Best Watering Practices for Veggie Gardens

As we like to say, there are no bad gardeners, only bad waterers. It has become our mantra. Water is the key element when it comes to gardening. What about light and soil? Negotiable. Light can come in all forms and some would say that it is more efficient to grow plants with LEDs. Futhermore, there is an entire hydroponics/aquaponics industry devoted to growing plants without soil. Water, on the other hand, is irreplaceable. Yet, watering is the practice that people so often get wrong.

Water in the morning- Although many of us may feel the thirst at about 6:30 pm, our plants will get a lot more benefit from an early drink. This is because plants will require water throughout the day when the sun is shining. By watering early, you ensure that the garden has a sufficient supply of water to draw upon when they need it most.

Frequency- If you have well-draining soil, overwatering isn’t really a problem. We’ll probably be crucified for saying that, but that has been our experience. Pots and wall gardens, for example, can and should be watered daily as they tend to dry out quickly. Beyond that, watering will depend on a balance of the weather and what you are growing.
Weather- Water daily during hot periods and even twice daily if it is really hot. If it is cool and wet, you can get away with less frequency, but most edible plants will benefit from some source of water every second day.
Seeds- During germination seeds want to be very moist, water twice daily until they sprout.
Seedlings- Should be watered daily for about three weeks, or until seedlings are large enough to mulch.
Adolescent and non-fruiting plants- Water every second day.
Fruiting plants- Once fruit production begins (tomatoes, squash, eggplant, etc), water plants daily. A tomato, for example, is mostly water. To make the best fruit possible, it is important for the plant to be well hydrated.
Pest + Disease Control- Pests and disease flourish in dark, damp environments, i.e. your wet veggie patch at nighttime. By avoiding evening watering, you will discourage their nefarious activities and they will seek a more suitable environment elsewhere. It’s like turning the lights up in a bar.

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Growing Carrots in Containers – Step by Step with Pictures

Growing Carrots in Containers

Carrots is one of those vegetables that is most consumed and always the pricey one in the market. That makes it a very good candidate for a kitchen garden. Daucus Carota, as it is called botanically, is a root vegetable consumed for its swollen tap root. While we are familiar with orange colored ones, there are several colors like Red, White, Yellow and purple. There are also different shapes. In India, the regular orange carrots and the long red carrots are quite popular. In the northern states of India, different varieties of carrots seems to be present.

Did you know? Carrots belong to the family Apiaceae that includes Coriander/Cilantro, Cumin(Jeera), Dill, Fennel(Saunf) and Asafetida ( Heeng). Most of them are aromatic in nature.

Growing carrots in container starts from selecting the variety and the container. Here in India, we don’t get a lot of different varieties of carrots. In Europe and US of A, one can see many different varieties of carrots suitable for different environments. There are round carrots, baby carrots suitable for container growing.

The varieties available in India, can be grown successfully in container. The duration of carrot crop ranges from 2-3 months.

Growing Carrots: How to grow carrots in containers

Container selection for growing carrots:

Since carrot is a root vegetable with roots growing up to a feet. Selecting a proper container is essential for a good yield. One can grow carrots in variety of containers as long as they are deep enough for the variety of carrot that will be grown. Choose a container that is at least 1 feet deep. The carrot variety I grew is Early Nantes. Its root length is less than a feet. So I selected a tub/tray. This container pictured below is the one that is commonly found in grocery markets for storing vegetables. I rescued this from a plastic disposal store. Works like a charm for growing root vegetables.

You can grow them in normal pots or even polythene bags that are easily available . Once you have selected the container, make sure it has a drainage hole in it. Carrot prefers a loose well draining soil. If you can notice, there are drainage holes provided for the tray in the picture provided below.

Potting Media:

Potting mix or media is the next important thing to consider while growing carrots. Carrot requires a loose medium for its root to grow down. For growing in soil, a mixture of red soil, well decomposed compost and coco peat/sand. Mixed in equal proportion is good enough. Make sure there are no rocks or debris in the mix. All this particles will hinder root growth of carrot. For soilless mix, coco peat is good. I had used a mix of coco peat and little perlite. Perlite is added to increase the drainage. It is not mandatory though.

