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How to water a veggie garden

 
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You name it I have tried it.  I was just wondering how all you amazing gardeners water you prize veggies.  I think one of the hard things about this topic is it isn't a one size fits all answer.  Depending on where you are water is totally different.  I grew up in Washington State, where I had amazing water but didn't know it.  I remember when I moved to N. California and was introduced to hard water. It was incomprehensible to me, how on earth can water be hard?  Well I know now, boy oh boy do I know now.  We have a well, and super hard water.  I have a drip system on my roses.  I have to check every dripper when I water my roses.  Crawling on my hands and knees under 30+ thorny rose bushes to check, and clear drippers, you could say watering my roses is not my favorite job.  So it is a no go for me doing a drip system in my garden, though I have thought of setting up the tiny sprinklers on the drip line.  I wonder how quick those would get clogged up.  Last year I tried two type of soaker hose.  One normal size soaker hose, and one mini soaker hose that attaches to drip line.  It might have been some other factor, but the veggies in the two beds I tried this just didn't do that well.  I would leave it on until the soil was wet a finger length into the soil.  I just don't know.  I also have to replace the soaker hose every year.  That brings me to sprinkler.  easy enough, but if you don't want to get the leaves wet, and I don't, this isn't a very good method.  Watering by had is very time consuming, and how long is long enough to stand and water each plant.  Right now I'm using, I don't know what it's called goes onto the hose it is a rectangle with lots of small holes.  The water comes out gentle enough not to knock over the veggies, gets most of the raised bed and doesn't spray high. This isn't hard, but it is time consuming, and I have to be careful not to get the leaves wet, and make sure the entire veggie bed gets plenty of water.  If anyone has any watery words of wisdom I would love to hear them.  Thanks.
 
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Yeah Jen- i agree on the hard water, really hard to use.
I always find rainwater is the best  .... our water is quite hard too (town is on a water well) and not great for plants. At my dads, where the well water is even harder, we used to water the gardens from a sump pump in the river and use rainwater and melt snow in winter for indoor plants- the water is so hard the indoor plants die if they are watered exclusively from the tap!

I use an old fashioned sprinkler, have never shelled out the money for a soaker soaked hose. I put a  can in the garden to make sure I water at least an inch of water, and adjust the tap to only turn it on enough to cover the width of the beds. If there is a drought, I manually water from the hose instead of a sprinkler. I don't worry about getting the leaves wet, but tend to water in the evening.

I plant all my bushes and trees in a divot to catch water, and sometimes plant my main vegetable gardens in shallowly hoed rows to catch water. I see a lot of people who grow things in the top of mounded soil, then water every day but I grew up in drought prone Alberta and dislike watering, so I plant in a divot. I tend to water every 2 or 3 days if it doesnt rain at the beginning of the season, then once a week after that.

I once read a Mother Earth News article that suggested drilling a hole near the top of a rain barrel and inserting a hose with a screen attached to a soaked hose in the hole. The idea was that the soil can usually absorb more water than it gets in a rainstorm, so once the rain barrel filled, any overflow went to the garden. If you have soaker hose, it might be easy enough to put on some sort of a quick connect that would allow you to leave it connected to the rain barrel when not used, then switched to the tap water when you are manually watering? I have never had a garden close enough to the house or down hill from the house to try this with though.
 
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I saw someone featured on Prairie yard and Garden who used a Homemade PVC drip system for their dahlias (google prairie yard and garden dahlias, check the first YouTube result at about 7 minutes 30 seconds). it was just a hose adapter connected to 10’ long PVC pipes with drilled holes. Looked easy enough to assemble and create and might tick all your boxes.

Edit: misspelled yard as year. Fixed.
 
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Jen,

So I used to use drip line irrigation, specifically from Dripworks.com.  I mean I have dug literally hundreds and perhaps thousands of feet of drip lines all running from the faucet on the side of my house.

I now use very deep woodchips and my drip lines just sit unused.  I had heard about how deep roots in good soil obviates the need for watering but I never really understood how that could work until I started using deep woodchips.

When I say deep, I mean at least 1 foot of chips with healthy additions each year.  After the chips start to decompose, they really do soak up water and veggies can grow during some pretty dry periods.  Now I live in the humid Midwest and you live in California so our definitions of dry periods are going to mean different things, but at the very least, deep woodchips should at least be able to buffer the effect of drought.

At this point I cannot imagine not growing in woodchips, not can I imagine taking a hose out to water my crops either.

I hope this helps,

Eric
 
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In general I don't need to water, but last may/june we had less than an inch of rain and this May has been the same, June does not look any better. We use city water which is hard but not hugely so, and I use a hose pipe and for the strawberries a sprinkler. Water costs about $8 per 264 US gallons. it is not something I really want to put on the garden very much, ONLY annual veg, strawberries and any new perennial get watered everything else is encouraged to get it's roots down to the chalk and suck it up from there.

