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How to Water Your Garden

Your vegetable garden is looking a little “wilty.” Should you water it?

The answer depends on the time of day. If it is afternoon on a hot day, not to worry. It may simply be a case of leaves growing too fast for the roots to feed them. But if vegetables look wilty in the morning, water them right away.

Although some old farmers may tell you never to water your vegetable garden, it is wise to make sure your vegetables get an inch of water every week. Use a rain gauge to determine how much precipitation they have received. Make a simple rain gauge by taking a wide-mouth canning jar, measuring an inch from the bottom, and marking the line with waterproof tape. Set the jar out in the open away from trees and buildings. For more accurate measurement, attach a ruler to the outside of the jar.

Vegetables need constant moisture when seeds or seedlings are germinating. Water a freshly planted seedbed with a soft spray daily unless you’ve had rain. Water plants that are developing less often, but water more deeply to encourage root growth. Let water percolate six inches into the soil, and then allow the soil to dry out an inch or two before watering again.

In hot, dry, or windy weather, mature plants that have developed deep roots may require thorough watering every week. But generally be careful not to overwater. Frequent, shallow watering can prevent roots from growing deep, and overwatering can drown plants by depriving them of oxygen, as well as leaching away soil nutrients.

It’s best not to water using a spray nozzle that can flatten plants, and at any rate this method is ineffective and time consuming. Set out a sprinkler. The best time to water is early morning. Avoid watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the heat of the day. Sprinkling in the evening may lead to fungal diseases, when foliage stays wet overnight.

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