Tips for Watering

Record Rainfalls

We’ve all experienced the water restrictions here in California and watched our lawns turn brown and our plants curl up. People had horror stories of being fined for not adhering to water rations. Then, all of a sudden, the skies opened up and we saw record breaking precipitation and disastrous flooding. Everything was wet, yards, pets, plants, outdoor furniture and mainly our gardens! You would think that all this rain solved our drought here in California. Although record breaking, sadly, despite all this rain, it has done little to actually help our water supplies and storage. Most of it flowed into storm drains and either right into the the rives that lead to it. So, it is still important to conserve the water we do have.

Tips for Watering

Hopefully, you all turned off your automatic watering systems and had very infrequent trips to hand water with the rainfall we’ve been experiencing. As we ramp up for spring planting and start to get back into our gardens, it is still important to water properly.

Less is actually more. When you water properly, your plants will thrive better. Here are some tips for the best way to water.

  1. Water in the morning. The temperature is cooler and water will not evaporate as quickly as watering when the sun is hotter and higher. If you do get water on the leaves it gives them a chance to dry out. Dry plants are more resistant to disease.
  2. The root is what needs the most water, not the leaves. Wetting the leaves and stems is not only a waste of water, but can facilitate spread of disease. So, focus on the root area.
  3. Water only when needed. Water deeply and throughly and let it soak it up and dry a little bit before just dumping more water. Basically, by push a spade into the soil near your plant and pull it back and have a good look at your soil you can see how your plant looks. If it’s moist to a depth of around 6″-12″, your plant is happy. If it’s dry, water.
  4. Mulch is a good way to reduce runoff and will also slow down the evaporation.
  5. A soaker hose or dedicated and precise drip irrigation is the best for efficient water vs an overhead spray on the plants.

Compost added to soil will help your plants stay healthy. Soils amended with compost will dramatically improve your soil’s ability to retain water.

Here is a handy chart for all your vegetables!

Vegetable Critical times to water Gallons of water needed for a 5-foot row Notes
Beans (pole and bush) When flowers form and during pod-forming and picking. 6 per week Dry soil when pods are forming will adversely affect quantity and quality.
Beets Before soil gets bone-dry. 3 per week Water sparingly during early stages to prevent foliage from becoming too lush at the expense of the roots; increase water when round roots form.
Broccoli Continuously for 4 weeks after transplanting. 3–5 per week Best crop will result from no water shortage.
Brussels sprouts Continuously for 4 weeks after transplanting. 3–5 per week Plants can endure dry conditions once they are established. Give 6 gallons the last 2 weeks before harvest for most succulent crop.
Cabbage Frequently in dry weather. 6 per week If crop suffers some dry weather, focus efforts on providing 6 gallons 2 weeks before harvest. (Too much water will cause heads to split.)
Carrots Before soil gets bone-dry. 3 per week at early stage; 6 per week as roots mature Roots may split if crop is watered after soil has become too dry.
Cauliflower Frequently. 6 per week Give 6 gallons before harvest for best crop.
Celery Frequently. At least 6 per week If conditions are very dry, water daily.
Corn When tassels form and when cobs swell. 6 per week Cob size will be smaller if plants do not receive water when ears are forming.
Cucumbers Frequently. At least 3 per week Water diligently when fruit form and throughout growth; give highest watering priority.
Lettuce/Spinach/leafy greens Frequently. 2 per week Best crop will result from no water shortage.
Onions In early stage to get plants going. 3 per week Withhold water from bulb onions at later growth stages to improve storage qualities; water salad onions anytime soil is very dry.
Parsnips Before soil gets bone-dry. Not more than 3 per week Water only when very dry to keep plants growing steadily. Too much water will encourage lush foliage and small roots.
Peas When flowers form and during pod-forming and picking. 3 per week To reduce excess foliage and stem growth, do not water young seedlings unless wilting.
 Peppers Need a steady supply. 3–6 per week Even moisture yields best performance.
Potatoes When the size of marbles. 3–6 per week In dry weather, give 6 gallons throughout the growing season every 10 days. Swings from very dry to very wet produce oddly shaped and cracked tubers.
Radishes Need plentiful, consistent moisture. 3–6 per week Keep soil moist for best quality.
Squashes Frequently. At least 3 per week Water all types diligently throughout growth and when fruit form; give highest watering priority.
Tomatoes For 3 to 4 weeks after transplanting and when flowers and fruit form. 6 per week Frequent watering may increase yield but adversely affect flavor.

In conclusion the best way to water is to be observant and your plants will tell you when they are thirsty!

Happy Gardening!
Mary Church

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