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-Derek Zoolander, Former GCG Employee
But really, watering is very important! Plants suffer when they do not get enough water. Their leaves get stunted and the fruit output is smaller. With too much water, however, the roots can rot without enough air to breathe, fungal diseases are more likely to spread in moist conditions, and you can attract a whole host of pests, particularly slugs and snails. How much you water is dependant on the season and the rainfall. On the East Coast, we have relatively reliable seasonal weather patterns (unlike the drought afflicted western states), but even here, weather can be unpredictable so we have to pay attention to our gardens! Like Goldilock’s porridge, your garden’s soil should not be too dry, not too wet, but somewhere in the middle. Put your finger an inch or two into the soil. If the surface is lightly dry, but the underneath is moist, that is exactly what you’re striving for — mmm, just right!
There are many ways to water your garden. You may chose to the traditional hand-watering method, either by hose or with a watering can. Watering by hand each day gives you the opportunity to observe the garden, check for any pests or diseases that may be “nipped in the bud,” or decide whether to increase or decrease water depending on the weather. It can be meditative and relaxing…if you remember to do it, that is!
Alternatively, overhead sprinklers are a good way to water your garden and keep the soil moist, especially combined with a timer so watering is set automatically. However, for summer crops, like tomatoes and zucchini, the continual wetting of the leaves on a daily basis may encourage fungal diseases that thrive in wet, humid conditions. So don’t forget to check on your veggies!
Last but certainly not least, you can use drip irrigation which is our preferred way to water here at Green City Growers. By using a timer and drip irrigation tubing to fit the configuration of the garden, any gardener can easily use this system. Drip irrigation systems are highly efficient because minimal water is lost due to evaporation, the soil has time to soak up the water, and the plants’ leaves stay dry. Drip irrigation can be adapted for any type of garden, be it in-ground, raised beds, or container gardens! We have found that overall, having your garden irrigated tends to mean happier gardeners and more bountiful gardens. Irrigation will not remove the need for observing the garden, but it should reduce the daily need to remember to water.
No matter your method, after transplanting, you should water each seedling immediately and every day for the next few days until they are established, keeping them moist, but not drenched. To water, pour warm water directly at the base of the plant. Warm water is better for the plants (they can absorb more nutrients from warm water, and in the spring and fall it helps to warm the soil.) Make sure to water close to the ground so you do not form puddles in the soil. Only water the base of plants – wet leaves are more susceptible to fungal diseases! Yuck!
Watering in the morning before the heat of the day (minimizing water loss due to evaporation) is best. Watering in the evening is better than watering during the heat of the day, but can attract slugs by making the garden very moist just before nightfall. And watering in the middle of the day is less desirable but better than not watering at all.
Morning Watering > Evening Watering > Middle of the Day Watering > No Watering
Water frequently (every one or two days) based on the weather how your plants look, and what the soil feels like. Plants need more water if it is hot and sunny than if it is cool or cloudy. If plants turn yellow, they are getting too much water. If they are wilting, they are not getting enough. If the top one or two inches of the soil feel dry, it is time to water. Water the soil deeply to encourage deep root growth.
It is important to water the bed as soon as it is has been crop mapped and is planted with vegetable seeds and starts. A good long soak is needed at planting especially for containers and raised beds. Typically, in the beginning of the season (April – May), our Green City Grower timers will be on everyday in the morning (10-20 minutes) to lightly moisten the soil and help seeds germinate. Later in the season as it begins to get warmer (June – August) we will increase the timer to 20-40 minutes every day, sometimes up to 60 minutes per day if it is a hot summer with little rain. Of course, these are just recommendations — here on the East Coast, weather conditions are variable! It is always a good idea to check your garden with the finger test!
Eager to learn more about how to properly water your garden? Purchase a copy of The Urban Bounty, and read up on all the ways that you can maximize the bounty available in your garden!