With the heat of summer, you may have noticed that some of your vegetables are looking a bit wilted. Why? They might not have enough water.
When starting a garden, it’s easy to forget about the water. You’ll choose the plants, the mulch and whatever tools, but water? That’s what rain is for, right? Well, if your veggies are starting to look a little droopy, it might be time to get serious about your routine for watering your vegetable garden.
Tips for Watering Your Vegetable Garden
1. Don’t Depend on Rain
Through the spring and early summer, many gardens can get plenty of water with just rain. Part of that is because the temperature isn’t as high as it gets during the dog days of summer, and part of it is that spring just brings more rain. As the weather gets hotter, some of your vegetables will go out of season — such as peas, lettuce, strawberries and spinach, but other things will just be coming into season.
Most of the hot-weather plants are things like tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant and others that tend to produce larger fruit. So as the summer goes on, you’ll want to depend less on the rainfall and more on making sure you actually water your vegetable garden. Besides, we all know what happens when you decide not to water because it’s supposed to storm later — there’s never a storm. It will only storm if you’ve watered – you can blame Murphy’s Law for that one.
2. Slow Water
When you’re watering your plants, you don’t want to water the parts you can see. In other words, getting the leaves wet might look pretty to us, but it doesn’t really help the plant much. The focus should be on getting the roots wet. This, however, can lead to people just directing the full blast of the hose at the ground. That isn’t great either, since the water can’t be absorbed that quickly, and it might actually uncover the roots a little bit.
Instead, a slow, steady approach is the best option for watering your vegetable garden. If you can, set up a drip water system. It can water the entire vegetable garden from the roots down. Then, you can worry about the weeds, fertilizer or just picking the fruits of your labors.
3. 1 Inch per Week
The average rule of thumb for most gardeners is to give vegetable plants about an inch of water per week. That’s just the average, though. The most common sign that your plant isn’t getting enough water are yellow leaves. There are quite a few things that will influence how much water your plant needs:
- Plant Type
Different vegetables need different water amounts. Most come with a general guideline listed on the seed packet or plant tag, so make sure to read them.
The more humid it is, the slower water is going to evaporate from your soil. If you can walk outside and feel like you’ve been slapped with a wet sock, you might not lose too much water that day. Repeated days of high humidity don’t eliminate the need to water your vegetable garden, though. They just slow it down a bit.
Another gardener rule of thumb — add about ½ inch of water for every 10F degrees over 60F that it gets. If the week is averaging in the 70s, plan to give your vegetable garden 1.5 inches. If it’s in the 80s, plan for 2 inches. If it’s 100+, just stay inside — that’s ridiculous.
- Soil Type
Some soils hold onto water better than others. Sandy soil doesn’t hold water for very long, while a denser soil can hold it much better. You can check your soil drainage by simply inserting a cylinder into the top of the soil. Fill it with water, and check to see how quickly it empties. Generally, if the soil is saturated, you shouldn’t see the water level decrease more than an inch or two in a four hour period, or you may have excessive drainage. If the water hasn’t dropped at all, your plants may get “wet feet” and rot.
If you’ve mulched your vegetable garden — which you should have — the mulch will also help the soil retain moisture. Try to maintain about 2-4 inches of mulch around the base of the plants, and you’ll be able to water less frequently.
4. Bigger Fruit = More Water
Most fruits and vegetables have a pretty high water content. So that means that the bigger the fruit/vegetable your plants are producing, the more water they’re going to need. In other words, a watermelon plant is going to need a lot more water than your cherry tomatoes! Any melon, squash, corn, eggplant, cucumber or other large plant requires more water, so plan appropriately.
If you can, it’s best to the water these thirsty guys first, which will prevent them from sucking the water away from your other vegetables. Remember — bigger needs more water, but only on the roots! Don’t waste it on the leaves.
5. Early Bird
When you water your vegetable garden matters. You generally don’t want to water during the heat of the day. All the heat and direct sunlight will just suck the water straight out of the ground, leaving those poor roots parched. Instead, try to water in the morning. This will give the water enough time to seep into the soil instead of being kept at the surface.
Too much water sitting overnight can cause fungus, which is also not good for your vegetable garden. However, it’s better to let them have the water in the evening than to not give the poor plants anything. Just keep the session a little shorter, and you shouldn’t see any damage.
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What tips for watering your vegetable garden would you add to this list?
This was written by Ali Lawrence. Ali is the author of the blog Homey Improvements. Find out more about Ali at http://homeyimprovements.com/