As you can see below, the tray is filled with potting media and holes are also dibbled to mark the places where the seeds will be sown.

Seeds were sown at the rate of 2-3 per hole. They were spaced at 3 inches between plants.

Day 0 – Seeds were sown.

Growing Carrots

A week after the seeds were sown. Some of the seeds have germinated but not all of them.

Carrot seedlings

Two week old seedlings. Almost all of them have germinated. Now my job is to get them thinned to just 1 per hole. It is better to wait and let them grow for some more time. Thinning can be done by just cutting the seedling off using a scissor instead of pulling the seedling or uprooting. Uprooting disturbs the soil and results in root damage of the plant you selected to grow.

Carrot seedlings 2 weeks old

A close up of 15 day old seedlings. Carrot grows little slow when compared to Radish..

Carrot Seedlings in container

25 day old carrot seedlings. This is a good time to thin the plants to just 1 every 3 inches. If the plants are bent, you can add some soil on top of it and compact it. If the stems are bent, roots wont be forming.

Carrot Seedlings growing

An example of polythene bag container for growing carrots. This bag is 1.5 feet deep and little less than a foot in diameter. You can also see the drainage holes made in the sides. There are drainage holes in the bottom as well. These bags are very useful for growing Long carrots.

Carrots in Poly bag

One and a half months from the date of sowing, there is lush growth observed and foliage looked well defined and dark green color. The fertilizer used was 19-19-19 for the initial one month and I switched to 5-15-30 NPK for the rest of the growing period.

45 days old carrot plants – Nantes

2 months and 1 week later, this is what I have. Thanks to daily rains, there was a heavy infestation of powdery mildew. Most of the leaves developed a white coloration and slowly started to wither away. After couple of sprays of wettable sulfur, the fungal problem went away. But the frequent rains, caused continuous leaching and there were deficiencies showing up. There was nothing much I could do for the rains..

Carrots 2 months old

Close up shot of carrots forming below. Another important thing to note here is, the green coloration on the shoulders of the carrot. This happens, when they are exposed to sunlight. As gardeners, our job is to cover the roots with soil, whenever it gets exposed.

two and half months old carrots – nantes

At about 2.5 months, I started harvesting the carrots. I didn’t lift all the carrots up and end up flooding the refrigerator with carrots. Instead we decided to pull carrots as and when we needed. So here they are. Some of them were good (size wise) and some of them made me feel I was better off growing radish ;).

Harvested Carrots

Nevertheless, I wasn’t disappointed with the whole thing. Everyday I used to take about 4-5 medium sized carrots. I heard the leaf can be eaten as well. I didn’t use the leaf for cooking this time. I simply tossed them off into another pot for composting. As shown in the picture, I did get some carrots that are cylindrical and some tapering. The taste was good. I wouldn’t say its better than market purchased carrot or anything like that. It was ok.

The carrots posing along with Yellow and green capsicum( the green ones were ripening and hence the dark color).

carrots with bell pepper

2nd Harvest. Remember the saying, not all fingers are of same size? This is the proof.

Carrot harvest

Lesson learnt:

Distance between plants. This time it was 3 inches and I think may be that is another reason why the sizes of carrots were reduced. I was just greedy to pack more plants into the tray. May be next time, I will keep it at 5 inches between plants.

So this time, the yield didn’t come out the way I thought it would. Better luck next time.. I guess.

Below are the some of the popular varieties of carrots that grow in containers.

  • Long Red (Red colored, root length is more than 1 feet).
  • Early Nantes – Improved ( Cylindrical type, Container friendly)
  • Shin Kuroda (Tapering type, Container friendly)

With this I will end this post. Hope you all enjoyed.

GG

Secrets to Watering Your Vegetable Garden the Right Way

When a fellow gardener approaches me looking for help with a gardening problem, one of the first questions I ask is “How often are you watering your vegetable garden and how are you watering?”

Water is such a vital part of your garden’s success, and watering incorrectly can cause a lot of problems.

In my experience, most gardeners are watering way more than is necessary. This can be harmful to some of your plants and is a waste of your local water supply.

Here are some critical things to remember when watering your garden.

And check out the video below which was filmed in my front yard garden and teaches you the best ways to water your own garden.

