How do you keep this garden well watered and make sure you don’t make any classic watering mistakes? You’ve probably done all of them and it can be pretty heartbreaking when you lose a plant that you put so much care into. So today we’re going to do five watering mistakes you’re probably making. And if you’re not, hopefully this video will help you avoid them in the future and just get a deeper understanding of watering in general. So let’s go ahead and get cracking.

MISTAKE NUMBER ONE

The most classic mistake, watering at the wrong time of day. Now, before we get into the right time of day, the first question, and the first answer is the best time to water your plants is when the plants need water. So if they’re struggling, it doesn’t really matter what time of day you water because it’s better than not watering at all. But given that your plants are doing okay, the question then becomes, okay, well what time of the day is best? And so the best in order is going to be early morning, right as the sun’s coming up. Then late afternoon, early evening, and then evening. So in early morning, let’s say you’ve got a bed of beans, and some tomatoes as well. Beans are a pretty shallow-rooted plant and so by watering in the early morning, we’re allowing water to actually penetrate the soil, get into the subsoil, start getting absorbed by those shallow-rooted bean plants. And then they’re going to be nice and turgid or full of water as the day progresses. So they’re much more resistant to any sort of large swings in temperature. They’re going to lose less water because they have more water and they’re not going to wilt as much. Just, it’s just a much better scenario for those bean plants in general, and that’s going to apply to pretty much every plant in the garden.

So if you can afford it or if you’ve got your drip system or your soaker system set up in a way where it’s automated, it’s really good to hit the garden early in the morning. It’s kind of also just a nice way to start the day. You’ve got your coffee, you’ve got your little water wand, whatever the case may be, and you’re just hitting the garden in the morning.

Now next best is going to be late afternoon, early evening, and you can see a trend here. We’re just trying to avoid watering in the heat of the day and that’s just because so much of that water is going to be lost very quickly to evaporation or if it’s windy, it’s going to sort of evaporatively cool off the, the surface of the soil. So just avoid the heat of the day and at the very, very last resort would be watering in the evening. The evening is going to be okay because it’s not going to evaporate. You’re still going to get that penetration into the soil and the subsoil. So it’s going to be able to get used by the plants’ roots, but at the same time it’s not going to evaporate at all. And also you really have to be careful about watering over the top of your plants, which brings us to our next mistake.

MISTAKE NUMBER TWO

It’s not the best idea to water directly over the top of your plants.

Now, this isn’t as big of a deal as most people say that it is in the garden, but we are going to go into a couple of different ways to solve this and why it’s a problem in general. All right, why is it a bad idea to water over the top of your plants? It’s a bad idea to water over the top of your plants for a couple different reasons. First of all, it’s a somewhat wasteful use of water. You’re going to be just throwing a lot onto the foliage of your leaves and your plants, and there’s only so much they can take through their leaves via the stomata. They’re much more efficient at taking up water through the root system, so it makes a lot more sense to use a targeted tool or a drip line or a soaker hose and actually water at the base, at the soil surface. Now there’s other reasons as well, you know. Plants that are susceptible to disease. It’s going to be a really good idea to not splash soil all over the place and having a large spray coming from above can throw little bits of soil, which is where a lot of these fungal pathogens live. And then voila, all of a sudden now the plants that were just fine are all of a sudden diseased and starting to die off. So not a good idea there as well. Honestly, I will say that this mistake is slightly overblown. Certainly fall crops are a little bit more tolerant of being watered over the top of because they’re acclimated to be growing in the fall where weather usually turns a bit. And honestly, even summer crops like tomatoes and beans, they can handle overhead watering earlier in their life. When they start to fruit that’s really when you want switch to either drip, soaker, irrigation or hand watering with a water wand.

MISTAKE NUMBER THREE

The holy grail of mistakes – is either overwatering or underwatering your plants. This is a mistake that you’re either going to come on the high side or the low side of, you know. Either you’re loving your plants to death or you’re being a little forgetful or perhaps not understanding the way that water works its way through the soil or your container and making a mistake on that side. So first of all, let’s tackle underwatering. You can oftentimes think you watered well enough and it actually feels in your brain. I dumped water all over the bed. And then you realize actually not much of that water actually permeated down into that subsoil.

