How to Water Properly
We all know that one of the most critical factors that can make or break a garden is access to water. A newly planted garden cannot grow or thrive without water. Did you know that there was a proper way to water a garden? I mean you could just grab a hose and begin making it rain on the plants, but this could lead to problems down the road. Following these tips will help increase the productivity of your garden and watering efficiency.
1. Water early in the morning - The garden soil temperature is lowest during the morning. Why is this important? Less water will be lost due to evaporation. Less loss due to evaporation means that more water is reaching the root system. Also, watering in the morning ensures that the soil is not damp during the night. Wet soil at night is a NO NO! This can lead to fungal diseases and a place for garden pests to prosper and become prolific. You ever notice how you see more slugs in the garden after consecutive days of nighttime rains?
2. Water at the base of the plant- Overhead watering is good for some plants but not all. Overhead watering on crops like tomatoes, cucumber, and squash increase the chances for diseases such as powdery mildew and blight. Watering at the base of the plant also helps to ensure that all of the water is reaching the root zone. Think about the anatomy of plants- the leaves create a canopy which shades the soil underneath. This shade helps stop the water applied during the irrigation process from evaporating into the atmosphere. Water is a valuable resource, why would you just want to waste it?
3. Know your crops- Not all plants need equal amounts of water. Beds full of established native perennials need a fraction of the water of annual vegetable crops. You do not need to water each variety the same. Even all seasonal vegetables do not have the same water requirements: for example, okra, once established, can produce with as little as 1” of water a week. This is not so for crops such as tomatoes, squash, cucumber, and other melons they need multiple inches of irrigation a week to thrive.
4. Water deeply and less frequently - We know that plants absorb the majority of their water through their root systems. Newly planted crops need to be watered often until their root system develops. After developing a substantial root system, frequent waterings are not necessarily better. Light waterings usually end up evaporating before they even have the chance to reach the root zone. Plus deeper, less frequent waterings causes the plants to develop a stronger, deeper, and more robust root system. The deeper the root system, the more capable the plant is of searching for water on its own. This water is housed deeper in the ground.
5. Getting off on the right foot- It is essential to start watering crops as soon as they are transplanted or seeded. The first few weeks after seeding and transplanting is the most critical time to water. After sowing seeds, it is vital to keep the top 3-4” of soil moist to ensure proper germination. Transplants and seeds do not have established root systems. Without water, they are destined to fail or even worse grow and not reach their full potential. What’s worse than spending time watering and tending to a crop only for it not to produce anything substantial? I would have instead it died early so at least I could replant the area.
6. Collect/Recycle water- Since water is such a precious resource, why would we waste it? Rain catchment systems should be installed to catch runoff from garden sheds, houses, or any other structure in your garden. Not only are you preserving a limited resource, but you are also lowering your cost of gardening. Not to mention that rainwater is better for the gardens than city water, it does not contain all of the chemicals and additives which can be harmful to the soil microbiology.