If you are like most people who are getting into growing your own food, you probably have questions. One of the most common questions is this: How often should I water my vegetable garden in the summer?
This might seem like a simple question, but in reality, it’s far from simple. Let’s take a look at properly watering your vegetable garden and get some tips for success.
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It is Essential to Water Your Garden
You simply cannot have a successful vegetable garden without watering. Yes, your plants will get some water from the rain, but as we can’t control the weather, it’s best to know how to water.
It can be dry without rain for several days, or even weeks, and even if it does rain, it might not rain enough. This is when the problems can start.
Even if your plants don’t get enough water for a couple of days, it can negatively affect their growth. You have to remember that plants get the nutrients they need from the roots, and those roots can only draw in the nutrients if there is water.
In times of drought, when it doesn’t rain, even if your plants can grow, they might not grow enough. For instance, if you are growing tomatoes, the fruit may be very small, or you might not get any fruit at all.
Knowing When to Water
The easiest way to know when you should water is to look at the soil. If there is mulch on your soil, you should brush it aside, and then take a small trowel to dig in a couple of inches down.
The soil on the surface might look dry, but underneath, it may be perfect. However, if the soil is also dry a couple of inches down, the plants need to be watered. If you want to really get technical, you can also buy a tool that can measure the soil moisture for you.
General Tips for Watering Your Garden
Remember, you don’t want to wait for it to rain to water your garden. If your plants need water now, it can harm them to wait a couple of days for the rain to come.
If you notice that your plants are looking stressed or wilted, you should also water them quickly.
Though it is best that you water your garden in the morning before the sun really shines down, if you notice your plants are stressed or wilting in the middle of the afternoon, it’s perfectly fine to water.
How Much Water?
A good rule of thumb is to remember that your garden needs about an inch of rain per week. If it doesn’t get this, you must supply it.
A simple rain gauge can be extremely helpful here, or you can follow the weather report for your local area. You also might even find a good site online that tracks the rainfall in your area, too.
Though it might not sound like a lot, an inch of rain is actually quite a bit of water. For a 100-square foot area, an inch of rain is approximately 62 gallons of water each week.
It’s true that you might get some rain, but you might not rain enough. This is why you need to consider the rain gauge. You might even want to go as far as measuring your garden and figuring out how many gallons you need, per week.
If you have sandy soil, you need to water more, so keep that in mind, too.
Another option you have is to attach a water meter to your hose. This can tell you how much water is coming out of the hose.
The thing you have to remember is that there is no “one size fits all” way of watering. You may have a small garden and not need a lot of water, or you might have a big raised bed that might require more water.
Most people either use a drip system for their garden, or others might use an irrigation hose, which you can place at the base of your plants and turn on when needed.
You also have to keep in mind if you have mulch. If you do, you have to remember that less water might be getting into the soil. Instead, it is getting soaked up by the mulch.
A lot of people also underestimate how much water they are using in the garden, especially if they are using a handheld hose. So, the best method is to use a drip hose that is placed at the base of the plants, and then figure out how much water you are applying.
Why is it best to put it down by the roots? Remember, the plants get the nutrients they need from the roots, not the leaves. When you use a handheld hose, the water generally gets on the leaves first, and not all of it reaches the roots.
Wet leaves can develop rot, and large leaves can shield the soil from getting water at all.
No matter how you choose to water your garden, make sure you do it slowly. If you do it quickly, the water may puddle and runoff. Slow, low watering is always the best method.
Don’t Water Too Much!
Finally, you must know that you shouldn’t water too much. This could also be a problem and negatively affect the plants.
Too much water can cause plants to die because they aren’t getting enough oxygen. There is oxygen in the soil, and if the soil is totally saturated, it can’t get the oxygen it needs.
Some plants might simply collapse if they take in too much water, and others might have bad-tasting fruit.
If you have root vegetables that get too much water, like potatoes or onions, they tend to rot faster if they are grown in conditions that make them too wet.
There is also the fact that wet conditions are a breeding ground for disease. So, make sure conditions are right for optimal growth.