Gardening Tip: Watering (and overwatering)

watering-can1This summer’s wet weather has been a far cry from last year’s drought and excessive heat, when many gardeners spent long hours hand-watering their stressed plants. This year, many of us haven’t had to water much at all (though time spent weeding has increased!).

Most vegetable plants need to 1″ of water per week (tomatoes like 1-2″). See this link for each vegetable’s water needs. Sandy soil or the loose soil in raised beds and containers will need more water than clay-ey soils. Most plants prefer consistent, deep watering where water percolates down several inches into the soil.  Shallow watering that only wets the soil surface encourages roots upward, where they can get burned out by warmer soil temperatures. Deep watering encourages roots to grow down, where they will find more self-sustaining nutrients and moisture.

Most plants prefer the soil be kept moist but not waterlogged. Maintain even soil moisture by using grass clippings or straw as a mulch around your plants. This will prevent stress in your plants, particularly in tomatoes.

Not sure if your plants need water? Soil moisture meters are good tools, but you can also do the “finger test:” Stick your finger down into the soil near the base of your plant. If the soil is dry down a few inches (say, to your second knuckle), water.

Plants may need to be fertilized more regularly if they are getting more than 1-2″ of water per week, as nutrients are being leached out of the soil by the excess water. Sprinkle some compost and balanced fertilizer on top of the soil around your plants and water in with water or compost tea.

Here’s a great post that goes into more detail about the hows and whens of watering.

Happy growing!

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