After decades of watching my garden survive dry summers, I no longer run for the garden hose. Established plants can survive without extra watering, I've learned.
Plants need morning watering. Wet leaves dry faster in the morning sun, reducing the likelihood of some plant diseases. In the morning, wilted plants indicate they need water.
Water in the Morning
Deeply irrigate. This encourages stronger, deeper roots, improving plant health.In general, water or rain 1 inch per week. Track rainfall with a rain gauge. Rain gauges measure sprinkler water, too.
Place the hose nozzle at the base of trees and shrubs, then turn on a trickle. It lets the soil absorb water. For container plants, water the edges. Do not soak plants from the top with a hose nozzle set to spray.
Water the Soil Not the Plants
Water needs vary by plant. Consider the water needs of the plants when planning your garden. When you water, you won't drown plants that prefer dry soil or parch wet-loving plants.
Plants need clean water. As tempting as it may be, don't use "grey water" from a sink or bath. Chemicals in soaps and shampoos harm plants. State laws may restrict rain barrel use.
Use Clean Water
If sprinkler water runs into the street, you may be watering too much at once. Lower water pressure so the ground can soak it up.
Avoid Water Run-Off
Dee Nash, author of The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff, recommends drip irrigation for hot climates.
Install Drip Irrigation