Garden Help Desk: save water in the garden | News, Sports, Jobs

Courtesy of Meredith Seaver

Track your transplant with consistently good care. Water vigorously but not too frequently; approx. once every 3-7 days depending on the weather, soil type and plant size.

Here are some tips for saving water in your vegetable garden.

Maintain good organic matter levels in your soil. Incorporating leaves, grass clippings, and other organic matter into the soil in the fall and adding compost to the soil in the spring increases your soil’s moisture-holding capacity while improving drainage. This gives your plants the moisture they need and makes it easier for air to get into the soil, giving the roots the oxygen they need.

Cover the soil with mulch to reduce evaporation. Black plastic can help conserve moisture and reduce weeds, but an organic mulch can do all of that and improve the soil without having to be removed and discarded at the end of the season. A 1-inch layer of compost or bark dust, a layer of newspaper, thin layers of grass clippings added week after week, and paper grocery bags are all options. Some of them might not be very pretty, but they will all do the trick.

Water vigorously, but less often. Deeper, less frequent watering encourages deeper root development. However, your watering should be consistent—no big swings from wet to very dry.

Use drip irrigation. A zone in a sprinkler system can be converted to drip for large gardens. For smaller gardens, a simple drip system is easy to fit and can be hooked up to a garden hose once or twice a week. Even a cheap drip hose can provide slow, deep watering. Drip irrigation can also bring an added bonus to a garden or flower bed – fewer weeds because you’re not watering every weed seed in the garden area. If you install drip irrigation every season, remember that emitter and soaker lines go under mulch, so set up the drip first and add the mulch afterward.

Courtesy of Meredith Seaver

Even if you soaked the planting hole first, you need to water your grafts right away. Then give another deep bath.

Use a controller or timer for your watering so you don’t leave a drip line or sprinkler running for hours because you got distracted and forgot you watered. Using the timer on your smartphone or watch is a great way to keep track of your watering.

Learn what timing works best for your soil and watering method. Run your drip line, sprinkler, or other method for 15-20 minutes, wait a few hours, and then dig down to see how far the water has moved through your soil. You can use this information to do a little math and determine how long to water using whatever method you are using. Large plants like mature squashes, gourds, and tomatoes can root up to 15 inches deep in the ground if soil depth is given. Lettuce, basil, onions and other smaller vegetables should only root 20 to 20 cm deep.

Be consistent in weed control. Weeds also use water, and you want to keep that water in the ground for your veggies. Thorough weeding in the spring while the weeds are still small shortens the time for weeding for the rest of the gardening season.

Each year, some of my tomato, pepper, and squash transplants die after just a few days. What can I do to prevent this?

Transplanting season is a high-risk time for plants, but there are some important steps you can take to improve your chances of a successful transplant in your garden.

Courtesy of Meredith Seaver

Drip irrigation lamps or lines should be placed under mulch, not over it.

Start with healthy transplants first and make sure they have had at least a couple of days (longer is better) a chance to harden off before moving them to the garden. Water your plants a few hours before you start.

Next, if possible, transplant in the evening or on a relatively cool and overcast day. Avoid transplanting in the late morning or afternoon on a sunny day.

If you’ve brought your apartment full of grafts to the garden, follow these steps.

  • Dig a hole deep enough for your transplant
  • Fill the hole with water and let it soak
  • Gently loosen any compacted roots
  • Place your graft and fill it up carefully
  • Water thoroughly even though you filled your planting hole with water to begin with

If you follow these steps and maintain consistent care, including thorough, regular watering every 3-7 days (depending on your soil type, weather, and the size of your plants), you will find that you rarely lose a transplant.


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