Watch the Water
By Dianne Venetta
No matter how you “till it,” maintenance comes with the job of gardening. Oops. I mean the joy of gardening. Yes. Joy. And gardening is a joy—especially when the business of upkeep is kept to a minimum. I don’t know about you, but watering is not my favorite time in the garden. It’s boring. Necessary, but boring. I much prefer harvest time. But I won’t get to harvest, if I allow weeds free reign to take over my beds. And they will. If given the chance, these wild greens will take over your entire garden space without so much as the first drop of water or sunshine. I have several of them growing under my weed paper, to prove it!
Not that it should dissuade you from using the stuff—by all means. Nine out of ten times it works. Line your walkways, line your borders—cover any unused beds with paper. Don’t have any paper? A heavy layer of mulch will do. Think: hay, pine straw or pine bark, to name a few. Eventually, these natural materials will also supply you with a “pseudo” compost effect as they break down into the soil. I do like a multi-tasker.
Speaking of multi-tasking, you have other concerns to ponder as you stroll through your garden, admiring your lovely green growth. Like water. Without a good watering system, your plants will not appear lovely, lush, and beautiful. They’ll appear more like toast. Crumbly brown and no good to anyone. Even the bugs will leave them alone! Finicky little beasts. However, spraying water via your sprinkler is not preferred. It’s better to incorporate a drip line or soaker hose within your garden. Not only does it keep water off the leaves—important in the case of fungus-susceptible squash and tomatoes—it minimizes evaporation.
Speaking of evaporation, if you must resort to a sprinkler system, be sure to water in the early morning hours or late afternoon/evening. This will reduce the amount of water lost to the atmosphere. For those consumed by a busy schedule (or beauty sleep), utilize a timer. It’s convenient and consistent. And never forgets. Unlike some gardeners I know.
Another good idea for keeping your plants moist and happy is to form a well around their base. This will direct as much water as possible to the plant’s roots and avoid runoff down those sweet slopes of your raised bed. You are gardening with raised beds, aren’t you? It’s a must for success.
Also, that mulch you used in lieu of paper will come in handy for maintaining your soil’s moisture, too. How will you know that your plants are moist enough? Dip your finger into the dirt. If it’s moist, you’re good. If not, increase your water. And remember: some plants require gobs of water, while others don’t.
“Know What You Grow” is my motto. Read your labels, buy a book, ask a specialist at your garden center and keep in mind, consistency is the key. If faced with a choice, choose to water deeply, less often. Why? Because deep watering encourages deep roots, and deep roots make for strong plants, and strong plants are able to handle big fruits. A good thing!
Harvest will be here in no time!
About the Author
Award-winning author D.S. Venetta lives in Central Florida with her husband and two children. It was volunteering in her children’s Montessori school garden that gave rise to her new series Wild Tales & Garden Thrills, stories bursting with the real-life experiences of young gardeners. Children see the world from a totally different perspective than adults and Venetta knows their adventures will surely inspire a new generation to get outside, and get digging.
When not crafting her next novel, D.S. Venetta hosts a garden blog, Bloominthyme.com, where she demonstrates just how easy and fun gardening can be! Additionally, Venetta has been featured for her gardening advice on various websites, including GalTime, EarthEats, eHow, IdealHomeGarden, Huffington Post, and the cookbook Earth Eats: Real Food Green Living. Passionate about organic gardening, her dream is to see a garden in every school, library, and community.
You can read Dianne's "Gardening Life" column on the 2nd Wednesday each month here at Pandora's Box Gazette.