Water is essential to our life and to our garden’s success. If you appreciate fresh potable water to drink and bathe in, then you also likely respect this precious resource. Being frugal in the garden when it comes to watering is something to think about. We are not talking about lawns. If you are growing vegetables you should recognize that you are producing food at a very low cost and also with a very low environmental impact. Don’t skimp when it comes to watering! Vegetables need water regularly to produce the desired results. To date, this season has been very dry and it is the long-range forecast that it will likely continue. This means that your garden will need water!
It is the case for any garden, but especially for those vegetables grown in containers — you don’t want to let them dry out! Containers are very popular currently, and whether for styling your garden, for the practicality of space, or for maximizing sunlight, containers are a great option. However, you really have to monitor moisture daily. This will better ensure a great harvest.
Growing vegetables from seed is the most economical way to eat healthily, control your food source, stay connected to nature and love summer more! At this time of year it is still very reasonable to start some new vegetables, including radishes and beans. Because these plants mature in 30 days or so, it’s great to re-seed now for early and late fall harvest.
Watering your garden doesn’t mean just turning on the sprinkler. Certainly there may be times when this is necessary, but watering more selectively is preferred and very enjoyable. Taking the time during garden season to hand-water your garden is very rewarding. It’s perhaps the most time consuming option, as plants should be deep watered, but this is a good time to look around and appreciate your hard work. Watering in the early morning or evening is such a beautiful time in the garden. At this time as well, you might have a trowel in one hand and a pair of secateurs in your pocket, and you are casually weeding, pruning & deadheading as you go. This daily attention helps keep on top of many things, including which crops are reaching their peak for picking, so menu planning becomes second nature. It also provides information for dealing with other things like pests or damage as soon as it occurs and you can therefore ‘nip it in the bud’.
Many gardeners will only use rain barrels and believe they are the best environmental choice. They are a great supplemental water source and are an important environmental option. However, you can’t rely on them unless you have a series of them. Eventually they run dry and then you need back up. When growing vegetables, water wisely and design a system that will work — which usually means pulling out the hose.
These are some suggestions for watering your vegetables that will also help produce a bountiful crop.
From the time of day to the amount of water that certain varieties require, consider the life cycle of the plants in your garden. For example, recent transplants need frequent watering to accommodate their shallow, young roots and ease transplant shock. Daily watering is critical at the time of flowering and fruit formation. With some crops like tomatoes, flavour may be lost with too much watering as fruit ripens, and you risk cracking the skin.
Plant or group your thirsty plants together. This also makes watering more efficient. Lettuces like it lush while herbs generally like it drier. Any large plants producing a good amount of fruit or vegetables need a good amount of water.
Choose your water timing wisely and stay away from midday. If it is a cloudy day, that would be fine, but in direct sun, in midday summer heat, the water will burn the leaves. As well, don’t water too late in the day, as moisture overnight invites disease.
For good vegetable gardening results, you generally need a 10-12” depth of good, rich loam. Roots for most vegetables, including root vegetables, need watering up to a depth of 8”. This is the amount you need to keep moist to keep your plants the happiest.
Respect local bylaws, plan ahead and love your watering.
Rick Weingarden and Allan Watts own Anything Grows SEED Co. (www.anythinggrows.com). They can be found at the Western Fair Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market on Saturdays, and at various gardening events around the region.