For underwatering, the biggest mistake you’re probably making is you’re simply not checking after you water how deep it actually went down. And so once you check, you actually will get an understanding, okay, if I water this bed for a couple of minutes, it ends up getting about three to four inches down and that’s actually what I need. So I would really recommend after you water, dig down and check it out. Now let’s talk about overwatering. The flip side to the problem we just talked about is watering too much. And oftentimes this comes when we’re talking about container gardening because they don’t really have a drainage hole. So signs of overwatering. Very, very obvious signs. Root rot is probably the most obvious, although that’s below the soil. So sometimes that’s hard to tell. If you are a houseplant grower, you know you’ve probably overwatered your plants before and had root rot. I would highly recommend first of all, do that finger test. Bury your finger down in, get a sense of how wet the soil is, two, three, even four inches deep before you commit to watering again. But what you’re going to find when you have overwatering is certainly root rot. There could actually counterintuitively can be some wilting. And then also leaves can start to yellow. So if you think you’re not suffering a nutrient deficiency, there’s no pest or disease issue, but you’re still having plant problems that are similar to the ones I just described, chances are you might be overwatering. And so again, I would say it’s much more common in these smaller containers if you’re a container gardener to overwater than it is in a raised bed because oftentimes a raised bed has nice drainage at the bottom. And even if you just dump a whole lot of water in there, it still will run out. That’s still not good. You’re still probably leaching that soil of nutrition, but it’s better than flooding the bed. And so I say if you’re a container gardener, just really, really watch out for overwatering.

MISTAKE NUMBER FOUR

Watering all of your plants the same way regardless of what they are, regardless of where they are in their life cycle and regardless of the method that you’re using to grow. So a seedling, what does a seedling have? It has a very shallow root system. It’s just starting its life and it is relatively sensitive and it is really not penetrating too much of that soil. So let’s say we went ahead and put a little system on drip irrigation with emitters. Well that might not be the best idea because the way that a drip emitter works is you’ve got your drip line like this and then there’s emitters every x amount of distance. But that puts out a plume of water in a specific spot, which seedlings aren’t robust enough to have their roots seek that out. They need water right where they are. And so that’s why if you’re not going to hand water, another good option could be to use something like a soaker hose because that’s going to emit water throughout the entire length of the hose. It sort of seeps out or soaks out as the name implies, and that’s going to irrigate much, much better. So seedlings, when you’re watering, you’re going to want to water right next to them. Make sure you give them enough and you do have to sort of baby them a little bit, right? Those roots aren’t that deep. The top surface of the soil of course is what dries out first. So you do have to come in and make sure you give them some water. With the soaker hose, you can see the water just oozing out across the entire length of the soaker hose and that’s exactly what we want. And if you’re doing it really well and aligning it perfectly, you could just align it along your rows really smoothly. It works a lot better in larger beds. This would be advantageous as compared to running a drip line through a system like this because each of the little seedlings is getting water pretty much exactly where it needs it.

What do we do after our plants have gotten past that seedling phase? Or maybe we’re growing a plant that’s actually producing fruit. It makes a lot of sense to increase our watering during this phase. They’re using more water, they’re sucking it up and they’re holding it in these big fruits. And so we’re going to need to increase our water during that phase.

And then you’ve got plants like leafy greens that you can sort of water the same way you would normally water because we’re just growing those for their vegetation. So all you need to do is make sure you water enough for nice healthy vegetative growth and you’re good to go. But for something like a tomato or plants that throw out a ton of fruit, watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, these sorts of things, you really do have to modulate up that watering as they get into that fruiting phase.

MISTAKE NUMBER FIVE

Our fifth and final problem when it comes to watering, which is actually a problem in many aspects of gardening because it’s so important, is not using mulch. It almost doesn’t even matter what you use as mulch provided that you actually use it. Mulch in general, there’s a whole host of benefits outside of watering. But basically what it does is it locks the water into the soil that you’ve already watered. So if you’re watering on bare soil, especially if it’s a little bit more porous mixture, it’s going to evaporate out relatively quickly. Whereas if you provide maybe an inch or two, maybe even three or four inches, depending on your style of gardening of wood chip mulch, this type of top coat, a more fine mixture, straw, uh, shredded newspaper, pine needles, all that type of stuff is going to help lock in that moisture and actually protect the soil in many more ways besides just the issues of watering. And so not using mulch is a huge problem in gardening in general, but certainly a problem when it comes to watering. So here in my potato bed you can see it’s not a lot, but it’s enough of straw mulch to just protect these hills. And it just keeps a little bit more moisture in than would normally be kept and it’s just a really cheap effective way to lock in moisture.

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