How To Water Your Garden Properly

-By Sarah Bankoff

It seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Everyone knows that a garden has to have water to thrive. But drowning your plants in water is just as harmful to them as not watering them at all. So, to try to help you figure out how much is exactly enough, here’s your quick and dirty guide to watering your garden.

First of all, ensuring that your plants get the right amount of moisture where they need it is not just a matter of spraying them with water. Like most things in gardening, it goes back to the soil. Too much water in the soil will make it heavy and collapse it around the roots, effectively smothering the plant. However, too little moisture in the soil will cause the plants to wilt and dry out, which is also, obviously, not conducive to healthy vegetables. The trick is to get the balance of wet and dry just right.

So how much is too much?  The amount of water needed by the plant depends on its stage of growth and development. Seeds and transplants need wetter soil than healthy, mature plants. Seeds require lots of moisture to sprout properly, and transplants require lots of water to root properly. Once the soil is wetted down to around eight inches in depth, organic compost should be placed around, not on top of, the seeds or seedlings, which will help the soil to hold in the moisture and keep it from getting too soggy.

Seeds should be watered often, but shallowly. Mature plants should be watered less often, but the soil should be watered to a greater depth.  Most vegetable plants use water in the top 12-24 inches of soil. Shallow-rooted plants, such as cabbage, onions, lettuce and corn need to be watered more often than deeper-rooted vegetables like asparagus, tomatoes and watermelons.

Obviously, plants need to be watered more during hot seasons then during cooler seasons, but a good watering every five to seven days during the warm season should be fine for well-rooted, established plants. Plants should be watered in the morning so that all the surfaces have time to dry out in the sun to prevent fungus and mold from forming. Since the roots of the plant are actually where the plant “drinks” from, this is the most important part to irrigate, but remember, it’s drinking, not swimming, so don’t drown the plant’s roots!

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