Bookmark and Share

Watering the garden

Courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock

For more effective watering, put the watering can aside and use a drip irrigation system to hydrate your garden crops. To make the job even easier, hook the sytem up to an automatic timer. 

When the summer sun is sizzling, don’t feel like you have to make the decision of running up a high water bill or letting your plants fry. Use these five tips to maximize your watering potential and keep your crops hydrated.

1. Mulch, mulch, and mulch some more!

Cover your soil with a blanket of organic material such as straw, leaves, shredded paper or cardboard, coconut-fiber husks, or coco-bean mulch. This will moderate soil temperature, prevent runoff and evaporation, and hold moisture in the soil for longer periods between waterings.

2. Water deeply.

Less frequent, deeper waterings are more effective for most plants than frequent, shallow waterings. Plant roots will grow stronger and healthier, and you will not need to water as often.

To check whether it’s time to water, push your finger down into the soil. If it is still moist a knuckle or two deep, then it doesn’t need water yet. If it’s dry, then give the soil a nice long, deep soak so that the water reaches the root zone.

3. Use drip irrigation and an automatic timer.

Large amounts of water tend to run off the soil surface rather than being absorbed into the lower layers. For this reason, it’s best to water slowly, allowing the moisture to soak into the soil and permeate down to the root level of the plants.

Drip lines, which are available at nurseries and home centers, provide very slow and effective irrigation. If your plants suffer from various leaf diseases, drip watering may help to prevent these diseases by keeping the leaves dry.

An automatic timer can be used for watering your garden plants, as well. Whether you use a drip system or a sprinkler, both can be attached to timers, which you can set for automatic, daily or regular watering cycles.

4. Mix water-absorbing materials into your soil.

Organic material, such as coconut coir, peat moss, leaf mold or even plain old compost, will absorb a few times its own weight in water, thus retaining moisture that plants can use during dry spells. Organic material also improves the structure, aeration and overall health of the soil, resulting in better long-term success for your garden.

Alternatively, most nurseries sell water-absorbing polymer crystals under one or more brand names, such as Terra-Sorb, Hidrogel, Soil Moist, Aquasorb or Zeba. By mixing even a handful of these crystals into the soil, you can greatly increase its water-holding capability. Some of these, like Zeba and Soil Moist Natural, are made from plant starches rather than synthetics.

5. Try a self-watering container.

Self-watering containers have a water reservoir at the bottom of the container, which will keep your plants well watered for a few days. The size of the water reservoir varies along with the size of the planter, but it will provide the plant with anywhere from a few ounces to a few gallons of water on demand. This cuts down on the frequency of watering, allowing you to skip a day or two in between.

During cooler weather, the water in a reservoir may last more than a week, but in the heat of summer, you’ll want to check it more often. Most vegetables thrive in self-watering containers because they allow plants to grow their roots toward the water and drink as they need it.

You can make your own self-watering container or purchase at a local nursery or online. Gardeners Supply Company sells many different sizes, and Earthbox is another safe bet.

About the Author: R.J. Ruppenthal is author of the book Fresh Food From Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008). He is a licensed attorney and college professor in Northern California.

  • 14 Container Plants For Your Container Garden

    If your thinking about starting a container garden make sure to check out these 14 contianer plants.

  • 3 Balcony-garden Essentials

    You don’t need a backyard to successfully grow vegetables for your home. Use these tips to get your balcony garden started right.

  • 5 Small-space Irrigation Options

    No matter how small (or large) your garden, watering is a big responsibility.

  • 5 Urban Farming Lessons

    Take these five lessons from the top of the urban-farm food chain to improve your backyard, rooftop, patio or community garden.

  • 7 Easy Container Fruits

    If you're thinking about creating a container garden, be sure to check out these seven easy container fruits.

  • 7 Great Plants for your Micro-garden

    Get plenty of fresh vegetables from limited space for your next salad by starting a micro-garden.

  • 7 Tips for Container Gardening

    Make the most of your small space with these container-gardening tips.

  • 9 Tips for Growing Container Trees

    Embrace tree-growing on your farm by planting in containers.

  • Be an Organic Gardening Success

    The myth is busted—eco-friendly, organic gardening doesn’t mean reduced harvest yields or plants plagued by disease.

  • Build a Rain Garden

    Build a rain garden for your enjoyment and the enjoyment of those who drink from, swim in and live in the water around you.


Featured Product

Popular Farming: Organic Farm | More Info »

Related Articles

Meet Today's Farmer of the Day

  • Breed Profile image
  • The Country farm

    Location: Fayetteville, TN

    Day Job: Farming

    Why I'm Getting Dirty:

    View Profile Page »

Advertiser Links

Top Products
Gold Standard

*Content generated by our loyal visitors, which includes comments and club postings, is free of constraints from our editors’ red pens, and therefore not governed by I-5 Publishing, LLC’s Gold Standard Quality Content, but instead allowed to follow the free form expression necessary for quick, inspired and spontaneous communication.