Answer: How often you should water depends on how often it rains, how long your soil retains moisture, and how fast water evaporates in your climate. Soil type is another important factor. Clay soils hold water very well -- sometimes too well. Sandy soils are like a sieve, letting the water run right through. Both kinds of soil can be improved with the addition of organic matter. Organic matter gives clay soils lightness and air; it gives sandy soils something to hold the water. 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. 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. One way to determine when to irrigate is to take a soil core sample from the plant root zone and squeeze it into a ball. If the ball holds together in the palm of your hand, the soil has sufficient water. If it crumbles, apply water. At the crumble-stage, the average soil will hold 1 inch of water per foot. If this water is applied with a sprinkler, determine its delivery by placing three or four cans under the sprinkler pattern to see how long it takes to accumulate an inch of water. Best wishes with your garden.
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