Lay a soaker hose along the base of plants to water gradually
You don't have to worry about pots drying out if they have drip
irrigation. An emitter delivers water one drop at a time to keep
the soil consistently moist.
Use a distributor to section off parts of the garden so that you
can water them independently of each other. The distributor
allows you to control the flow to whichever hose you choose.
A water timer can be simple like this dial type, or more
elaborate with programmable features that can turn water on and
off over a week or longer.
Mulching keeps moisture in the ground by helping prevent
Hand watering is often the preferred method of long time
vegetable gardeners. Giving the time to hand water gets you in touch
with nature and the gives you the benefit of inspecting each plant
and learning its habits and requirements while watching your harvest
grow. However, with a busy lifestyle, one skipped hot windy day
would only lead to sorrow and loss. The following practices will
allow you to have a productive vegetable garden and still have time
for other important activities while reducing water consumption.
Begin with the soil.
In the vegetable garden, the
routine addition of soil amendments such as compost will optimize
potential yields and produce quality vegetables. Add lots of compost
to improve soil texture. Heavy clay can hold lots of water, but it
really does get as hard as a brick when it dries. So compost makes
it easier on plants in heavy soil. It also helps sandy soil, which
absolutely does not hold water. Sand is tiny grains of rock
impervious to water, so adding compost, which sponges up moisture,
increases the ability of a sandy soil to hold water from the hose or
the heavens. If you donít have a compost pile going, it is never too
late to start one.
Soaker hoses and drip irrigation.
Drip or trickle irrigation is ideal in the vegetable garden,
reducing water usage by about 50%. The soaker hose is probably the
least expensive and easiest to use in a vegetable garden setting.
Known as a "leaky pipe", it is a hose that allows water to seep out
all along its length at a slow rate. Lay the soaker hose alongside
rows or through garden beds and cover with mulch to prevent sun
damage. They typically run, at low pressure, for only 10 to 15
minutes per irrigation. There is also drip irrigation which are PVC
tubes with holes that attach to smaller spagetti tubes which drip
though emmiters for the water to drip out. The tubes and emitters
deliver water to the base of plants where you place them and nowhere
else. Timers can be attached to faucets for when your away.
Water deeply. Let
water get way down into the soil. Frequent, shallow watering is
tempting, but itís not good. It encourages roots to stay near the
surface and makes plants more susceptible to drought. It is better
to water plenty (which means deeply) once or twice a week than to
water a little every day. By deep watering we mean applying at least
an inch of water at a time. You can measure this by placing a
container where it can catch the water. When it is filled to an
inch, youíve applied enough.
Placing mulch around plants
minimizes evaporation of water from the soil surface, reducing
irrigation need by around 50%. In the vegetable garden, use an
organic mulch to a depth of 1-3 inches, depending upon the particle
size of the mulching material. The larger the particle, the thicker
the depth of mulch that should be applied. Do not use large wood or
bark chips in a garden setting that requires annual soil
preparation. The chips will interfere with future seedbed
Grass clippings or weed free straw make excellent mulch for the
vegetable garden. Apply fresh clippings in thin layers (up to ľ inch
thick) and allow each layer to dry before adding more. The clippings
quickly dry down and additional layers can be added weekly. Do not
place fresh clippings in thick piles, as they will mat, decay and
smell foul. Do not use clippings from lawns that have been treated
with herbicides or other pesticides in the past month. A couple of
sheets of newspaper may be used under the clippings to help control
weeds. Do not apply newspapers more than a couple of sheets thick,
or a soil carbon to nitrogen imbalance may occur. Do not use glossy
print materials, their inks may not be soy based like newspapers.
Black or colored plastic mulch conserves moisture and also increases
soil temperatures. They are used on tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and
the vine crop family (cucumbers, summer and winter squash, melons).
Lay down plastic early in the season so plant growth shades the
plastic from extreme summer temperatures.
Plant in blocks, rather than rows. This creates shade for
roots and reduces evaporation.
Control weeds, they are competing with the vegetables for the water
Group plants with similar water needs together on the same
soaker hose. Cucumber and zucchinis and squash, for example, require
similar water applications.
Check the soil for moisture before you water. If the soil has dried
out to a depth of 2-4 inches, plan to water. This is especially
important if using mulch, where water can be held in the soil for
longer periods of time.
Provide windbreaks to reduce evaporation of moisture from soil and
plants. Planting corn on the southwestern side of a garden can shade
the garden at the right time in that mid heat afternoon in July.