Tips for Watering Your Vegetable Garden This Season

Water as efficiently as possible. Drip irrigation is the most efficient use of water in your garden. But, most gardeners I know (including yours truly) don’t have it set up in their gardens. If you live in an area that doesn’t get much rain in the summer, drip irrigation will allow you to leave your garden for weeks at a time and not worry about whether your plants are getting enough moisture.

If you don’t have drip irrigation, the next best thing is to make sure you’re watering at the base of the plants. Don’t set up a sprinkler and then walk away from your garden. Overhead watering is inefficient because a lot of the water is lost to evaporation and can be damaging to plants because it’s more likely to spread disease.

The leaves of squashes, cucumbers, and tomatoes are best left dry as much as possible because they’re susceptible to so many fungal and other diseases.

I use a hose with a wand and hold it at the base of each plant for 20-30 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 long time – but call a friend and catch up while you’re out there watering. I use a wand similar to this one with a metal head that’s less likely to crack and break over time.

In general, vegetable (and perennial) plants need about an inch of water per week. This all depends on your soil. If you have sandy soil that doesn’t hold moisture, you’ll likely need to water a bit more. If you have clay soil like me, it should hold the moisture from your last rain very nicely!

I suggest keeping track of how much rain your garden has received each week by installing a simple rain gauge in one of your beds. (I have this one.) I keep a mental note throughout the week and water on Sunday night if necessary. If it rains an inch or more throughout the week I might choose not to water my garden for a while.

Water established plants deeply and infrequently. 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. Let the water really soak into the soil to encourage the plants’ roots to go deeply into the earth.

Water newly seeded vegetables lightly and frequently. If you’re waiting for seeds to germinate, watering once a week will be too little moisture. You need to keep the top of the soil moist until germination.

Depending on the vegetable and the weather, I give the bed a quick soak every one to two days. I’ll often use a watering can for this task. I prefer a steel watering can because it lasts much longer than plastic in the garden.

Remember that the different vegetables take various amounts of time to germinate. Spring radishes will poke through the soil in less than seven days, while carrot seeds can take up to three weeks! Both need to be kept consistently moist until those first leaves break through the soil.

>>Discover 15 incredibly useful garden tools you need right now!<<

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…plus it’s much more pleasant to be out there at that time anyway.

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Mulch, mulch, mulch. Bare soil is a bad idea in the vegetable garden. It’s an invitation for many weeds to grow and your soil will dry out more quickly, sometimes even cracking from lack of moisture.

Mulching thickly with hay, straw or leaves retains the moisture in the soil, keeps weeds at bay, helps with disease issues, and breaks down to add organic matter to your soil. (Read more about why you should be mulching here.)

This season, examine your established watering habits and see how you can do better. Is there something in this list you can make a part of your regular gardening routine? If I had to pick one for you, I’d put mulch at the top of the list (even though it was last in this post!). It’s one of the best ways to protect your soil and retain moisture so your plants never dry out from the beating hot sun and warm summer winds.

Understanding how to water is one of the best ways to set your plants, and your garden, up for a successful and abundant season!

And, if you need more help creating a garden that produces abundant harvests AND requires less work, check out these popular posts!

  • Why mulch is the ultimate garden tool
  • Don’t make this mistake when you buy vegetable plants!
  • How long do you have to wait for different vegetables to grow?

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Watering a Vegetable Garden

Some plants are composed of up to 95 percent water. Water is vital from the moment seeds are sown through sprouting to the end of the growing season. Plants need water for cell division, cell enlargement, and even for holding themselves up. If the cells don’t have enough water in them, the result is a wilted plant. Water is essential, along with light and carbon dioxide, for producing the sugars that provide the plant with energy for growth. It also dissolves fertilizers and carries nutrients to the different parts of the plant.

Ideally, water for plants comes from rain or other precipitation and from underground sources. In reality, you’ll often have to do extra watering by hand or through an irrigation system. How often you should water depends on how often it rains, how long your soil retains moisture, and how fast water evaporates in your climate. Soil type is another important factor. Clay soils hold water very well — sometimes too well. Sandy soils are like a sieve, letting the water run right through. Both kinds of soil can be improved with the addition of organic matter. Organic matter gives clay soils lightness and air; it gives sandy soils something to hold the water.

