Once your garden has been planted, nothing
is more important to its ability to thrive than water. When provided too
little water, plants are unable to develop properly and become more susceptible
to damage from pests. Too much water can of course be equally bad. In
soil that is kept too moist plants become prone to rots and other diseases.
Proper watering would probably save 75% of the plants that are lost in
gardens each year. Even those plants that succumb to pests were usually
first weakened by inconsistent watering.
How much water?
In most cases, the gardener needs to supplement natural rain water. The
questions of how much and how often are a matter of judgement. The best
way to tell when a garden needs watering is to look at it. If the soil
is dry to a depth of a half an inch or so, it's time to water. How often
you need to water varies greatly with the temperature. With high temperatures
in the mid-70s (24 C), watering once a week will probably be more than
adequate. But when temperatures hit the mid-90s (35 C), you may need to
water as often as every other day. Other factors influencing the frequency
of watering are the nature of the soil, the amount of sunlight, how well
the garden is mulched and whether the plants are in flower (during flowering
plants generally require more water). But always keep in mind, you can
most definitely water too much.
When watering you want to make sure the soil is well moistened. This can
be time consuming, but it is better to water thoroughly once a week than
to give your garden a brief shower every day. Never use a spray nozzle
on a hose, it delivers either too strong a flow or an inefficient mist.
The best way of controlling water flow is to use your thumb. Always try
to water the base of the plants, but in times of meager rainfall you can
give the foliage an occasional spray as well. The best time to water is
in the morning, but the warnings against mid-day watering are over done.
Late evening is probably the worst time to water, as it leaves the foliage
damp at night when molds and fungi are most active. But never let a bone-dry
garden go without watering simply because you can't do it at the optimum
time of day.
Irrigation systems can be great time savers for those with large gardens
or little time. The best use drip hoses to supply water directly to the
base of the plants. This minimizes the loss of water to evaporation that
makes sprinkler systems so inefficient, particularly in hot, dry climates.
(Add links to drip irrigation, mini sprinklers, soak hoses)