Keeping your garden green and healthy during the dry summer months can be challenging. You need to ensure that your plants get enough moisture to thrive, yet over watering can encourage pests, cause water waste, and even harm plant health. What's an organic gardener to do? Here are some expert tips for the perfect summer watering plan.
When should you water your summer vegetable garden?
Having a consistent schedule will take a lot of the guesswork out of watering your garden and keeping your plants healthy. Once the thermometer creeps above 85°F degrees, you should avoid watering when the sun is too high. Middle of the day watering is not recommended because the water will simply evaporate without penetrating into the deeper layers of the soil. Water needs time to seep down into the earth, penetrating the lower layers where it can be absorbed by your plants' roots. Added to this, any droplets of water left on your plants' leaves can focus the sun's rays like a magnifying glass, scorching leaves. Save your watering for the early mornings and evenings.
Signs that your plants need water
If your plants look wilted and unhealthy, they may not be getting enough water. Brown and yellow leaves are a sign that the soil is too try. Wilting tends to start at the tips and edges of leaves and petals, spreading to the rest of the plant. Plants that aren't getting enough water may grow slowly and appear stunted, potentially never reaching their full growth. Fruits may be small and wizened or may simply fail to appear.
How much should you water?
Some soils need more water than others. Sandy soil is very 'thirsty' and tends to dry out quickly, whereas soils with a lot of clay retain more water. You'll want to consider the amount of rainfall in your region and whether any other factors could influence moisture levels. If you have a low-lying garden near water sources, you might not need to water as generously. If there are large trees in your garden, especially willows or fruit trees, you may need to provide additional water in summer months.
As a general rule, your summer garden should get an inch or two of water every week. During periods of low rainfall, it's good to give your garden a thorough deep watering two to four times per week. During times of high rain or arid weather, check the soil to see if it's getting too wet or dry. You can do this by pushing a finger into the earth and seeing if it feels moist or using a digital probe for a more accurate reading. The Farmer’s Almanac has a useful chart can help you determine the appropriate amount of water for a vegetable garden.
What kind of water should you use?
Ideally, incorporate collected rainwater and recycled gray water into your summer watering plan. Take care when watering because water that's too cold can cause stress and harm to plant roots, as can water that's too hot. Be aware that water from a well can be icy cold and harmful to some more sensitive plants. Conversely, water that's been sitting in a dark-colored bucket or hose can get quite warm. You’ll want to consider the optimal temperature for nutrient absorption is between 62-72°F.
Why does overwatering a plant kill it?
While occasional overwatering probably won't do much harm, soil that is constantly saturated with water can cause many problems for the gardener. Plants that get too much water can essentially drown as their cells take up too much fluid. Even in less extreme cases, overwatered plants can develop fungal infections, which can be very harmful to plants. Wet and wilting plants with numerous brown leaves are a sign of overwatering. Overwatered plants may also develop edema (swelling), drop yellow leaves, or show other root rot signs.
Proactive disease prevention
By the time you can see root rot, mold, or other fungal infestations, it may already be too late to save your plants. That's why it's vital to get ahead of the problem with safe, organic solutions. A product like Earth's Ally Disease Control can stop infections before they start. Our broad-spectrum fungicide uses natural ingredients like citric acid to kill bacteria. Because it's organic, it's safe to use Earth's Ally Disease Control right up until the day of harvest.
You can also fight disease and other issues by applying a layer of mulch around your plants. Mulching helps to conserve water and protects your plants against fungal infections in the soil. Regular mulching can help stop root rot and prevent other fungal issues, balancing soil moisture levels, and protecting your plants. You can buy commercial mulch or make your own from natural materials.
If you're serious about setting up an organic garden that will produce delicious crops and beautiful flowers all summer long, develop your watering plan. Share your gardening tips and photos with us using the hashtag #EarthsAlly.