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Other factors may also affect how often you need to water your garden:

  • More water evaporates when the temperature is high than when it’s low. Plants can rot if they get too much water in cool weather.
  • More water evaporates when the relative humidity is low.
  • Plants need more water when the days are bright.
  • Wind and air movement will increase the loss of water to the atmosphere.
  • Water needs vary with the type and maturity of the plant. Some vegetables are tolerant of low soil moisture.
  • Sometimes water is not what a wilting plant needs. When plants are growing fast, the leaves sometimes get ahead of the roots’ ability to provide them with water. If the day is hot and the plants wilt in the afternoon, don’t worry about them; they will regain their balance overnight. But if plants are wilting early in the morning, water them immediately.

Want more information about vegetable gardens? Visit these links:

  • Caring for a Vegetable Garden: Read our guide to nurturing your vegetable plants for the best harvest.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Find out everything you wanted to know about vegetable gardening.
  • Vegetables: Pick out your favorite vegetables to plant in next year’s garden.
  • Gardening: We answer all of your general gardening questions in this section.
  • Garden Care: Whether you’re growing cucumbers or columbines, we have all the information you need to nurture a thriving garden.

Best Time To Water Plants – When Should I Water My Vegetable Garden?

Advice on when to water plants in the garden varies greatly and can be confusing to a gardener. But, there is a right answer to the question, “When should I water my vegetable garden?” and there are reasons for best time when you should water vegetables.

Best Time to Water Plants in the Vegetable Garden

The answer to when to water plants in the vegetable garden actually has two answers.

Watering Plants in the Morning

The very best time to water plants is in the early morning, while it is still cool. This will allow the water to run down into the soil and reach the roots of the plant without too much excess water lost to evaporation.

Watering in the early morning will also make the water available to the plants throughout the day so that the plants will be able to deal better with the heat of the sun.

There is a gardening myth that watering in the morning will make the plants susceptible to scorch. This is not true. First of all, almost all areas in the world do not get intense enough sun for water droplets to scorch the plants. Second of all, even if you live in an area where the sun is that intense, the water droplets would be evaporated in the heat long before they could focus the sunlight.

Watering Plants in the Afternoon

Sometimes, due to work and life schedules, it can be difficult to water the garden in the early morning. The second best time to water a vegetable garden is in the late afternoon or early evening.

If you are watering vegetables in late afternoon, the heat of the day should have mostly passed, but there should still be enough sun left to dry the plants a bit before night falls.

Watering plants in the late afternoon or early evening also cuts down on evaporation and allows the plants several hours without sun to take up water into their system.

One things to be careful of if you water in the late afternoon is to make sure that the leaves have a little time to dry before night comes. This is because damp leaves at night encourage fungus problems, such as powdery mildew or sooty mold, which can harm your vegetable plants.

If you are using a drip or soaker irrigation system, you can water right up until nightfall, as the leaves of the plant do not get wet with this form of watering.

By: Joseph Masabni, Stephen King, and Nathanael Proctor

A critical part of growing vegetables is determining the right amount of water to give them. If you irrigate properly, you can minimize water runoff, decrease the amount of labor needed, and produce a more bountiful, high-quality crop. Reducing runoff will also help cut down on soil erosion and fertilizer needs.

To water vegetables efficiently, you need to calculate:

  1. The amount of water that your plants need (irrigation requirement) under the current weather conditions of the growing season
  1. The amount of time to run your irrigation system to apply the water needed

Step 1: Assess your garden’s water needs

To calculate the irrigation requirement, you’ll need four measurements: effective rainfall, crop evapotranspiration, irrigation efficiency, and the crop coefficient.

Effective rainfall is the total amount of rainfall that a site receives during a specific period (usually the previous week) minus the amount lost to runoff or deep percolation from the site in that period. You can find the total rainfall for your area on the Texas ET Network website (texaset.tamu.edu). The network bases its calculations on data from weather stations across Texas (Fig. 1). Use the data from the station nearest your garden along with local information such as the amount of rain that has fallen in your specific area.

Figure 1. Texas counties with weather station data.

