Time to get serious about watering
We are in a rainfall deficit. Not a drought yet, but they used that word on TV in a interview with a farmer. Time to get serious about watering.
I don’t water in-ground plants any more often than necessary. I don’t enjoy hauling around heavy hoses, setting up sprinklers, or using other means of getting the water to the plants, But there are times that I have to do that. New plants, annuals, and vegetables need more regular water than most perennials.
The standard recommendation for vegetables and annuals is one inch of water per week. I keep small plants and seeds well-watered, or they won’t live or germinate, but once they begin to grow I back off on watering until it gets really dry.
If you water them too frequently, they will keep their roots in that surface zone, instead on reaching deeper for more water. If you use a hand-held hose to water, you may not be watering deeply enough. I often use gallon milk jugs to water individual plants.
That way, I know how much water each plant has received. Aqua cones are inexpensive nozzles that fit on the end of a large soda bottle, enabling you to slowly water the deeper roots instead of the top soil. They work great for tomatoes and other larger thirsty plants, and may be purchased from Gardeners Supply or Lee Valley Tools.
Individual plant watering may not be practical in a vegetable garden of small plants. Over head sprinklers in the sun lose as much as 50 percent of the water to evaporation, so it is best to deliver the water directly to the soil. Soaker hoses put water right on the soil surface, but they can be difficult to lay out, kink easily, and may burst if you don’t use a water pressure regulator.
They also deliver water unevenly, with less water toward the end of the hose where pressure is reduced. My current approach is a small sprinkler that spins in a circle. I can adjust the diameter of the water delivery circle by reducing the water pressure with the faucet. I adjust it so it just covers the four foot width of my raised bed, and move it along a few inches each hour.
I can also use it to water other smaller areas where I may have plants that need more water. I try to place thirsty plants near my downspouts, so they will get more water when we have even a brief rain storm.
The best times to water are early in the morning, and shortly after it has rained, because the water you provide will go down deeper.
Julie Brocklehurst-Woods has been a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County for over ten years. She enjoys helping all gardeners become successful gardeners, especially helping people identify tools and strategies to prioritize and simplify their gardening tasks. She works part-time as an occupational therapist with Finger Lakes DDSO.