So much depends on climate and the ability of different types of soil to hold moisture that it's difficult to lay down specific directions for watering your garden. Generally, however, vegetable plants need about an inch of water a week. The best time to water your garden is in the morning. If you water at night when the day is cooling off, the water is likely to stay on the foliage, increasing the danger of disease. Some people believe that you can't water in the morning because water spots on leaves will cause leaf-burn when the sun gets hot; this isn't the case.
However hard it is to judge your garden's exact water needs, there are two hard-and-fast rules about watering that you should follow. First, always soak the soil thoroughly. A light sprinkling can often do more harm than no water at all; it stimulates the roots to come to the surface, and then they're killed by exposure to the sun. Second, never water from above. Overhead watering with a sprinkling can or a hose is easy and seems to do a fine job. But in fact, overhead watering wastes water, makes a mess, and sometimes bounces the water away from the plant so the roots do not get any at all. Furthermore, many diseases are encouraged by wet leaves. So direct water at the soil, but water gently so that the soil is not washed away or the roots exposed.
Watering with a can. Carrying water in a can or a bucket can be exhausting and extremely unsatisfying, especially if the water slops over the top into your shoes. Watering cans are easier to carry but harder to fill than buckets. They are good to use for gently moistening the soil after planting seeds and for settling dust. If you unscrew the watering can's sprinkler head and replace it with an old sock, it will be easier to concentrate the water at the base of the plant where it's needed. The sock will break the force of the water so it won't disturb the soil around the roots.
Watering with a hose. A well-placed faucet and hose can save a lot of energy. If you have a large garden, a Y-connector for the faucet makes it possible to attach two hoses at one time. Hose strategy includes having enough hose to reach all points in the garden and arranging the hose in such a way that it does not decapitate plants when you move it around.
If you have a lot of watering to do, five-eighths-inch hose will carry twice as much water as a half-inch hose. Spreading the water about can be speeded up by using basins to catch the water and by digging furrows or trenches between the plants. A length of gutter with capped ends, placed on the higher side of the garden, can be punctured at intervals to coincide with the trenches. Then when water is slowly added to the gutter it flows down all the trenches at the same time. If you want to change the placement of the holes, the ones you don't need can either be
soldered up or filled with a metal screw.
Watering with a sprinkler. Lawn sprinklers are gentle, but they waste water by covering the whole area indiscriminately and spraying water into the air where it evaporates and blows about. They also wet the leaves, which can spread disease, and often turn the whole area into a mudhole. Canvas soil-soakers are preferable. They carry water gently to the soil around the roots. A wand and water-breaker, which is a length of rigid pipe that attaches to the end of the hose, can make it much easier to put the water where you want it. This is especially useful when you're watering hanging baskets and patio containers. A water timer that measures the flow of water and shuts off automatically when the right amount has been delivered is an expensive luxury.
But it's an excellent device for the forgetful and can free you to do other things while the garden is being watered.
Gardening is a most satisfying occupation, because you are constantly rewarded for your efforts. All the work you put into your vegetable garden— cultivating, mulching, watering, watching, and waiting—shows dividends in the shape of healthy plants that flourish visibly under your care as the season progresses. And all the labor pays off in tangible form at harvest time.
But even when you've weathered the whole gardening season and brought your harvest home, you still have a few more tasks to complete in order to put your garden to bed for the winter.
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