I was inspired to write this post after reading a magazine article which reminded me of the most important lesson with water – water to match your soil. Bill Bampton said “There is a danger to one-size fits all watering. Probably the most misunderstood mantra is you should always apply water in long deep soaking once a week and avoid shallow frequent watering*”.
I’ve tried watering my veg patch once a week in summer and it is just not enough, seeds don’t get enough moisture, plants dry out or just fail to thrive and I don’t get much produce from it. I suspect the once-a-week mantra doesn’t work in my veg patch is because there is lots of mulch rather than ‘soil’ in my veg patch so the veggies are growing in something between sand and loam.
I’ve never seen a perfect amount to water per area e.g. xL/m2, probably because there’s so many things that very between veg patches it’s hard to estimate. That’s ok though, because when we don’t have precise understanding, rules of thumb can work well. So like Bill, I have some rules of thumb I use about watering, rather than a strict regime…
When to water
Rule of Thumb: It depends on the heat (season/weather/position). Spring/Summer – I water at least every second day, early in the morning or in the evening so the water has time to soak in before it gets too hot; in autumn/winter I water mid-morning after the frost has melted and only a once a week. If your patch is in the baking sun, it’ll always need more water than if if gets some shade too. If you use mulch on top of soil in your veg patch, you shouldn’t need to water as often as it helps keep the moisture in as well.
Where to water
Rule of Thumb: Water the soil not the plant. It’s really tempting to drown a plant with water by pouring water over it, especially if it looks parched. Unfortunately, wet leaves, stems and air between them just encourages nasty bugs and moulds and things to move in by making it humid. And, if you’ve got small seedlings you can damage the plant too, which then means it takes longer to grow and you don’t get as much food from it 🙁 So, you need to water the soil. Say it again…water the soil not the plant.
How to water
Rule of Thumb: Slowly and carefully between the plants. Seems like an odd answer but it works…If you pour lots of water on quickly, it tends to bead off the soil and dribble down the side of a garden bed without soaking in. Be as patient as you can or use dripper/dripper hose (see more below).
How much to water
Rule of thumb: It depends on your soil…enough to keep the soil around the plants moist. Like I mentioned in the opening paragraph, the more open or sandy the soil or the more plants in an area, the more often you’ll need to water. At our place, the way this works out is for:
- watering by hand, I try to have the hose in the same spot for at least 10-15 seconds to make sure there is enough water in one spot and it soaks in a bit. I actually stand there and count to 10 – it’s surprising how long this feels sometimes, especially if I’m in a hurry. This may not sound slow but if you do this in every 30cm2 it can still take a while.
- dripper irrigation, I find leaving the tap on for less than half an hour doesn’t achieve much, I prefer 1/2-1hour at a time.
Which way to water
Rule of Thumb: Depends on you…If you have a couple of pots, or plenty of time and interest in watering the veg patch, then using a hose and watering between the plants seems to work. If you have a larger area and/or less patience (that’s me on both counts), then dripper or soaker hoses about every 30cm in the veg bed are good but they do take some fiddling to get working. Remember that the other way to water is to ask someone else to do it 🙂 If you’re not home, not interested or watering, or it’s physically too demanding for you, you can phone a friend (or neighbour, or child, or grandchild or…) or use irrigation with a timer.
Don’t panic and read the next post too…
Hopefully you can see from this that watering, like lots of things in the veg patch, takes a little bit of practice to get right, but once you’ve got it sorted, it runs pretty well. So treat your veg patch like a science experiment, try something, learn something, figure out what works. If it’s not working then ask someone or Mr Google and when you’ve got what works for you, keep doing it and help the next person 🙂
In the next post, I’ll write about the easy test to check whether your experiments with watering are working… I’m off to have a beer in the veg patch and see if I can pick some strawberries before anyone else does 🙂
*Diggers Summer Garden 2017 magazine (not this is not an ad, I just read the magazine and want to make sure credit goes where it’s due).
PS: There’ll be a bit more on watering in the next couple of posts, so keep an eye out for us in on FB and in your email.
PPS: If you haven’t signed up for our new monthly ‘Notes From the Veg Patch’, subscribe here and we’ll send you a story about what to plant each month.