The amount of water lost to runoff or deep percolation depends on the amount of rainfall received. When little rain falls, most of the water is lost through evaporation. When much rain falls, most of the water is lost through surface runoff. Effective rainfall is calculated using the correction factors listed in Table 1. Multiply the correction factor by the amount of rainfall for that period.

TABLE 1. Correction factors for various rainfall amounts in inches per week.

For example, a gardener determines that the total rainfall received in the past week amounts to 0.5 inch. Using the correction factor in Table 1, the effective rainfall is 0.5 × 0.4 = 0.2 inch instead of 0.5 inch.

Crop evapotranspiration (ETo ) is the amount of water lost from the soil to evaporation and transpiration, which is the water that travels from the soil through the plant and out of its pores, or stomata. The current ETo values from weather stations across the state are also listed on the Texas ET Network.

Figure 2. Drip irrigation is a very efficient way to irrigate your garden.

Irrigation efficiency (IE) is the percentage of the water applied that can actually be used by the plants. Some of the water applied by an irrigation system evaporates before it can reach the plant roots (Fig. 2); some water runs off the site; and some will fall on soil away from the plants. The IE calculation takes into account these losses as well as the type of irrigation system you are using.

The crop coefficient (Kc) is based on the type of vegetables being grown and the current point of their growing cycle. Table 2 lists the coefficients for several types of vegetables at three stages of development— early, midseason, and harvest.

Use those four measurements and the following equation to determine the irrigation requirement for a specific crop and date (Example 1).

IR (inches) = (ETo (inches) × Kc) – ER (inches)/ IE

Where:

IR = Irrigation requirement ETo = Reference evapotranspiration Kc = Crop coefficient ER = Effective rainfall = Total rainfall x correction factor IE = Irrigation efficiency

Note: If the garden received more effective rainfall than its total water requirement from the previous week, IR would equal 0 and no irrigation would be needed that week.

Step 2: How long to run your irrigation system

To determine the amount of time it will take to water your garden, you’ll first need to:

  • Convert the garden dimensions from feet to square feet (length × width), and square feet to acres.
  • Convert the water needs determined previously from inches to gallons.
  • Determine the run time needed to apply the number of gallons of water.

Convert the garden area from feet to acres

Most people measure their gardens in square feet. Use this equation to convert the garden area into acres:

Acres= Length (feet) × Width (feet)/ 43,560

Note: You can also use an online unit converter (such as the one at unitconverters.net) to convert the garden dimensions in feet to square feet and from square feet to acres.

Convert water needs from inches to gallons

Rainfall is measured in inches, but irrigation system output is measured in gallons per minute. One inch of rain falling on 1 acre of land is equal to 27,154 gallons of water.

Use this equation to convert the amount of water that your garden needs from inches to gallons:

Gallons = 27,154 (gallons per acre-inch) × Garden area (acres) × Irrigation requirement (inches)

Determine how long to run your irrigation system

An irrigation system delivers a specific number of gallons per minute (gpm), which is called its output rating. Each irrigation system has an output rating that is specified by the manufacturer; it is an important factor to consider when choosing an irrigation system.

To find your system’s output rating, check the manufacturer’s website or product information. You can also determine it by measuring the volume of water collected in a bucket of water in 30 minutes. If you are using a hose with built-in emitters, you will also need to know how many emitters are used to collect the water volume in 30 minutes. Then you can calculate the output per emitter.

Use this equation to calculate the number of gallons of water needed:

Run time = (minutes) Irrigation requirement (gallons)/ Irrigation system output rating (gallons per minute)

Using the above equations can help you determine the water needs for a given crop.

Having the right amount of water available to the crop will increase plant health and vegetable yield and quality. This information can also help you determine the best crop to grow based on water availability and the best type of irrigation system.

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Try these tips for watering

Water your vegetables two to three times a week during really hot weather. Watering the garden deeply is critical. The water must go down, down, down to encourage deep roots and get away from the hot soil surface. Put a little cup or can in the garden soil and don’t stop watering until it has collected at least an inch of water from the sprinkler that you set up. (If your veggies are in containers, they’ll probably need water every day or so during the heat because containers tend to dry out faster than the ground.) If you aren’t using a sprinkler, put the cup under your drip or soaker hose. It won’t be quite as accurate, but it’s better than nothing. To hand-water a small plot, or pots, use a nozzle turned to the “shower” setting for gentle, rain-like watering. If water puddles on the surface at first, move on, but come back several times to be sure the water is soaking in and the soil is thoroughly moist.

