Watering the vegetable garden. Chances are you don't want to spend much time reading about it, because water is just always there for us.
We take it for granted because it comes so readily out of our tap, so we find the topic rather boring.
But man, is it ever important, vital for all living things. Go 24 hours without drinking it and we would all become more interested. The fact is, we're made of it. Throughout the course of our lives, our bodies contain between 50 and 80% water.
We know our plants are made of water, too.
They need it for photosynthesis and cooling, but what's often overlooked is that all living species in our gardens need water.
And we need them all to be happy, because they determine the success of our gardens.
So when you're preparing your strategy for watering your vegetable garden or your ornamental garden, remember these important tips:
- Newly planted seeds usually need to be watered daily unless you have soil that really holds onto water well. Last week I seeded lettuces, greens, carrots and beets, and I'm out there every morning giving them a very light watering. Deep watering is unnecessary at this stage because their roots are so shallow. They just need a little.
- New plants and trees need watering probably 2-4 times per week - it's difficult to generalize, because it depends on your soil and climate, but those first few weeks (and really the first year) are crucial. And don't forget them in year 2! My parents have been selling plants for 30 years, and of course they come with a 1 year guarantee which has taught me that many dead plants are simply caused by lack of watering.
- It's important to remember that plant roots need water, not stems. So watering the vegetable garden right around the base of each plant with drip irrigation or even a hose is usually not getting the whole root system, which can stretch several times beyond the drip line of the plant. If your plant's canopy is 3 feet wide, the root zone may be 6 or 9 or even 12 feet in diameter and it all needs water.
- We need birds and bats for insect control, fertilization and pollination. They need water. Bird baths are great if you can keep them full. If it hasn't already been done, I'd like to invent a bird bath with a solar-powered pump to recharge it with water when it gets low. Actually, a gravity-fed system would be even cooler. Is there such a thing?
- Along with birds, we'd like some frogs, snakes, other animals and maybe even a cat. Many open water sources are good for them - ponds, fountains, rain gardens, or even any type of saucer.
- Now for the part that isn't talked about as often. Insects, earthworms and beneficial microorganisms all need water, too. It’s vital for the health of the garden that they have enough water. They make healthy soil and feed and protect plants. And like plant roots, they're not living only right beside the plant - they're throughout the whole garden - in the soil and in the mulch. This means that we need to water the whole soil. It's not a waste of water. It's essential.
So yes, our first step is definitely to improve the water-holding capacity of our soil, and we need to have a good organic mulch that holds onto water, too. These steps decrease leaching and evaporation of water.
But if we want a healthy ecosystem and healthy food, we need to provide sufficient water for all living things.
How do you ensure there is water for the organisms in your garden?