Because of the recent hot, dry weather, some individuals have begun to water their gardens. Gardeners can save water and money by watering properly. Proper watering may also prevent disease problems. Two important aspects of watering are frequency and timing.
The frequency of watering is determined by soil characteristics, weather conditions, type of plant material, and other factors. In general, however, a deep watering once a week in dry weather should be adequate for most fruit, vegetable, and flower gardens. When watering gardens, water slowly and deeply.
Early morning (6:00 to 9:00 am) is the best time to water gardens when using a sprinkler, garden hose, or any other device that wets the plant foliage. When watering is completed, the plant foliage dries quickly. The rapid drying of plant foliage helps guard against the development of fungal diseases. Additionally, a morning application allows the water to soak deeply into the soil with little water lost to evaporation.
Watering at midday is less efficient because of rapid evaporation. When using a sprinkler, midday watering can also be wasteful as strong winds may carry water onto the driveway, patio, or other nearby areas.
Watering in the evening with a sprinkler or garden hose can lead to greater disease problems as the plant foliage will likely remain wet throughout the night.
Mornings and evenings are excellent times to water gardens when using a drip irrigation system or soaker hose. Watering in the evening isn't a problem as these methods don't wet plant foliage.
To conserve soil moisture, apply a mulch around landscape plantings and garden areas. Mulching reduces the rate of evaporation from the soil surface and also limits weed competition. Grass clippings, clean weed-free straw, and shredded leaves are excellent mulches for the vegetable garden. Wood chips and shredded bark are good choices for trees, shrubs, and perennial beds.
The depth of the mulch depends on the type of mulching material and site. Apply wood chips and shredded bark to a depth of 3 to 4 inches around trees and shrubs. Optimum depth in the vegetable garden ranges from 2 to 3 inches for fine materials, such as grass clippings, to 6 to 8 inches for straw.