One of the most common mistakes gardeners make is watering their gardens way too much. Do not water your garden every day. This is so important let me repeat it – do not water your garden every day. Keeping your garden wet at all times can cause a whole host of problems like diseases issues and stunted growth. Vegetable plants like to dry out in between waterings.
Focusing on simple and strategic gardening techniques helps you become a smart gardener, and watering is no exception. The good news is that these watering tips will help you shave valuable time from your garden chores each week. You’ll also save water and money, and have a more healthy and productive garden.
Water wise tips:
- Vegetable plants need about an inch of water per week. If it rains an inch, or even ¾ inch, you don’t need to add more water to your garden that week. How do you know how much rain your garden has received? Buy a rain gauge and check it after a rainstorm. I keep a mental note throughout the week and water on Sunday night if necessary. (If you have sandy soil you may need to water more often.)
- The exception to the one inch per week rule is seeds waiting to germinate. Seeds need to be consistently moist in order for germination to occur. Depending on the vegetable and the weather, I give the garden bed a quick soak every 1-3 days. Once the seeds have germinated I put them on the one inch per week rotation.
- Water deeply. Frequent and shallow watering will cause your plants’ roots to stay at the surface of the soil. You want deeply rooted plants, so water less often and for a longer duration. Deeply rooted plants will be more equipped to handle dry conditions because they will be able to access the moisture deep in the soil.
- Water at the base of the plant. Overhead watering is inefficient and can be damaging to plants because it is more likely to spread disease. The leaves don’t need the water, the roots do. I like to use a hose with a watering wand. I hold it at the base of each plant for 30-60 seconds. I usually judge when to stop by how quickly the water is infiltrating the soil. When it starts pooling up a bit around the plant, I move on. Yes, this takes a longer time than setting up a sprinkler, but you’re only watering once a week now that you’ve read this message! Drip hoses or tape are also a good option for watering at soil level.
- Water in the morning or evening. Much more water is lost to evaporation when you water in the middle of the afternoon. Water your garden in the cooler morning or evening hours. It’s also more pleasant to be out in the garden at those times.
- Mulch, mulch, mulch. Bare soil is not advisable for the vegetable garden. Mulching thickly with marsh hay or straw retains soil moisture. It also will keep down weeds, help with disease issues, and break down and add organic matter to your soil. Read my past blog post about the many benefits of mulch.
- Treat water like a crop. Like preserving surplus vegetables, when you have a surplus of rainwater, it’s great to hold onto it for the inevitable summer dry period. Consider setting up a rain barrel under one or two of your downspouts. Saving rainwater will help conserve our land-based water sources as well as save a bit of money on your water bill. There are instructions for building your own online, or you can typically buy a kit at your local hardware store.
Questions about watering? Leave a comment below this post.