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Watering Practices: Water You Waiting For?


Several empty containers in different shapes

(yogurt cup, margarine tub, pie tin, large empty jar, small plastic storage tub)
Watering can full of water

Measuring dish that shows ounces, quarts, liters and gallons

Empty plastic liter bottle

Hose with sprinkler attachment if you have one

As soon as you can get outside, start teaching the gardeners about water. Besides quality soil, water is the most important element of a garden - besides the gardeners and the seeds and plants, of course!

Set out the containers and demonstrate how you can measure different amounts of water, whether they come from the watering can or the hose. Use the measuring dish and empty liter bottle to show them what different quantities of water look like.

Encourage the gardeners to experiment and estimate: how many yogurt cups full of water does it take to fill up the large empty jar without spilling over?

Does the watering can full of water hold more water, or the plastic storage tub?

Use these visual aids to discuss the importance of making sure garden plants get a consistent supply of water so that they can grow. Too little, and they may die. Too much, and they may die, too!

Please resolve, as a club, to water plants using recycled water from rain barrels, rather than from the hose, as much as possible. See the article on rain barrels to learn how to recycle rainwater in this Earth-friendly way.

You may fill watering cans from the house or use a hose, if the rain barrels are empty.

Important points for gardeners to remember when watering include:

1. Water deeply and infrequently. Deep watering promotes the development of a deep, extensive root system. Frequent, light watering promotes shallow rooting. Deep-rooted plants will be able to survive hot, dry weather much better than shallow-rooted plants because they will be able to reach the moisture deep in the soil.

A deep watering once a week should be adequate for fruit, vegetable, and flower gardens. Apply approximately 1 inch of water per week.

2. Water efficiently. Mornings and evenings are excellent times to water gardens. Water directly at the plant roots, and avoid getting the leaves wet when possible.

3. Mulch plants to conserve soil moisture. Mulching reduces the rate of evaporation from the soil surface and also limits weed competition. Organic materials, such as grass clippings, straw, and shredded leaves are excellent mulches for the vegetable garden. Wood chips, bark, and ground corncobs are good choices for perennial beds and trees and shrubs. The depth of the mulch depends on the type of material used and crop. Optimum depth in the vegetable garden ranges from 2 to 3 inches for fine materials, such as grass clippings, to 6 to 8 inches for straw.

Average plant watering needs (once plants are established):

Beans: weekly, ½ cup per plant; twice weekly in very hot weather; #; ##
Carrots: weekly, ¼ cup per plant; need constant moisture until mature
Chard: weekly, 1-2 cups per plant; twice weekly in very hot weather
Corn: weekly, 1 cup per plant; twice weekly in hot weather
Cucumbers: weekly, 2 cups per plant; twice weekly in hot weather; #; ##
Eggplant: weekly, 2 cups per plant; twice weekly in hot weather, #
Lettuce: weekly, 1 cup per plant, twice weekly in hot weather, ##, do not water at night
Parsley: weekly, 1 cup water per plant; #
Peppers: weekly, 1 cup per plant when young, 2 or more cups when larger, ##
Tomatoes: weekly, 1 gallon per plant; twice weekly in very hot weather; ##
Zucchini /Summer Squash: weekly, 2-4 cups per plant depending on size, twice weekly in hot weather; ##

# Do not let the soil dry out

## Keep water off the plant leaves (can lead to fungus, infection, mildew, etc.)

By Susan Darst Williams • • Practices 09 • © 2011

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