Water is a garden’s lifeblood. Getting water where it needs to be in a garden is a major consideration.
Watering a vegetable garden is always a challenge. As much as we love to garden, we often must admit we get a little lazy when it comes to supplying water to the garden. One method of giving your plants and seedlings water is by hand watering. You simply fill the watering can and purposefully give each plant a drink. This has become my preferred method of watering.
Benefits of Hand Watering
Although hand watering is more time consuming and labor intensive there are some real benefits in the garden.
Examine Your Plants
One benefit of hand watering is you are actually able to see how the plants are doing on a regular basis. You have to be physically present in the garden to hand water.
In the past, I tried the “stand at the edge of the garden and spray in water” technique. Standing at the edge of the garden allows you to see some plants close up, but not all. Later, when I would enter the garden to pick veggies I found over-ripened and giant vegetables, insect or fungal problems. Getting up close and personal allows you to keep better track of weed growth also.
More Evenly Watering Plants
Hand watering allows you to more evenly water plants. Standing at the edge of the garden doesn’t allow you to see the plants in the back. Now, I realize one does not need to firmly plant (excuse the pun) their feet to water the garden. Moving from side to side certainly is possible. However, plants can be damaged by dragging a heavy hose around. Hand watering allows you to regulate how much water each plant gets. You can be sure each plant is actually getting water.
What About Other Types of Watering Systems?
Last year, I tried a sprinkler oscillating hose in my vegetable garden. It had some problems. It was easy to turn the hose on and walk away. You will not know until later how much water each plant got. The plants near the sprinkler do well and those farther away do not. With a standard garden hose, you actually have a better idea of where the water goes.
With both the hose and sprinkler methods, there are other downsides. There is a lot of water lost through the sprinkler or garden hose through evaporation. This is definitely not an efficient use of a precious resource. You waste far less water through hand watering.
Another method of watering is a soaker hose. These hoses have tiny holes allowing water to seep out at the base of the plant to get to the roots. Water better reaches the plant’s roots which are the plant’s organ that absorbs water. Most plants do not absorb water through leaves. In fact, top watering can actually cause some fungal diseases to develop. Evaporation of water from leaf cuticles does not benefit plants. This is also another benefit of hand watering. You can make sure water is given where it needs to be.
Another hose method of watering is a drip hose. With this method, you lay out the hoses and put drip lines to feed specific plants. Drip hoses are not the same as soaker hoses.
The drip hose method uses feeder hoses from a main hose to get water directly to the roots and to specific plants. This method conserves water and is beneficial to plants. I bought a drip hose starter kit to use this year. However, there are a couple of reasons why I didn’t.
I increased the size of my garden to accommodate pumpkins. I love growing pumpkins. However, they take over everything. With the increased size of the garden, it might have been too much to use a drip hose.
However, the biggest reason I didn’t use this method, was that I didn’t get around to buying the supplies when the garden was planted. That’s how I started hand watering and realized its benefits.
This season the Upstate New York area has had very little rain. Many parts of the Northeast are still in a drought situation. Hand watering is conserving water in any situation while benefiting your plants.
Other Ways to Keep Moisture in the Garden
Besides watering gardens mulching is a great way to keep the soil moist. Two to three inches of mulch around flowering plants helps retain moisture and reduce evaporation. There are a variety of mulches for purchase for your desired color and landscaping decor. Whichever you choose, be sure to use enough around the plants for best results.
Tip for Moisture Control: Mulching around a vegetable garden isn’t recommended. Instead use landscape fabric to control both weeds and minimizing evaporation. Landscape staples, available at a local hardware store keep the fabric in place. The fabric can be placed between rows after planting. It can also be laid down with slits cut into it for placing bedding plants like tomatoes and peppers. Either method works.
Give hand watering a try. Depending on the size of your garden a variety of methods might help. Share with us what you do to keep your garden growing.