Watering in the West Workshop Notes

In case you missed the Watering in the West workshop on Wednesday, here are some highlights!

How much do I water?

We all know that plants need water to live, but it’s tricky to know how much! Although the watering needs of a plant depends on many things, there are some universal factors. You need to water differently based on the age and size of the plant, and the time of year (how hot are the days and how much rainfall naturally occurring?) Although you don’t want to under water your plants, be careful not to give them TOO MUCH water as well, as this can cause the roots to rot.

Guiding Principles:

  • Observe your plants and the weather. Watch out for heat, drought and wind, and give your plants an extra drink in these conditions. Plants usually need to be watered less in the spring and fall as there is more naturally occurring moisture and cooler temperatures.

  • With seeds and young seedlings, water frequently to keep top few inches of soil moist. As the plants grow bigger and become established, water less frequently but deeper. Eventually work towards watering every other day, giving the roots time to dry out in between waterings. Allowing the roots to dry (reasonably) is really important for preventing disease and growing stronger and healthier plants.

  • As the plants grow, water to the depth of the roots.

  • Let water soak in and only apply water as fast as it is absorbed.

    • If lots of water is running off, loosen the soil or lightly chop with a hoe to add texture.

  • Less frequent but deeper watering is better than frequent shallow waterings (once plants are established!)

  • Eliminate weeds—they compete with your crops for water.

  • Watering in the morning is best.

    • Watering in the evening is OK, but can increase the chance of fungus and molds on leaves..(Powdery Mildew anyone?)

    • Avoid watering in the middle of the day—you’ll lose more water to evaporation.

  • Watch for symptoms of drought and over-watering (which often look the same! See below.)

Always remember to water to the depth of the roots! This baby chard has roots only a couple of inches deep, but the roots will grow as the plant does.

Always remember to water to the depth of the roots! This baby chard has roots only a couple of inches deep, but the roots will grow as the plant does.

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Symptoms of Overwatering

- Drooping or wilted leaves

- Dropping leaves

-Yellowing or fading color

- Mold, moss or fungus

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Symptoms of Drought

- Drooping or wilted leaves

- Unusually dry and brittle leaves

- Wrinkled fruit

Pro Tips:

  • Use your finger to test the moisture in the soil. Stick your finger in the soil up to your knuckle. If it’s dry, it’s time to water! If the soil is moist, no worries! You can also dig a hole next to your plant to see how deep the water is seeping into the soil.

  • Keep garden bed level and contour soil to help direct water to plants.

    • Plant seeds in furrows or small craters to direct and hold water where you need it

    • Mounds or raised beds dry out quicker, which is good in the spring to dry out and warm up the soil, but also makes a hotter and dryer micro climate which could be not so helpful later in summer.

  • Watering before a cold night (near freezing temperatures) can help make your plants more resilient to frost damage.

  • Want more tips? Check out another blog post on Best Practices for Watering Your Garden