Wednesday, July 11, 2012

More about watering

Watering Tips from Madison FarmWorks

I just received some great watering tips from Megan Cain of Madison FarmWorks. She asked people to forward to gardeners, and while I did just write about watering, this is a bit more comprehensive and comes from a true "expert" from the field.

Most plants need only 1 inch of water per week

I am still watering my garden like I always do - once per week very deeply. In more typical weather, if it rains during the week I will skip watering if my rain gauge says it rained close to an inch. The exception to this rule is newly seeded crops - depending on the crop I water seeds every 1-3 days. I have also noticed that new transplants are suffering from the excessively dry soil - so they might need more watering until their root systems get established.

Many plants will suffer from being overwatered

There is no reason to water already established plants more than once per week unless there are visible signs of distress. This is not good for them! You can cause disease to spread in your garden by overwatering. Many vegetables like tomatoes and squash like drier conditions. Mature plans prefer the soil to dry out a bit between watering.

Water less frequently and more deeply

Frequent and shallow watering will cause your plants' roots to stay at the surface of the soil. You want deeply rooted plants - so water less often and for a longer duration. Deeply rooted plants will be more equipped to handle dry conditions because they will be able to access the moisture deep in the soil. 

Water at the base of the plants

Overhead watering is inefficient and can be damaging to plants because it is more likely to spread disease. I like to use a wand and hold it at the base of each plant for 20-30 seconds. Yes, this takes a long time - but you're only watering once a week now that you've read this message! Drip hoses or tape are also a good option for watering at soil level.

Water early in the morning or in the evening

Much more water is lost to evaporation when you water in the middle of the afternoon.

Mulch, mulch, mulch

Bare soil is not advisable for the vegetable garden. Mulching thickly with hay or straw retains moisture in the soil. It also will keep down weeds, help with disease issues and break down and add organic matter to your soil.

Please forward to all of the gardeners you know! If you have any questions, contact Megan at Madison FarmWorks at

And don't forget your daily rain dance!