Like people, plants are composed mainly of water, for some, as much as 95%.
Waiting until you see your vegetables wilting before you turn on the hose is a big mistake. Water affects fruit size, yield, and quality of flavor, so to ensure good production, it's important to know which stages in their development they need water the most.
It's nearly impossible to develop a watering schedule that works equally well for every vegetable in your garden. The best thing to do is to determine individual crop needs by monitoring your garden everyday. Here are some critical watering periods according to vegetable type:
- Beans and Peas: during flowering and the development of their pods.
- Cabbage, Broccoli, and Cauliflower: during head development.
- Carrots, Onions, and Radishes: during root development.
- Cool Season Vegetables (like greens): during periods of intense heat.
- Cucumbers: from flowering to the development of their fruits.
- Eggplant: uniform throughout season is best.
- Germinating Seeds: water germinating seeds frequently, but lightly to avoid washing them away.
- Melons: during flowering and early fruit development.
- Peppers: from planting to fruit set and enlargement; uniform throughout season is best.
- Potatoes: during tuber set and enlargement.
- Squash: during flowering and fruit development.
- Sweet Corn: during silking, tasseling, and ear development.
- Tomatoes: especially critical during flowering, fruit set, and fruit enlargement; uniform throughout season is best.
Tips for watering your vegetables
- Most vegetables need a about an inch of water per week, so if Mother Nature fails to provide, then plan to intervene. For plants that have established a healthy root system, this translates to a frequency of every 5-7 days during hot weather. Extreme heat, windy weather, vegetables with shallow root systems, and the capacity of your soil to hold moisture can greatly affect the amount of water needed and the frequency at which you water.
- There are pros and cons to every type of irrigation system. Drip and trickle systems are the most efficient and will conserve the most amount of water.
- Vegetables need more water when days are bright and humidity low.
- The best time to water is in the morning. Watering in the evening increases the danger of disease because foliage is less likely to dry off after the temperatures cool off.
- Water deeply and less frequently. Sometimes shallow watering can do more harm than not watering at all. It encourages root growth at the soil's surface, which increases their exposure to heat and sun.
- Don't wait until plants show signs of stress before you water. Plants showing signs of stress may already have suffered irreversible damage. Check moisture levels daily so you can respond to moisture loss quickly.
- Don't over do it. Excessive watering leaches nutrients from the soil, starves plant roots of oxygen, and it's a waste.
- Mulch around plants to help conserve moisture. Adding organic matter or compost on a regular basis will help increase your soil's capacity to hold moisture.
- Don't be fooled by vegetables that look wilted in the late afternoon after a hot day in the sun. Give them overnight to perk up. Vegetables that appear wilted early in the morning are the ones you have to worry about. They need watering immediately.