When we put this years strawberries in we decided if we had another dry spring/summer then the ones we put in in the autumn will have drip tape under the plastic, the sprinkler has to be moved 4 times to cover the beds and ends up watering a lot of grass that really doesn't need it as well.

I cannot use rain water as I sell vegetables, and while I could collect rain water for potatoes and my own herbs etc it would be very hard to prove I wasn't putting it anywhere else.
 
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Skandi Rogers wrote:I cannot use rain water as I sell vegetables, and while I could collect rain water for potatoes and my own herbs etc it would be very hard to prove I wasn't putting it anywhere else.



Why in the world can you not use rainwater on vegetables you are selling?  Is there a high amount of pollution there?

Since I began my raised bed adventures (and actually several years before), heavy mulching has eliminated most of my watering needs.  I do tend to water new transplants for a few days and will water anywhere I have planted seeds if nature hasn’t watered it.  My rainwater catchment system is primitive, consisting mostly of my daughter’s wading pools scattered in the backyard and a 15 gallon container where I store it until needed.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Michelle Heath wrote:

Skandi Rogers wrote:I cannot use rain water as I sell vegetables, and while I could collect rain water for potatoes and my own herbs etc it would be very hard to prove I wasn't putting it anywhere else.



Why in the world can you not use rainwater on vegetables you are selling?  Is there a high amount of pollution there?



No very little pollution in fact, but all water for vegetables that are commonly eaten raw must be drinking quality water. I could use rain water on potatoes, parsnips and winter squash (now I think of it I think they are all that I grow that is not eaten raw!)as no one commonly eats them raw but it would be hard to prove where each bit of water was going.
 
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I also only water when we are deep into drought (the rest of the time, things in pots get watered from the rain barrels, using a watering can. it is time consuming, but i need the exercise and the break from work). As mentioned above, because of sun damage i would have to replace soaker hose or drip line every year, so I just go with heavy mulch and a sprinkler a few times a week when we are really, really desperate for water. I think this summer I maybe used it 10 times max.
I also have other plants in pots that get the ol' high tech dripper: a 1 liter bottle with a hole poked in, filled with water and with the lid so that the water drips out slowly over the day. It takes time to fill and set up but I can use water from the rain barrel or kitchen greywater. Again, heavy mulch means that my big tomato plants can get that every other day unless it's crazy hot and windy.
 
pollinator
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I thought that one could get a inline filter for use with drip irrigation. That might help with the clogging emitters. But often it depends in which way your water is hard. Around here, it varies tremendously. Some people have sulfur water, which isn't good for drinking, but the plants don't care. Others have high boron water, which is fine for drinking but kills the plants.

I use sprinklers, hand watering and makeshift ollas. I utilize wood chips in some areas and hugelculture beds in others. Currently, I use both rainwater and well water. I'm not a big fan of drip irrigation. I find it very fussy. Sprinklers make it easier to keep the areas around the houses moist and green for better fire protection.
 
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I'm confused about the rain water thing.
Unless you are growing inside a building those vegetables will be watered with rain directly  from the sky.
Is it contamination during storage or collection process  that's the concern?
Are you expected to use food safe grade hoses as well?


I keep a bunch of old pieces of hose and barbed fittings for tying my container gardens together.
Very cheap and easy to use.
So instead of a "real" drip system or a soaker hose  maybe try regular hose with holes poked into it.
No need to clean clogged holes,  just poke a new one.
"New" hoses are available for free every year,  from the garbage.
 
Skandi Rogers
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William Bronson wrote: I'm confused about the rain water thing.
Unless you are growing inside a building those vegetables will be watered with rain directly  from the sky.
Is it contamination during storage or collection process  that's the concern?
Are you expected to use food safe grade hoses as well?



It would be contamination from the roof or storage, wells have to be checked every year if you use one. And yes water hoses have to be food safe. I rather suspect that drip hoses are ignored by the powers that be, and probably sprinklers etc are also a gray area that is thankfully ignored. I guess it may be possible using UV filters or some such (not chlorine that is not allowed in drinking water) to treat water from the roof, but that would also require inspection and documentation my gut feeling is that it wouldn't pay back since watering is not a very common thing here.
 
Michelle Heath
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Skandi, it sounds like Denmark is more concerned about the quality of water than the US.  I'm in a rural area where just about everyone has a well or cistern.  My best friend growing up had iron water so bad you couldn't stand to drink it, while two miles away we had sulfur water which smelled like rotten eggs.  The well water here was pretty good but we opted to get on the municipal supply when it became available which was good because the well pump died a few months later.  Sometimes the water out of the tap reeks of bleach and honestly I won't drink it.  



