Water is priceless. We forget that sometimes, especially when our water bill arrives! Watering your lawn and vegetable garden in the summer can make those water bills skyrocket! What can you do to cut those costs? By watering effectively! So, let’s take a glance at some common watering tips. I’ve mentioned several times that in-ground or soaker hoses are the ideal way to water, so I won’t go into that again since you know where I stand.
I’ve always loved the idea of indicator plants. While there are various plants to indicate diseases, nutrient deficiencies, and pests, we’ll look at indicator plants for watering. If you look out on your vegetable garden on a hot afternoon, which vegetable leaves look most tired and wilted? It’s probably not your peppers or cabbage! Instead, things like your squashes and cucumbers may be looking a little worse for wear. This is because their leaves are thin and large, and their leaves expire moisture quicker than thicker and smaller leaves. It’s normal for things like melons, squashes, and cucumbers to wilt in the heat of the afternoon. If, though, your plants don’t perk back up in the evening, you can use this as an indicator that the veggie garden needs a deep watering! Sunflowers are another option as a watering indicator plant if you have those in your veggie garden. I line the north side of my vegetable garden with them so they don’t block the sunlight for shorter plants, but I can utilize both their beauty and usefulness.
This is an interesting approach to watering your vegetable garden. It’s essentially a moat around each plant. For something like beans that are typically quite close, it doesn’t make sense. For something like indeterminate tomatoes though, this could be an effective method.
Basin-watering similar to how I water my young fruit trees. When you plant your tomatoes, dig a circle around the plant about two feet in diameter, several inches deep. Then, every time you water your tomato plant, you simply fill the basin with water. This insures that the plant is watered deeply, and that the water does not simply run off. It also helps with reducing fungus diseases and blight that often occurs when water sits on your veggies.
Mulch, Mulch, Mulch
This may be the most important part of maintaining a happy vegetable garden and a happy water bill. Mulch! With 2 to 4 inches of mulch, your soil moisture retention is greatly increased. During the hottest weeks of summer, your plants will thank you for keeping their roots a little cooler Weeds seeds aren’t as likely to germinate, which is great since they take up valuable water for your veggies. If you don’t mulch, start. You’ll be surprised at the overall health increase of your plant.
The most common types of mulch are wood chips, but there are other options too: mowed grass, straw, (avoid hay to avoid weeds) or thick amounts of pine needles. Over time, these mulches will break down to become soil. When choosing a mulch, decide how often you’re willing to re-mulch. Wood chips will break down much slower than mowed grass, for example. Some mulches will add nutrients and organic matter to your soil more quickly though. When possible, I mulch with bunches of fallen leaves. Earthworms eat the leaves quickly, so I have to mulch more often than if I use wood chips but my soil is improved more quickly.
Best of luck, and Happy Gardening!