Every plant needs water. Getting the amount right is essential for steady, strong growth, which will ultimately reward you with bigger harvests and brighter blooms.
Most plants need about an inch of water per week during the growing season. In dry climates, this doubles to two inches and in hot weather vegetables are likely to need even more.
The best guide is your senses. Dig down into the soil a couple of inches and touch it – if it’s dry then it is time to water. Pay particular attention to fruiting veggies such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash, which will quickly wilt in warm weather if their needs aren’t met.
Uneven watering leads to conditions such as blossom end rot or cracked fruits. Maintain consistent soil moisture and you’ll sail through the summer.
Most vegetables need watering two to three times a week in summer. Watering is one area it really doesn’t pay to cut corners. Aim to have the water seep deep down into the soil so the roots follow. Plants with deep roots are more resilient in dry conditions.
Hand watering is a great way to inspect plants as you move thru them. Set the nozzle to a ‘shower’ setting to mimic rain. If the ground is hard you will need to return to the same area repeatedly to make sure enough water soaks in.
Containers are easier to water. Simply fill them up to the rim then leave to drain. Remember, the roots in a pot are restricted, so these plants are completely dependent on you. In the hottest weather you may need to water thoroughly every day.
Aim water at the base of plants, as close to the ground as possible. This way more water will reach the roots. It also minimizes wet leaves, a favored entry point for disease. Using a sprinkler? Don’t worry, just water early enough in the morning so that leaves can dry off as quickly as possible as the day warms up.
Moist soil is a precious asset. Lock in all of that valuable moisture with mulch – material laid over the soil surface to slow evaporation and give weeds a tough time.
Organic mulches such as straw or finely ground bark are best. These natural materials eventually decompose to improve both the fertility and moisture-holding capacity of your soil.
Lay mulches two to three inches thick after watering. Mulches also help to shade the soil, keeping it cool in hot weather and stopping the sun from baking it hard.
While consistent soil moisture is certainly important, there are specific stages of growth when vegetables will be at their most sensitive to water availability.
Beans and peas
Flowering until harvest
Cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes
Flowering until harvest
Flowering until a few days before harvest
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower