Watering a Vegetable Garden


Watering, whether for rows of crops necessary rainfall. vegetable gardens.

Some plants are composed of up to 95 percent water. Water is vital from the moment seeds are sown through sprouting to the end of the growing season. Plants need water for cell division, cell enlargement, and even for holding themselves up. If the cells don't have enough water in them, the result is a wilted plant. Water is essential, along with light and carbon dioxide, for producing the sugars that provide the plant with energy for growth. It also dissolves fertilizers and carries nutrients to the different parts of the plant.

Ideally, water for plants comes from rain or other precipitation and from underground sources. In reality, you'll often have to do extra watering by hand or through an irrigation system. How often you should water depends on how often it rains, how long your soil retains moisture, and how fast water evaporates in your climate. Soil type is another important factor. Clay soils hold water very well -- sometimes too well. Sandy soils are like a sieve, letting the water run right through. Both kinds of soil can be improved with the addition of organic matter. Organic matter gives clay soils lightness and air; it gives sandy soils something to hold the water.

Other factors may also affect how often you need to water your garden:

  • More water evaporates when the temperature is high than when it's low. Plants can rot if they get too much water in cool weather.
  • More water evaporates when the relative humidity is low.
  • Plants need more water when the days are bright.
  • Wind and air movement will increase the loss of water to the atmosphere.
  • Water needs vary with the type and maturity of the plant. Some vegetables are tolerant of low soil moisture.
  • Sometimes water is not what a wilting plant needs. When plants are growing fast, the leaves sometimes get ahead of the roots' ability to provide them with water. If the day is hot and the plants wilt in the afternoon, don't worry about them; they will regain their balance overnight. But if plants are wilting early in the morning, water them immediately.

Want more information about vegetable gardens? Visit these links:

  • Caring for a Vegetable Garden: Read our guide to nurturing your vegetable plants for the best harvest.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Find out everything you wanted to know about vegetable gardening.
  • Vegetables: Pick out your favorite vegetables to plant in next year's garden.
  • Gardening: We answer all of your general gardening questions in this section.
  • Garden Care: Whether you're growing cucumbers or columbines, we have all the information you need to nurture a thriving garden.

Irrigating a Vegetable Garden

Leaky-pipe, or soaker-hose, irrigation lets water slowly permeate the soil.
Leaky-pipe, or soaker-hose, irrigation lets water slowly permeate the soil.

Irrigation is a good way to make sure your vegetable plants get the water they need. Leaky-pipe irrigation and trickle, or drip, irrigation are two good methods.

Leaky-pipe Irrigation

Overhead watering is most commonly used, but it wastes water because of excessive evaporation and it encourages diseases to settle on the wet foliage. Controlled watering eliminates waste and supplies water to garden plants where they need it -- at the base of the plants. Leaky-pipe, or soaker hose, is made of recycled rubber and is as flexible as an ordinary garden hose. Equipped with a female coupling on one end to attach to a water spigot, and a male coupling on the other end to cap off or attach another length of pipe, the soaker hose allows water to slowly permeate the soil. Arrange the soaker hose at the base of the plants in the row; water is then distributed evenly over the roots of the plants.

Trickle, or drip, irrigation wastes less water than other types of irrigation.

Trickle Irrigation

Also known as drip irrigation, trickle irrigation saves water. This is a good way to water vegetables that are spaced far apart as well as container gardens on a deck or terrace. Mini-tubes are inserted into holes in the main line at intervals to suit the gardener's needs. Weighted tips at the end of each mini-tube are placed at the base of each plant. Water is dispersed at low pressure wherever the tubes are placed. Kits for trickle systems are available at garden centers and through garden suppliers.

Measuring rainfall can give you a better idea of how much you need to water your vegetable garden. Keep reading to learn about measuring precipitation.

Want more information about vegetable gardens? Visit these links:

  • Caring for a Vegetable Garden: Read our guide to nurturing your vegetable plants for the best harvest.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Find out everything you wanted to know about vegetable gardening.
  • Vegetables: Pick out your favorite vegetables to plant in next year's garden.
  • Gardening: We answer all of your general gardening questions in this section.
  • Garden Care: Whether you're growing cucumbers or columbines, we have all the information you need to nurture a thriving garden.

Measuring Precipitation

Measuring precipitation in your vegetable garden helps you determine whether your plants need more water.
Measuring precipitation in your vegetable garden helps you determine whether your plants need more water.

It's a good idea to keep a rain gauge in your vegetable garden to help determine whether plants are receiving enough water. Place a rain gauge or several straight-sided coffee cans in the garden away from plants that may hang over the container. Keep a record of the amount of rain that has fallen and supplement nature with irrigation.

Typical garden soil will need about an inch of rain a week. If overhead irrigation is used, time a few waterings to determine how long it takes to supply the garden with one inch of water. By using several measuring cans, you can determine if the garden is being irrigated evenly. To encourage deep rooting, it's better to apply one heavy watering to the garden than several light waterings.

Want more information about vegetable gardens? Visit these links:

  • Caring for a Vegetable Garden: Read our guide to nurturing your vegetable plants for the best harvest.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Find out everything you wanted to know about vegetable gardening.
  • Vegetables: Pick out your favorite vegetables to plant in next year's garden.
  • Gardening: We answer all of your general gardening questions in this section.
  • Garden Care: Whether you're growing cucumbers or columbines, we have all the information you need to nurture a thriving garden.