We all know that watering a garden is easy but can become time consuming, especially during the hot summer months. Just remember, plants need a drink just like you. If you don’t get enough water, you dehydrate and your body goes into stress. It’s the same for your plants. Keep your plants watered wisely, you’ll have happy healthy plants. So the question is, are you watering enough? Or am I watering at the right time? Am I watering too much or not enough?
Below are some tips and information to wisely watering your garden:
The best time to water your garden, if possible, is in the morning. There are two reasons for this: 1) less water is evaporated in the cooler early morning and 2) water at night keeps the dampness on the leaves which could leave to fungal diseases. If you can’t water in the morning, then your next best options is to water at night as long as you water the roots. Watering during midday is not effective since it evaporates before the plants have a chance to take a drink.
In most cases, an inch of water per week (including rain, irrigation, hand watering) should be sufficient to keep your plants happy hydrated. Watering thoroughly is recommended than watering more frequently. Deep infrequent watering will encourage deeper rooting, which will lead to healthier, stronger plants. Shallow frequent watering leads to a shallow root system, high water loss through evaporation which is wasting water.
The top of the soil is dry, it’s time to water. Not necessarily…
If the top inch of the soil is dry, dig down to 4 to 6 inches. If the soil is still damp, the plants are not under any stress and may not need to be watered. Just remember, if you are thoroughly watering down to the roots, you’re plants will be fine even if the soil is a little dry on top.
It is hard to define a general amount of water your plants need. Some factors include soil type, wind, plant type, temperature, age of plant and if the plant is the ground or in a container. Experts say on average an inch a week is sufficient. If the soil is sandy or silty (meaning water can pass through quickly), temperatures are high, and then more than one inch per week is needed. If possible, only water the root ball and not the leaves. The plant does not benefit from watering the leaves and can encourage disease.
According to Kansas State University Extension, below is a chart of water holding capacity and availability in different soil textures
|Coarse Soils (Sand)||Mixed Coarse/ Fine Soils (Loam)||Fine Soils (Clay)|
|Water available (gal/cu ft.)||½ gal||1 gal||1 ½ gal|
|Depth 1” of water penetrates||24”||16”||11”|
|Infiltration in 1 hour||2”||¾”||¼”|
Rooting Depths of Selected Vegetable Crops
|Shallow (under 24”)||Moderate (36–48”)||Deep (over 48”)|
Periods of Critical Water Needs in Crops’ Life Cycle
Flowering to early fruit set
Early fruit development
Uniform all season
|Germination Seedlings—especially summer and fall crops
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower
Carrot, onion, potato, radish
Corn, cucumber, squash
Tomatoes, pepper, eggplant
Just remember, however you water your plant, the best technique is to send the water to the roots. That is how the plant takes up water and nutrients through the stem to the leaves and fruit. There are a few ways you can water your garden: hand watering, sprinklers, soaker hoses and drip irrigation to name a few. So which is best? Well, it depends on the size of your garden, your resources and what you have time for.
Hand watering is one of the easiest ways of watering your garden. This method is effective for selective watering and when the plants are small (during their early growing season), but watch out, the water could be distributed unevenly. Hand watering is best used on containers and individual plants.
Sprinkler watering method uses the most water in home gardens. It is an inexpensive way to water a small garden area. One thing to consider is the water is usually sprayed to the center of the sprinkled area. A disadvantage of using sprinklers is that a considerable about of water evaporates into the air. If you use sprinklers in your garden, watering early morning or early evening is preferable.
Soaker hoses are low-flow hoses that deep water straight into the soil to the roots. It’s an effective way to water. Just lay the hoses along the rows or between the rows of the garden depending on row spacing. They work best on flatter ground so the water is distributed more evenly.
Drip irrigation waters the plants directly to the soil and root system. It is the least water wasting system available. The drip tubes are usually laid to the side of the row or between two rows. They release water at low pressures (5-15 psi). Water filtration is required for the system since the tubes can get clogged. The down side of drip systems is that it is the most costly of all methods and needs to be frequently checked to leads and clogs. Drip irrigation kits are available at most garden stores. Consult a garden center expert or your extension agent for tips on setting up your drip irrigation.
One last tip:
An inexpensive rain gauge is an easy way to keep track of how much water your garden is getting.