Fruit and Vegetable Gardening Guide

This how-to guide gives you the basics on starting your vegetable garden, whether you have backyard space to spare or a small spot ready for containers.

Watering Your Garden

Water is essential and is at times in short supply.

Water

Photo: Oxmoor House

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To make it through the good times and bad, encourage deep rooting by having loose, porous soil and keeping your garden covered with mulch to minimize water loss through evaporation. Drip irrigation, a method of trickling water from tubes slowly and directly onto the surface of the soil, is recommended for gardeners in drought-prone areas. It’s beneficial because no water is lost to evaporation or runoff.

A good rule of thumb is that gardens need about an inch of water each week. However, this measurement doesn’t take into account variations in water use due to temperature, humidity, and how close plants are spaced from each other, so you may need to tweak this to fit the needs of your garden. By regular observation, most gardeners quickly figure out which plants wilt first, which is a useful indicator when you are first learning watering cycles. Ideally, you should avoid stressing the plants: Apply water before the soil dries out. Wet the soil thoroughly to encourage deep rooting, and then avoid watering again until it’s needed. Overwatering can be just as detrimental as under-watering.

The same principle applies when watering containers, although container-grown plants will need water more often than in-ground plants. Be sure to water containers until you see water spill from the bottom of the pot to ensure the soil is thoroughly moist. When the weather is hot, they may need water daily. Mulch will also help conserve moisture in containers: Use small bark nuggets; they’re easy to turn into the soil at season’s end to enrich it further. Also, mulch herbs with small pea gravel; it protects foliage from soil splatter and is helpful in humid climates.

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