The Q&A Archives: Watering Veggies

Question: I am a first time veggie grower and I wanted to know how often should I water my crops?

Answer: So much depends on climate and the ability of different soil types to hold moisture that it's difficult to give specific directions for watering your garden. Generally, however, vegetable plants need about an inch of water a week. The best time to water your garden is in the morning. If you water at night when the day is cooling off, the water is likely to stay on the foliage, increasing the danger of disease. Some people believe that you shouldn't water in the morning because water spots on leaves will cause leaf-burn when the sun gets hot; this isn't the case.

When watering your vegetable garden, there is one rule you should follow: Always soak the soil thoroughly. A light sprinkling can often do more harm than no water at all: It stimulates the roots to come to the surface, where they are killed by exposure to the sun.

Overhead watering is most commonly used, but it wastes water because of excessive evaporation and it encourages diseases to settle on the wet foliage. Controlled watering eliminates waste and supplies water to garden plants where they need it -- at the base of the plants. Leaky-pipe, or soaker hose, is made of recycled rubber and is as flexible as an ordinary garden hose. Equipped with a female coupling on one end to attach to a water spigot, and a male coupling on the other end to cap off or attach another length of pipe, the soaker hose allows water to slowly permeate the soil. Arrange the soaker hose at the base of the plants in the row; water is then distributed evenly over the roots of the plants.

Also known as drip irrigation, trickle irrigation saves water. This is a good way to water vegetables that are spaced far apart as well as container gardens on a deck or terrace. Mini-tubes are inserted into holes in the main line at intervals to suit the gardener's needs. Weighted tips at the end of each mini-tube are placed at the base of each plant. Water is dispersed at low pressure wherever the tubes are placed. Kits for trickle systems are available at garden centers and through garden suppliers.

A final consideration in water conservation is to lay a 2-3" layer of organic matter over the bare soil in your garden. This will not only suppress weeds, which compete for soil moisture, it will also reduce evaporation which will moderate the moisture in your soil.

Best wishes with your new veggie garden!

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