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Watering vegetable Gardens
 

Wind a soaker hose around tomatoes to water gradually without waste.
Lay a soaker hose along the base of plants to water gradually without waste.
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.
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.
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.
Mulching keeps moisture in the ground by helping prevent evaporation.
 

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.

Mulch

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 preparation.

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 supply.

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.


 

 

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