Watch your garden for an “indicator” plant, which is the first plant to wilt as the garden becomes dry. You’ll always know to water when that particular plant has droopy leaves. The first is usually a squash, cucumber, or melon because the big leaves lose lots of moisture fast. Of course, it’s better to water consistently so that this “indication” never happens, but it’s not a perfect world and even the best of gardeners gets caught by wilting plants. Know too that in very hot, dry, and sunny weather, the big-leafed plants will wilt a little in mid-day no matter what, but they should recover quickly in the evening.

Avoid wetting plant leaves when you can. Of course, if you use a sprinkler, it is impossible not to wet the leaves when watering the garden, so in that case, water early in the morning so that the foliage will dry early and quickly to minimize disease risk. You can put the sprinkler on a timer so that it comes on just before daybreak, when the leaves may already be wet with dew. The gardening principle here is to avoid adding to the length of time that the leaves stay wet because many diseases need moisture to thrive.

Do what you can to keep water in the ground. An organic mulch such as wheat straw, finely ground bark, pine needles, or chopped-up leaves spread on the ground around and under plants is a welcome barrier between the moist soil and the hot sun. A 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch makes a huge difference in hot weather, acting as a shade cloth to hold in moisture and cool plant roots. Without mulch, the intense sun bakes the soil — and you end up watering the garden even more.

Watering Your Garden

Gardeners watering habits vary widely. Some gardeners are busy in their non-garden life and allow their poor plants to sit dry and thirsty until they’re withered before they get water. On the other hand, some gardeners pampers their plants by drowning them in too much water. With either extreme, you stress your plants. Weakened plants are the first to fall prey to bugs & diseases and produce fewer blooms or vegetables.

Finding the Right Balance for Watering Your Garden

Watering seems simple, but actually takes a little finesse to do properly. Start by identifying your soil type and measuring the actual amount of water your plants receive.

“Vegetables need an inch of water per week delivered by either rainfall or irrigation. This converts roughly to six gallons per square yard per week,” said Robert Polomski Clemson Extension Horticulturist at Clemson University, “On sandy soils water twice per week 1/2 inch each time. Clay or loam soils can receive 1 inch of water once per week.”

Thoroughly soaking the soil with infrequent watering is better than shallow regular watering. Deep soaking encourages plant roots to reach deep into the soil while shallow watering keeps roots close to the surface, leaving the plants susceptible to drought.

Polomski said to rely on common sense and observation to decide when to water.
“A sandy soil that’s dry to a depth of 2 to 4 inches would indicate a need for water. In clay soil, simply not being able to dig easily down to this depth is enough to know that it’s dry,” he said.

An inexpensive rain gauge is an easy way to keep track of how much water your garden is getting. If your plants have not received an inch of water in a week, you know to supplement with additional watering.

Utilizing a Moisture Meter

A moisture meter can be used to determine whether or not the soil is in need of more water:

Watering Too Much

Gardeners might think that too much water is better than not enough, but actually, there is potential for damage either way.

“Besides wasting water, there’s a possibility that you can harm your plants if you keep the soil waterlogged,” said Polomski, “Roots need air to breathe and when the soil pores are completely filled with water, roots and their ability to absorb water and minerals will be compromised.”

During germination, the soil needs to be evenly moist. There are times when certain plants need more water than others.

“Besides the first few weeks after germination, certain vegetables require added water at critical stages in their growth,” said Polomsky, “For example, lima, pole, and snap beans need water when they’re flowering. Water is especially necessary on sweet corn during silking, tasseling, and ear development. Eggplant, pepper, and tomato require water from flowering until harvest.”

Proper watering conserves resources and time. Mulching, while protecting plant roots from temperature extremes and adding organic matter to the soil, also slows water evaporation from the soil.

“If you’re thrifty about watering, maintain a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch at
the feet of your vegetables and water only when it’s absolutely necessary,” said Polomsky.

