Time To Water?
It’s not uncommon for beginner gardeners to overwater their plants. Even experienced gardeners do the same. Watering is only really vital in 3 main scenarios;
- When you’ve just seeded your crop and aren’t expecting rain in the next 24-72 hours.
- If you’ve transplanted your crops and aren’t expecting rain in the next 24 hours.
- When your crops are growing, the weather is warm, and it hasn’t rained in the last week or so.
In the first situation, it makes sense to water the entire garden to build up a moisture pocket and get your seeds to start germinating. The second situation only requires watering of the transplanted crops to help them root. In the third situation, water anything in the garden that has dry soil around it. You can determine if a plant requires watering by pulling back the mulch or digging a hole about 10cm deep near the plants. If you take a handful of soil, squeeze it together in your hand, and it sticks together, no watering is necessary. Remember, sandy soil will never stick together, but if it sticks to your fingers, that’s moist enough.
How to Water
No matter what method you use to determine if it’s time to water, it’s always best to water thoroughly. Ideally, when you water, the moisture should reach 12-15cm below the surface. Watering this deep encourages root growth, making for robust roots. However, getting the water that deep takes a long time and lots of water. As a result, most gardeners water too shallow to stimulate root growth.
There are several ways to water your garden, with no single method solving all scenarios. You don’t want to stand in your garden for 4-6 hours hand watering every square inch. However, when transplanting seedlings, you don’t require a sprinkler drowning the entire garden either. Typically a gardener will use three main methods of watering their garden over the season. Those three methods are hand watering, sprinklers, and using soaker hoses.
This method is most commonly used to water recently seeded areas or in the process of transplanting seedlings. Hand watering consists of using a hose with a nozzle or attachment to slow the flow from a simple hose. You will find several devices from gun style with a trigger to a simple brass fitting. Using this method and tool to water your entire garden is a recipe for underwatering.
Sprinklers are devices designed to spray water over your crops in a consistent and repetitive pattern. You’ll find there are two main types of sprinklers. One being an oscillating sprinkler and the other a rotary sprinkler. This method is very inefficient due to water loss from evaporation before it can even reach the ground. Not only that, it can damage leaves on young plants and wash away soil over recently planted seeds. If you intend to use this method, do so before 10 am or after 6 pm to avoid an excessive loss to evaporation.
Soaker or drip hoses are a much more efficient way to water your garden than sprinklers. They take a lot longer to water the garden. However, they use a fraction of the water that sprinklers do to complete the job. These are hoses with small holes in them are regular or irregular intervals that release a slow and steady stream of water into the soil. Place the hoses wherever you want to water and turn on the faucet. Soaker hoses can water any time of the day and not dampening leaves and stems, which can encourage diseases and molds.
Using these methods of watering in the right situation will lead to a healthy and robust harvest. If you lack access to adequate amounts of water, mulching is a great solution to maintain the moisture in the ground. We’ll be touching more on mulching in another post soon!
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