How often should I water my garden vegetables?
Hardiness Zone: 6a
Shirley from Kansas City, Missouri
The technical answer to this question involves calculating the rate at which your garden soil loses moisture so you know exactly how much to replace it with. This involves rates of evaporation according to square footage, average air temperature, etc. The not so technical answers is to let the surface of your soil dry 1 to 2 inches deep, and then give it an inch of water. It should be said, however, that although your garden will do just fine if you use this not-so-technical method, letting your soil dry 1 to 2 inches deep can stress out your plants a little and so you may not achieve optimum yields.
Vegetable crops grow best in soil that is constantly moist. It's best to water them before they get dry. How often depends on factors such as soil type, humidity, wind, temperature and how much, or if, you mulch. On hot, dry days, your garden will obviously lose the most moisture-about 0.15 of an inch per 70ºF (0.10 on humid days at the same temperature). Vine crops (especially melons) need more water than other crops. I would get yourself a rain gauge and keep it next to the garden. Give your veggies at least 2-3 inches of water per week-(more for thirsty crops and container vegetables), and adjust it as necessary according to the weather. Water deeply and fairly frequently so that the top 2 inches of soil stays consistently moist (use your finger to test). A soaker (porous) hose works well for vegetables growing in a garden plot. Turn it on a few times a week while your getting ready for work. When your ready to go, turn it off. I run mine up and down the rows and leave it in the garden all season under a couple of inches of mulch. Both the hose and the mulch work very well to keep things moist while conserving water.
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I am about 2 hours south of you, and during this kind of weather, I water my vegetable garden every day it doesn't rain. The winds we have had the past couple of days will dry out everything very quickly, especially if you don't have a mulch base around the vegetables. The best watering method for me is the drip irrigation hose but if all you have is a sprinkler, then that will work, too. Just make sure you don't water until the heat of the day is gone. I generally turn my system on about 8 p.m. Hope this helps.
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