Garden watering, although essential, can be costly, labor intensive and time consuming. But there are a number of options that can help reduce the cost, labor and time.
How much and how often to water — It’s recommended that you water your vegetables two to three times a week during really hot weather. Deep watering is best. The water must go deep down into the soil to encourage root development and to avoid surface evaporation.
It’s recommended that each watering be at least an inch of water from the sprinkler or from your soaker hose. If your veggies are in containers, you may need to water more often as containers tend to dry out quicker.
Make the most of your water — Organic mulch such as wheat straw, finely ground bark, pine needles, cardboard or chopped-up leaves spread on the ground around plants is a welcome barrier between the moist soil and the hot sun. A two- or three-inch layer of mulch makes a huge difference in hot weather.
Watering systems — A well-planned drip or soaker hose system with an irrigation timer takes the worry out of gardening and reduces your time commitment. There are simple setups that connect to a spigot and can be run along your garden. There are also more elaborate lawn and garden systems that last for years but are expensive. Once they’re in, they’re easy to care for and modify as needed.
Use of collected water — A DIY project. You can collect water from your roof drain pipe using a diverter and the accompanying hose. Water can be collected and stored in heavy garbage pails or large volume totes. Collected water can then be delivered directly to the plants using a soaker hose or rubber hose with a drip irrigation system. This system consists of rubber or PVC tubing, one-quarter inch drip tubing and emitters. There’s a kit that can be purchased to help you get started.
You can use gravity to deliver water if you are able to raise your collection containers to an adequate height. Your irrigation system can also be connected to well water or public water when collected water doesn’t meet demand. I use large totes connected to a 1 HP pump which delivers water to each plant via PVC piping, in which I drilled 3/16-inch holes. In the holes, I inserted an adapter with the quarter-inch tubing. That delivers the water right over the plant roots.
Since I want to save on time, water and labor, I tarp my garden for at least a month, put down landscaping cloth (or cardboard) and then plant after the last frost (May 1-10). Last year, I didn’t have to weed which made the pre-planting preparation all worthwhile. This system will last for years.
Collected water should be covered to prevent contamination from leaves, insects and animals. A study from Rutgers University recommended adding one ounce of bleach to a 350 gallon tote, and let it sit two days before use.
Enjoy your garden.
Gardening Partners is a non-profit founded in 2003 to serve Dickson County with gardening education and advice. Readers may submit gardening questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the website www.gardening.partners, or by mail at P.O. Box 471, Dickson, TN 37056.