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A soaker hose snakes through a young vegetable garden. Fresh mulch helps keep in the moisture.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Every plant has its own light, space and water requirements. Supply the m in the right amount and your garden will be successful.
Of the three , providing the right amount of water requires the most effort from a gardener . Particularly when it comes to vegetables, rainfall is often not sufficient to grow healthy plants.
You can, of course, just fill a watering can, but hand watering is time- and labor-intensive .
You could drag a hose to your garden, but the stream of water from a hose can be disruptive to topsoil and, unless you have an attachment to control the water pressure, also wastes water.
A more efficient way to water your garden is to use a drip irrigation system. If you haven’t started using such a system yet, consider adding one for this year’s garden.
Advantages of drip irrigation
I love my vegetable garden, but I knew from the start that I didn’t want one unless I had an irrigation system installed for it. I know what I like to do in the garden, and hauling water in the middle of August is not high on the list.
I also believe in water conservation, and research convinced me that drip irrigation is the most efficient system for the home gardener. Studies show that well designed drip irrigation systems use between 30 percent and 50 percent less water than other methods of watering, such as sprinklers.
Drip irrigation delivers water directly to the roots of the plant, where it seeps slowly into the soil, keeping roots moist and avoiding wet foliage. Almost no water is lost through evaporation or surface runoff, and the soil has sufficient time to absorb and hold water for plants. The low volume of water delivery also helps to maintain a good balance of air and water in the soil, resulting in plants that grow better.
Because drip irrigation sends water directly to the plants you want to grow, it avoids watering between plants. The drier soil surface between plants discourages weeds from sprouting .
Plants grow more quickly and are more productive, because their growth isn’t slowed by water stress. Add mulch and you further stretch the benefits of water conservation.
Types of drip irrigation
One type of system, a drip line, uses tubes and emitters to deliver water to specific plants. The supplies are available in home centers, and can be used for any type of landscape, garden or container planting.
These systems have a higher initial cost for equipment, and require more initial setup time . But once they are laid out, your time spent watering your garden is minimal.
A soaker hose — a hose that is porous so that water sweats out of it along the entire length — gives many of the same advantages of a drip line without the high cost. Just like a drip line, a soaker hose promotes slow soaking, which prevents evaporation and runoff.
A soaker hose is the easiest and least expensive way to begin using drip irrigation. Since you just need to lay the hose on top of your soil, it’s very easy to install and to move.
Our vegetable garden uses a series of soaker hoses in the beds, hooked up to a buried line that connects to a hose bib. The hose bib is on a timer so I don’t even have to remember to turn it on. And, when we go on vacation, the timer makes sure my garden still gets the water it needs.
Also, because I use a planting method where plants are spaced closely together, I don’t have much of an issue with weeds growing between plants, so it makes sense to water the entire garden bed.
In my garden, a soaker hose, combined with mulch, makes watering easy , while keeping my plants strong and healthy.
While you’re thinking about irrigation for this year’s garden, consider adding some type of water collection system.
Rain barrels that collect rainwater from downspouts and gutters are one type of useful water storage system. Rain barrels can be used in multiples to collect more water for garden use. Harvested rainwater has the advantage of not containing chlorine, fluoride or other chemicals, making it ideal for vegetable gardens. You can hook your irrigation system to your rain barrel for a source of clean, free water.
Beyond rain barrels, many people use other types of storage tanks to collect rainwater to recycle into water for the garden. A variety of storage units are available for water collection.
Our previous house had an unused cistern on the lot, and my husband redirected one of our outdoor hose bibs to the cistern, and then ran our irrigation system off that hose bib to water our vegetable garden. It was a great way to make use of the storage tank and a way to keep our watering costs minimal.
On the blog
Got more ideas on watering gardens? Come join the gardening conversation on my blog at blogs.roanoke.com/downtoearth/.
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