Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to Conserve Water in the Garden

Scarlet Runner Beans in Garden
Established Beans Don't Need Much Water

Compiled by Robin

In these days of water restrictions and drought throughout California, conserving water is more important than ever. Knowing the needs of each plant in your garden will help you water efficiently for maximum harvest and minimum water waste. I’ve gathered together some general watering tips as well as specific advice on how to water 15 of Santa Cruz county’s most popular home garden crops. Even during years of plentiful water and in areas of adequate rain, gardeners might consider the unpredictability of the weather and possible climate changes. Careful water use protects our future resources as well as lowering our financial commitment to the garden.

Please leave a comment if I’ve left out your favorite plant, and I will do some research and add it. Thanks to University of California Santa Cruz-based Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Foods Systems, which provided much of this information in a recent newsletter to members.  CASFS hosts one of the very small number of organic farmer training programs in the world.

Basil in Pot Near Side of House
Grow Herbs in Partial Shade
General Watering Tips

  • Water before 10 AM or after 5 PM
  • Use a bucket to collect water when warming up the shower; pour into a watering can for use in garden
  • Use a large mason jar for the same purpose in the kitchen
  • Use a basin to collect water while washing vegetables and use on herbs and other plants that like to stay moist
  • Water left over from steaming most vegetables can be cooled and used in garden. Exception: beets!
  • Put a watering wand with shut-off valve on the hose to control direction and amount of water flow, and to reach into garden and apply water directly to plants
  • Water near plant bases rather than showering from overhead
  • Water plants appropriately: Plants with shallow roots (6”-24”) require more frequent water in smaller amounts. Plants with deep roots (>40”) require heavier (deep) watering, usually less frequently. See specifics below.

Plant-Specific Watering Tips

Bolting Chard in Container Garden
Too-dry Chard will Bolt
Beans: Water frequently in beginning for maximum growth. Cut back to occasional or even no water after fruit has set for best flavor. To avoid diseases, water at base and keep water off leaves. Medium root depth.

Broccoli: Water heavily, 1 – 1½ inches per week. Extra water during crown development increases harvest. Shallow root depth.

Cabbage: Not efficient at water take-up. Need even moisture and frequent watering to prevent heads cracking. Napa Cabbage (non-heading) also requires moist ground. Shallow root depth.

Carrots: Water deeply until later stages of root development, when too much water can cause cracking. Water frequently: too much fluctuation between wet and dry also causes cracking. Medium root depth.

Chard: Keep moist. Bolts if conditions are too dry. Medium root depth.

Cucumbers: A “wet” veggie that needs consistent moisture. Lack of water or variable watering when producing fruits cuts down on harvest. Leaves are susceptible to mildew: always water at base. Shallow to medium roots.

Container Garden under Tree
Partial Shade for Container Herb Garden
Herbs: Basil, parsley, mint, and cilantro like frequent watering. Keeping cilantro moist delays bolting. Always water basil before harvesting. Tougher herbs like thyme, rosemary, sages, and winter savory prefer to dry out between waterings. Growing herbs in pots and growing in partial shade cuts down on water requirements.

Kale: Water moderately. This cool-weather crop needs extra water during warm weather to prevent wilt; some varieties are more susceptible than others (Red Russian is quite hardy). Medium root depth.

Lettuce and salad mixes: Water frequently and consistently to avoid bitter taste. Shallow root depth.

Peppers: Allow soil to dry out between waterings, but apply consistent and even moisture during flower and fruit stages. Frequent fertilization helps produce the best yield. Medium root depth.

Potatoes: Water evenly and frequently as tubers are developing, beginning during the blossoming stage. As vines die, cut back on water to cure skins. Shallow root depth.

Ripening Container Tomatoes
Container Tomatoes: Water Frequently
Radishes: Water frequently and evenly; dry soil results in tough, woody radishes and encourages flea beetles. Shallow root depth.

Summer squash: Frequent, deep watering needed for rapid growth and ongoing fruit production. Medium root depth.

Tomatoes: Water deeply, then allow to dry out between waterings. Water less frequently when blossoming begins. Note: tomatoes raised in pots need more frequent, deep watering, especially in hot weather. Potted tomatoes benefit from frequent fertilizing. Deep root length.

Winter squash and pumpkins: Water deeply and infrequently. To prevent disease, keep water off leaves: water early in the day as close to plant base as possible. Deep root length.

If you have other suggestions about efficient garden watering, either general or pertaining to a particular plant, please share them in a comment below. Let’s help each other to utilize our water resources wisely!

Closeup of Zucchini fruit with blossom end
Astia Container Zucchini: Needs Less Water than Deeper-Root Varieties

No comments:

Post a Comment