How much water do you really need? When is the best time to water your vegetables? See our tips on watering your garden–plus, a chart of when and how much to water specific crops.
According to some experts, less is often more when it comes to watering your vegetable crops. In areas without drought, a common blunder new gardeners stimulate is watering too much!
Start With Good Soil
Healthy soil is the basis of healthy plants. You can’t merely dig up dirt and put in plants. If you add a little mulch or compost, you are well on your route to constructing rich, well-balanced soil.
Regular applications of modest amounts of compost–one-quarter inch per season–will dramatically improve your soil’s water retention and help suppress disease. See our articles on soil types, soil testing, and the basics on revising your soil with NPK fertiliers and organic amendments,
When to Water
Don’t just water without believing. Feel your soil! When the soil sticks in your hand and you can form it into a ball, it is moist enough. But, if it barely holds together in the palm of your hand, or if the surface seems hard, baked, or cracked, it is probably dry and it’s time to water.
It’s best to water earlier today so the foliage dries off by evening. When the plants are watered at night, the foliage bides wet for a long period of time and disease problems build up.
Believe it or not, sometimes the best time to water is during or immediately after a rainfall, especially if the rain shower amounts only to a half-inch or so of water. The reason for this is that you want to add sufficient water at the same time to ensure penetration down to 5 or 6 inches. If you wait another day or two to water, you will be adding only surface water, which evaporates rapidly. With only frequent, light watering( or rain showers ), you never build up a reserve of water in the soil.
Lose Your Guilt About Wilt
Another sign is that the plants may wilt and appear especially droopy. However, temporary wilting during the heat of midday does not mean that it’s time to water. Some plants go across an obvious midday slump, especially on very hot days, which is an indication of the plant’s natural adaptation to its environment. Visit your garden again in the early evening and see if the wilted plants have regained some turgidity. If they have come back–that is, if they look perkier–do not water.
Watering Guide: Critical Times to Water and Gallons Needed
To address the big watering question, below is a chart that tells you critical times to water each vegetable crop as well as the number of gallons of water needed.
This watering guide assumes summer veggies and good, moderately-rich soil. Water less often in cool springtime or fall months. Water more often in hotter, dryer periods.
Needs a lot of water during dry spells. Needs water at critical stages of development. Does not need frequent watering. Veggie Critical time( s) to water for a 5-foot row Number of gallons of water needed Beans When flowers kind and during pod growth 2 per week depending on rainfall Beets Before soil gets bone-dry 1 at very early stages; 2 every 2 weeks Broccoli Don’t let dry 4 weeks after transplanting. Head development. 1 to 1 1/2 per week Brussels sprouts Don’t let soil dry out for 4 weeks after transplanting. 1 to 1 1/2 per week Cabbage Head development. Water often in dry weather. 2 per week Carrots Early root expansion. Before soil get bone-dry 1 at early stage; 2 every 2 weeks as roots ripen Cauliflower Head development. Water frequently for best crop. 2 per week Celery Water frequently for best harvest. 2 per week Corn When tassels form and when cobs swell 2 at important stages( left) Cucumbers Flowering and fruit developing. Water frequently. 1 per week Lettuce/ Spinach Water often for best harvest. 2 per week Onions In dry climate, water in early stage to get plants running. 1/2 to 1 per week if clay is very dry Parsnips Before soil get bone-dry 1 per week in early stages Peas When blooms form and during pod-forming and picking 2 per week
Peppers Steady render from flowering through harvest 2 per week Potatoes Tuber set and enlargement when the size of marbles 2 per week Radishes Plentiful, consistent moisture for root expansion 2 per week Squash Water often for best harvest. 1 per week Tomatoes For 3 to 4 weeks after transplanting and when flowers and fruit kind 1 gallon twice a week or more How to Measure Your Water
Another way to figure out how much water it follow a general rule of thumb of one inch of water per week.
To measure overhead sprinkling, place 4 or 5 small containers( straight-sided) around the garden while the water is being applied. When 1 inch collects in the receptacles, that indicates that 1 inch of water was applied to the garden. Gardeners can recording the time needed to fill the container for timing future waterings.
How to Water
What you want in a healthy plant is deep root piercing, and the only way that you’re going to get deep roots is if there is water down deep.
Start at the very beginning: Saturate each plant hole when you transplant seedlings. When you do water, make sure that you get the soil saturated enough that the moisture percolates several inches down.
The disadvantage of using a sprinkler is that foliage is wetted by water dispersed via overhead application. This could lead to foliar diseases since the foliage remains wet for long periods of time. An alternative is to lay the hoses immediately on the ground near the plant so the water runs where it is needed. A committee or rock placed under the water flow will avoid the water from eroding the soil. A good way to direct the water to the plants is to dig a little trench around the plants and allow water to flow into it.
Drip or trickle irrigation is also successful in the home garden. This is done mainly with hoses or plastic tubings with small pits in them that deliver a relatively small amount of water immediately to the root zone; by furnish optimum moisture, periods of water stress be discouraged. The hoses or tubings are placed down the rows and water slowly trickles out. Regardless of method chosen, be sure to apply sufficient moisture.
Don’t Forget to Mulch!
Mulching is perhaps the# 1 water-conserving technique for areas that receive less than 40 inches of rainfall annually. Organic mulches reduce evaporative moisture losses from the clay surface, and because the soil stays cooler, they also reduce transpiration water loss. Lay a thick layer of mulch down on top of clay.( Do not mix with soil .) Renew mulches that are in place for the entire growing season.
In Conclusion …
Don’t baby your crops; plants are incredibly adaptable. They have the ability to draw water from deep in the soil. Sporadically, take a trowel and dig down several inches into the zone where the roots are most active. If the soil there is still moist, there would be no are to enjoy watering.
For more on watering the garden, especially in drought, read our article on “The Water-Wise Garden.”
Read more: almanac.com