Find Plants that Work With Your Watering Habits

Horticulturalist Erica Shaffer suggests identifying your watering personality and choosing plants that fit your watering habits.

“Are you an underwater-er or an overwater-er? You have to be aware of YOU and how care for your garden,” said Shaffer, “Once you have that figured out, you can choose plants happy for which ever type of care you are providing.”

Some plants, like sedum, will do better in dryer conditions. Columbine likes moist soil. Our website has a plant finder page that will help you find exactly the right plant for your watering personality, soil type and sun levels.

Watering doesn’t have to be a precise science. But, with a little attention and measuring, your plants will be a happier and reward you with bigger blooms and a better harvest.

Gardening Tools and Gardening Watering Systems

It is possible to completely automate the watering of your garden using an automatic garden watering system or a water timer. These gardening tools might include a sprinkler system or a water timer that automatically runs your hose for a set amount of time every day or as needed. As long as they are set up to distribute the correct amount of water to your garden, these tools allow you to deliver a consistent amount of water while being automated and take the trouble out of daily watering.

We’ve talked a lot about xeric landscapes, water-wise gardening, drought-tolerant plants, and the like, all good things. Conserving water is always a good thing, especially when you’re paying for it. But there’s one place where skimping on watering can have bad consequences, where thirty plants will drink up water more quickly than anywhere else and that’s your vegetable garden. Let’s face it. Vegetables are water intensive. It takes 16 gallons to grow a single head of lettuce. It’s estimated that 40% of all water use in the United States goes to growing food.

So while vegetable gardens will drink up more water than your thyme and lavender-planted rock garden or you native grass lawn, it’s water well spent. But that doesn’t mean you can’t conserve water while growing vegetables. Here’s some tips, gathered from a variety of sources to help you save water when you’re giving your vegetables what they need. Most of these techniques are second nature for experienced gardeners. But they bare repeating.

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Six Ways to Save Water in Your Vegetable Garden

  1. Get rid of your sprinkler. Sure, there’s nothing easier than setting out your rotating or oscillating sprinkler in the garden and letting it go. But much of the water you’re using is evaporating before it can soak into the ground, some of it before it even hits the ground. A sprinkler wets down leaves and make them vulnerable to molds, blights, and fungus. Plants including beans and squash are particularly susceptible to this. Why endanger your plant’s health and waste water at the same time.
  2. Mulch. Not only does it keep down weeds and — depending on what you use — return organic materials to your soil, it slows water evaporation. Mulching, done right, is a win-win-win. Make sure your mulch is weed-seed free so as not to spread trouble. But even if a few weeds do come up, they’re usually easy to pull from mulch-covered soil.
  3. Add lots of compost to your soil. The more organic matter in your soil, the more it will retain moisture. Soil quality, as we’ve said over and over, is the key to growing.
  4. Water only when your plants need it. If your garden is large, this could be at different times in different parts of your plot. How do you know when it’s time to water? Stick your finger in the dirt. It should be dry down to the first knuckle and beyond and only moist much further than that. Then water thoroughly. It’s common knowledge that less-frequent, deep waterings, down to six inches or so, are better than frequent light drinks which don’t encourage plants to root deeply. The deeper the roots the longer between waterings for your plants. Water at the beginning of the day before the peak evaporation hours. You can also water at the end of the day but that doesn’t often allow enough time for it to evaporate off leaves where mildew and other problems might start.
  5. Use a watering can. Of course, this is impractical for those with large gardens and will take more time even in a smaller garden. But it’s an amazing water saver, pinpointing the watering right to where you need it and in just the right amounts. And going around with a watering can gets you up close and intimate with your plants. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spotted insects and other problems while hand watering. And I can’t tell you what joy hand watering has given me as I’ve gotten up close and personal with my growing things. Want a quicker method? Try a watering wand. Soaker hoses are also a good idea.
  6. Plant vegetables that use a lot of water close to each other. Yes, with all the other rotation and companion planting considerations you make when designing your garden, this may not be easy. But planting, say tomatoes nearby melons or corn, your water will be doing double duty. After that lettuce goes your tomato plants will be well established plants.

There are all kinds of trick for conserving water even as you use it. What techniques have you developed over the years to save water when growing vegetables? You can find more advice here (PDF).

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