 
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My long term plan is to build up the organic matter in my sandy soil so that I can store as much rainwater in the ground as possible

Short term plan is watering from the well onsite.  I'm transitioning away from drip irrigation which was finicky.  The drip holes eventually clog (due to hardness precipitate or sediment?) and I lost several crops because I didn't notice.  It's an insidious failure mode because there is a drip hole every 12 inches, and I have 1400 feet of drip tape.  Unless you walk every foot of tape and inspect for dry spots, you miss noticing the clogged holes.

Also replacing the tape after 2-3 seasons generates an unsightly pile of plastic trash for the landfill.  

So this weekend I went and bought three impact sprinklers, the kind you use for watering your lawn.  They connect with a garden hose, and three of them inline can cover my entire 3,000 square foot vegetable garden.  I plan to use it to germinate direct-seeded crops, then selectively turn it off once the plants get established.  Keeping the soil mulched with shredded leaves really retains moisture.  The key in my garden is to nurse the tiny plants along until they can send down roots to get the water that's down a foot below the surface even when the top is dry.
 
Michelle Heath
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Davis Tyler wrote:The key in my garden is to nurse the tiny plants along until they can send down roots to get the water that's down a foot below the surface even when the top is dry.



Davis, this is exactly my philosophy.  I'm using shredded leaves this year out of necessity and what a difference it makes.  The only issue I've had so far it that they tend to mat up a bit in places where I've mulched heavily (potatoes).  I'm combating this by going through with a handheld garden fork and fluffing the leaves a bit before a rain.  In my new beds, which are about 30 days old, I'm already noticing lots of worm activity.  

I actually forgot that there's an old well about 50 feet away from my garden.  Now I need to figure out where that bailer went.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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S Greyzoll wrote:I saw someone featured on Prairie yard and Garden who used a Homemade PVC drip system for their dahlias (google prairie yard and garden dahlias, check the first YouTube result at about 7 minutes 30 seconds). it was just a hose adapter connected to 10’ long PVC pipes with drilled holes. Looked easy enough to assemble and create and might tick all your boxes.

Edit: misspelled yard as year. Fixed.



Thank you everyone so much.  I think I will try a combo of suggestions.  I want to try the one S Greyzoll pointed out.  It does seem like it would solve the problem.  It seems like it will be cheap.  My son works for the family water pump business and he said we could set that up no problem.  I thought we would set that up first, and then put the mulch on top of it.  That way there would be less water evaporation, and the sun wouldn't brake down the PVC because it would be covered.  I also have some olla I did DIY with terracotta pots.  I made several last year, but only used two on the top of my hugelkultur.  I think that is everyone, except a rain barrel, this sadly wont work for me.  The barrels are expensive, and our annual rainfall is 22"  Most of that is in the winter.  I usually don't have to water my winter garden.  I have decided to set out all my buckets and tubs if we are predicted to get an odd shower and use that in the garden, why not doesn't cost anything, and it wont be enough to be heavy.

I want to mulch my veggie garden, I keep saying I'm going to do it, but something holds me back.  I was suppose to get wood chips from the tree service who has given me chips for the last 3 years.  This year I asked if they could let me know if the trees they bring me have been sprayed, because if they have not I would like to use them in my veggie garden. I told them if they have been sprayed I would still take them, but would only use them in the paths.  they told my no problem they would let me know.  I would get chips sooner then later.  That was just before we were in lock down, so it's not surprising I haven't gotten any chips.  I bought a bale of straw, and have some left, but it did sprout on my hugel, so I don't know if I want that in my garden.  I can get rice hulls super cheep, but they are so lite I worry they will just blow away. I do have a ton of volunteer gourds growing on my hugel I left them to use as a living mulch, I could use leaves from that.  What about the pine chips you can buy for pet bedding, does that have bad chemicals in it?  It isn't that expensive, I could buy that.  I hear lots of people using leaves, and we have a ton of leaves in the fall, but they are walnut leaves, and I tend to leave them on the ground to help the walnut tree, plus I worry about using walnut leaves in my garden.  I guess I hesitate in the beginning of my growing cycle because I start a lot from seed, and don't want the mulch to keep the seed from poking out of the ground.  Then I get caught up in my head on what to use, and end up not using anything.  This year I need to stop thinking and start doing.
Thank you everyone.  You have all been very helpful.

