Every gardener understands that vegetables need water to grow. However, not all might be aware that vegetables still need water even after setting fruits. Improper watering can lead to several problems, such as diseases and fungal growth. Cracking vegetables and blossom end-rot are common problems associated with inconsistent watering.
To begin, vegetables mainly consist of water. So to say, below are some commonly grown vegetables with their water content.
With such statistics, it is important to ensure that your vegetable garden is watered adequately. The best way to achieve this is by identifying the best irrigation system for your vegetable garden. Before highlighting some of the best systems, it is of essence if we note some vegetable garden watering do’s and don’ts.
For a fruitful garden, do:
Use a rain gauge – there is no need of watering your garden if it receives enough rainfall. The best way to estimate this is by using a rain gauge. This simple device will enable you to estimate the amount of water your garden receives compared to how much it needs.
Use collected rainwater – rainwater is free and contains vital trace elements that can help your vegetables flourish.
Water deeply – irrigate your garden twice or thrice in a week deeply. Prefer deep watering over shallow watering to encourage plants to send their roots deep into the ground. Deeply rooted plants handle stresses of dry weather better than shallow-rooted plants.
Understand your soil type – knowing your garden’s soil type is the first step to identifying its water needs. Sandy soil, for instance, allows water to filter through easily compared to clay soil that holds water.
Test your soil – serious gardeners should send their soil samples to extension labs for testing. Results of these tests indicate several properties of the soil, including the nutrients and PH. Note that PH influences how plants take up water and nutrients.
Irrigate early morning – you should irrigate your garden early in the morning to minimize water loss through evaporation by day’s heat.
Water by hand – irrigating your vegetable garden with slow streams of water is efficient compared to fast streams. Fast watering will result in wastages due to runoffs. Nonetheless, there are modern watering systems that water slowly.
Make use of mulch – mulching is associated with several benefits. It mediates soil temperature, conserves water by minimizing evaporation, and minimizes spread of fungal diseases.
Use water-soluble fertilizers – if you are growing your vegetables in a pot, go for water-soluble fertilizers that can hold water for quite some time.
Observe your garden soil – excavate some soil using a trowel or spoon to check how deep moisture has penetrated. The ideal depth should be six inches. This provides a clue if you have watered the garden enough.
To better the health of your plants, don’t:
Water in late afternoons – watering late afternoons will leave the foliage wet all night, which can cause fungal diseases.
Water shallowly – shallow watering keeps the plant’s roots on the surface where they can easily dry out. The only exception for this is with seedbeds and transplants. Seeds don’t have roots but require moisture to germinate.
Water too fast – avoid hitting your vegetables with pressured water, especially if you are using a hose. This promotes runoff and water wastage.
Having mentioned the do’s and don’ts, we can now outline the various irrigation systems that can be tried on a vegetable garden. Note that the choice of the best method depends on the planting arrangement and type of crop. For instance, planting onions, leafy greens, and shallow-rooted vegetables in blocks suit watering by hands. On the other hand, soaker hoses and drips irrigate crops that occupy more space and time such as tomatoes and peppers better.
Conserving water should be every gardener’s goal when watering his or her vegetable gardens. A perfect solution for this is using drip irrigation. Drip systems can save between 60 to 70 percent of water compared to traditional irrigation systems. This is because the target plants only receive the water. Another benefit is that you will less likely water the weeds in your soil.
On the downside, drip irrigation requires regular maintenance. You should do this to ensure no leaks, cracks, or clogging in the lines caused by punctures or dirt blockage. The other obvious limitation is the complicated installation process. However, its complexity cannot compare to sprinkler systems, as not much digging is required.
This is probably one of the most common vegetable garden and lawn irrigation system. Sprinkler systems provide water to the soil surface and are not affected by the garden’s landscape. They are commonly used for watering lawns but can also water gardens effectively.
A major advantage of sprinklers is that they cover a large area and doesn’t require proper positioning. They can be installed in odd locations, including slopes and hills. That aside, the negative side of these systems is that they are expensive. Installing them is also daunting, especially if you have no gardening experience. Sprinklers also waste a lot of water during the irrigation process.
Surface irrigation system doesn’t directly imply watering on the soil surface. This is an ancient irrigation system that involves shaping the landscape of your garden to enable gravity to disperse water where needed. Surface irrigation system could simply involve taking advantage of the natural slope of the garden that allows water to flow down the slope, watering soil way down.
The biggest advantage that comes with this is obviously on the cost. It is a cheap irrigation system that can be done on your own through contouring soil to flow water to desired areas. However, it wastes lots of water if the land is not properly shaped and through surface water evaporation.
This is one of the best methods of watering vegetable gardens. Underground drip system, as the name suggests, irrigate the garden through underground systems. This ensures that the target plant’s roots absorb the water. This minimizes the water wastage through evaporation since water is delivered underground directly to the roots.
A major problem with this system is installation. You will have to dig up and place the drip lines below the soil surface. This can be inconvenient, especially if you relocate your vegetable garden frequently. It also requires frequent maintenance as the drip lines can be clogged with dirt and small soil particles.
Whereas drip systems work best for crops growing I rows, vegetables grown in wide beds do better when irrigated by buried reservoirs. They are buried between 4 to 8 inches below the soil and designed to deliver water directly to plants’ root zones. Buried reservoirs and gravity-dependent systems eliminate the worries of remembering if turned water off.
A common ancient method is the use of “Ollas.” This technique involves burying porous terra jugs with their mouths above the ground. You should then fill the jugs with water and give some time for plants to seep water slowly. The best thing about this system is that it lasts long.
Most small-scale vegetable gardeners prefer this as they provide water to root zones without much maintenance. It is also quick and easy to install. All you need to do is dig a hole in your garden bed, place an Olla inside the hole with its mouth above the ground, and cover the other parts with soil. There are no drawbacks associated with this method.
You certainly didn’t expect this, but rainwater is another good irrigation system for vegetable gardens. Among the ways of storing rainwater is directing runoff from your house roof into the garden. If your garden soil has a good texture, it can hold water in the root zones. The runoff will also maintain a high soil moisture level.
If you opt for this, plan for a good rainwater harvesting system using rain barrels. Channelling stored water from rain barrels to the vegetable garden becomes easy of the barrel is placed at some height above the garden. Gravity or siphon action will direct the water effortlessly to the garden.
Many other good irrigation systems can be applied for vegetable gardens such as partial root-zone drying and sunken beds and pits. However, note that the choice of an irrigation system should be dependent on several factors. To start with, check on the availability of water. If you use reliable tap water, sprinkler, drip, and underground drip systems are a good choice.
On the other hand, if you rely on rainwater, you can try out the other mentioned systems. You can as well consider harvesting large amounts of rainwater for your irrigation needs. Regardless of your preferred method, always observe proper gardening tips. This is a sure way of ensuring fruitful harvest as well as water conservation.
Choose a system that delivers water efficiently and minimizes in wastage as well. You can incorporate other water saving tips such as using mulch for better results.