Well, the vegetable garden is planted and well on its way to a nice harvest later in the year. However, it still needs attention while you are waiting for those first fruit to mature. Some folks may have already harvested a few squash, cucumbers and some cool season crops. But, we just can’t go off to the beach and expect everything to stay hunky dory while we’re away.
The vegetable garden needs regular attention. Keeping down weeds, applying side dressed fertilizers and irrigation are all chores that must be maintained during the season. Recently, the rains have subsided and things have dried out a bit for the first time in a while. So, it may be time to dust off the hose and sprinklers to put on some supplemental water.
Irrigating the garden can be as simple as using a watering can or as complex as installing a drip irrigation system. A garden hose with a fan nozzle or spray attachment works well. Even better, using a portable lawn sprinkler or a soaker hose allows you to let the water run for a bit while you tend to other chores.
Drip or trickle irrigation is the most efficient method but requires the most investment. There are kits to allow gardeners to set up drip irrigation off of a single water faucet. These are simple to hook up and can be left in place for the duration of the season.
Drip irrigation is the best method to use for conserving water and keeping the foliage dry. Since the water is placed at the base of the plant, it is only placed where the water is needed. Thus, the foliage stays dry which helps protect the plants from disease. Also, you are not watering the row middles where weeds tend to grow more prolifically with added water.
A drip or trickle irrigation system has emitters ideally suited for raised bed or container gardens. Short tubes, or emitters, come off a main water supply hose. The drip system allows for replacement of the water lost on a daily basis. By including a filter or self-flushing emitters in the system to prevent clogging, the drip system is a cost-effective irrigation tool that uses a minimum amount of water.
Overhead sprinklers can give good coverage but they are not very water-efficient. During hot, windy days, especially with small droplet sizes, a considerable amount of water is lost to evaporation. Also, the pattern of many types of sprinklers may water unevenly and there may be less water applied further from the source.
The soaker hose is inexpensive and easy to use. It is a hose made of plastic or canvas tubing with small holes along its length that allows water to seep out at a slow rate. It is a close kin to drip irrigation but not as expensive or quite as sophisticated in its accuracy. Water is conserved because the flow is directed into the ground near the plant with little loss to runoff or evaporation.
Gardeners should always take into account the development and growth stages of vegetables when an adequate amount of water should be available. Plants always need adequate water, but those demands will vary during the life of the plant.
Newly transplanted plants or newly seeded areas will need water for establishment. Then most plants need an adequate amount of water for growth as they mature. As the plant gets larger and starts to fruit, the water demand will increase.
Do not overwater!! Most vegetables much prefer to be on the drier side than having wet “feet”. A good watering once per week is better than lighter daily applications. Most vegetables require from 1/2 to 1 inch of water per week to start. This demand will increase to 1 to 1-1/2 inches per week as they mature.