 
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:

S Greyzoll wrote:I saw someone featured on Prairie yard and Garden who used a Homemade PVC drip system for their dahlias (google prairie yard and garden dahlias, check the first YouTube result at about 7 minutes 30 seconds). it was just a hose adapter connected to 10’ long PVC pipes with drilled holes. Looked easy enough to assemble and create and might tick all your boxes.

Edit: misspelled yard as year. Fixed.



Thank you everyone so much.  I think I will try a combo of suggestions.  I want to try the one S Greyzoll pointed out.  It does seem like it would solve the problem.  It seems like it will be cheap.  My son works for the family water pump business and he said we could set that up no problem.  I thought we would set that up first, and then put the mulch on top of it.  That way there would be less water evaporation, and the sun wouldn't brake down the PVC because it would be covered.  I also have some olla I did DIY with terracotta pots.  I made several last year, but only used two on the top of my hugelkultur.  I think that is everyone, except a rain barrel, this sadly wont work for me.  The barrels are expensive, and our annual rainfall is 22"  Most of that is in the winter.  I usually don't have to water my winter garden.  I have decided to set out all my buckets and tubs if we are predicted to get an odd shower and use that in the garden, why not doesn't cost anything, and it wont be enough to be heavy.

I want to mulch my veggie garden, I keep saying I'm going to do it, but something holds me back.  I was suppose to get wood chips from the tree service who has given me chips for the last 3 years.  This year I asked if they could let me know if the trees they bring me have been sprayed, because if they have not I would like to use them in my veggie garden. I told them if they have been sprayed I would still take them, but would only use them in the paths.  they told my no problem they would let me know.  I would get chips sooner then later.  That was just before we were in lock down, so it's not surprising I haven't gotten any chips.  I bought a bale of straw, and have some left, but it did sprout on my hugel, so I don't know if I want that in my garden.  I can get rice hulls super cheep, but they are so lite I worry they will just blow away. I do have a ton of volunteer gourds growing on my hugel I left them to use as a living mulch, I could use leaves from that.  What about the pine chips you can buy for pet bedding, does that have bad chemicals in it?  It isn't that expensive, I could buy that.  I hear lots of people using leaves, and we have a ton of leaves in the fall, but they are walnut leaves, and I tend to leave them on the ground to help the walnut tree, plus I worry about using walnut leaves in my garden.  I guess I hesitate in the beginning of my growing cycle because I start a lot from seed, and don't want the mulch to keep the seed from poking out of the ground.  Then I get caught up in my head on what to use, and end up not using anything.  This year I need to stop thinking and start doing.
Thank you everyone.  You have all been very helpful.



Hey Jen, I’ve heard that the pvc conduit is less prone to sun damage. It’s more expensive than standard pvc, but might be worth researching and pricing out if it might last longer. Also I don’t know what your garden and property system is like, but I just mulch with my grass clippings from mowing. I mulch between planted rows until seedlings are 4” or so then add mulch around the seedlings too. As long as the gras you’re trimming hasn’t gone to seed you shouldn’t be introducing grass seeds to your beds. I don’t have chips or hay available cheap, but I’ve got endless amounts of lawn clipping.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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My son bought and made a pvc sprinkler system for one of my raised beds.  I love it.  We were going to do all 6 raised beds, but I decided to wait because the fitting for the hose is not quite 7.00 just for that.  That is just more then I can spend right now.  So we decided to just get one.  The elbows, and T's he got in bulk, but they weren't to bad cost wise, and my nephew had the pipe that was left over and wasn't going to use.  Then my son wouldn't let me pay, so 0 cost for me.  It took about 10 minutes to build.  I am super happy with it.  Everything in that bed will get watered at one time ground level.  Now all I have to do is mulch it and that bed is easy to keep watered.  I probably wont do all my raised beds at once, but will probably do them all over time.  buying a 7.00 fitting now and then fits into the budget easier then 40.00+ right now.  Thank you everyone, and special Thanks to S Greyzoll, time will tell, but this seems like it is going to work.
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I feel that what works for one person might not work for another depending on a lot of different things.

Where we used to live years ago is the same zone that I live in now though the differences are like night and day.  Temps and rainfall are different.  Water evaporation is different.

Whether you use mulch or don't, etc.

This is a great topic!

My garden beds are about 6' x 6'.  I have a sprinkle set in the middle of the bed with a garden hose attached.  When I want to use the sprinkler I attach the regular hose to the sprinkler hose.

When I was waiting for the plants to come up, I used the watering can as to me it was easier to carry it out there than attaching the hose to the sprinkler.

We have tried all kinds of watering devices from a drip system, soaker hoses, etc.

So use what works for you.

What I am having problems with is how long to water and how often.  I have always dealt with drought resistant flowers so I did not need to water often.

My only crop this years are potatoes.  The flowers are just doing their thing.
 
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