments (better control, don't have to bend down) and a shut off valve is important. And you don't want too fine a mist or you'll be standing around forever.

    Your makeshift pitcher, bucket, teacup watering is great or you could punch holes in the cap of a milk jug like this.
    posted by dahliachewswell at 1:57 PM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

    Dahlia has already said what I was about to say: if you have access on-site to a hose, you'd be much better off with a decent hose accessory.

    Besides fine mist, look for one with a soft "shower" setting, and it helps to have a control which can restrict the flow to the nozzle or cut it off entirely -- as your plants grow you'll want to be able to control the force with which the water hits them and while a mist is nice, you want some other delivery options besides "full-pressure spray" (which will damage the plants.)

    A good gardening nozzle will have a setting which delivers water very much like a watering can, but with the advantage that you don't have to keep re-filling the can.

    You should be able to find something nice for well under $20, possibly under $10.
    posted by Nerd of the North at 2:06 PM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

    A different perspective:

    Watering cans are very very cheap. Why would you not invest in one? It's all of five dollars or so. It gives you an extra option that will be useful every now and then.
    Even if you don't use it all that much, it's worth it.
    posted by Too-Ticky at 2:20 PM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

    I would go for watering can. It's cheap and you can get a very fine rose for it that will allow you to water seedlings. The pressure in a hose is going to be very difficult to get just right for a job like that. Have a look in your local dollar store. Or get chatting to the other gardeners on site - someone might have a spare.
    posted by Solomon at 2:44 PM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

    I find it useful in my garden, and I have a hose etc - but the can is still handy sometimes.
    posted by smoke at 3:21 PM on April 11, 2014

    It depends on what you are growing. Watering cans with nozzle attachments can let you sprinkle water in a more gentle fashion than a hose, bucket or milk judge. This maters if your growing wee seedlings or growing from seed as a hose can just blast plants over.
    posted by srboisvert at 6:46 PM on April 11, 2014

    I do square foot gardening and I have several beds, but the general recommendation for what I'm doing is to basically fill a bucket and let it warm in the sun, and then water individual plants as needed by hand. I do a version of that from a rain barrel with an adjustable sprayer attached to a hose, but I am careful to feel the soil around each plant and water only as needed.

    So in short, what you're doing is fine, and using a watering can would also be fine, and a hose might be fine, it really depends on how close to tne soil you want to be.
    posted by padraigin at 8:30 PM on April 11, 2014

    My preference is for a good hose attachment which I think it is infinitely preferable in a larger garden. For your plot size, any container arrangement that lets you control where you are putting the water is good. I have a lovely watering can with a brass hose but mostly I just enjoy looking at it; it is heavy to carry with water in it and I don't like having to carry it from the water source over and over when I am ready to water everything. For most things, you are going to want a slow deep soaking and simply misting the leaves doesn't do that job at all. Although there is nothing more refreshing than misting all the foliage and having that fragrant coolness all around you at the end of the gardening workout, for some plants, you don't even want to wet the leaves too much, especially at the end of the day because it encourages some diseases, so anything that allows you to direct the water onto the ground at the base of the plant is better. You can even bury a plastic bottle with holes in it beside thirsty plants and pour water into the bottle so it slowly seeps out at the roots where it is needed. I'm excited for your gardening adventure. You might like Pinterest for this and other gardening ideas you can search; I'm enjoying that site.
    posted by Anitanola at 11:05 PM on April 11, 2014

    I don't think that you need a watering can (at least not for an outdoor garden), since you have the hose. Watering cans don't hold that much water, anyway.

    You might want to pick up a spray bottle from the dollar store, though. Hardware stores or drug stores often sell spray bottles for about $1/each, too (look in the cleaning aisle in either store, and in the drug store, they might have some in the hair/grooming aisle, too). A lot of plants love being misted (in the summer, you can do it virtually anytime you're in the garden), and there's not really a good way to do that with the hose.

    If you need to water a tiny seedling or something else that you'd drown with the hose, you can also just take the top of the spray bottle off and use it to pour water directly on that plant.
    posted by rue72 at 12:47 AM on April 12, 2014

    If the arrangement you have works for you, I'd stick with it. More often than not I use a five gallon pail and a cup/my hand despite having watering can and hose. I worry that I'll drown/damage small seedlings so I'll cup water with my hand and sprinkle.

    (I have an attachment at home that has a mist setting)

    I'd avoid using the mister on the foliage since wet leaves can be an invitation for mold, blight, rust and other diseases to settle in along with unwanted bugs and it's ineffectual.
    posted by redindiaink at 3:37 PM on April 12, 2014

    I water with a hose, but I still use a watering can to mix and dispense liquid fertilizer.
    posted by sock puppet du jour at 4:07 PM on April 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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