Without proper watering, vegetable plants may not produce well, if at all

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Tuesday is the first day of summer, and the hot weather should arrive. With proper care and maintenance, especially correct watering, vegetable gardens will thrive. Without adequate moisture, plants will not grow well and may go dormant or die before the vegetables reach maturity.

Generally, a loamy soil holds moisture and vegetables and will require at least 1 inch of water each week. In fast-draining, sandy soil, vegetables may need 2 to 3 inches of water per week.

For most soils, deeper watering is better than shallow watering. However, young seedlings need to be watered more often and less deeply than mature plants because of their shallow, less-developed root systems. Remember that too much water on seedlings or more mature plants can rot roots and starve plants for oxygen and nutrients, also encouraging an early death.

With our dry winds, plants can lose water quickly, even if the air temperature is only in the mid- to upper-70s. Water vegetable plants before the soil becomes so dry that they start to wilt. To check for soil moisture, dig a small hole with a trowel 6 to 12 inches deep. Feel the soil to check the moisture at that depth.

There are many ways to water a garden, including soaker hoses, drip systems, overhead sprinklers and hand watering. Hand watering is probably the least efficient, because we rarely water deep enough, standing there holding a hose! Soaker hoses or drip systems can be very efficient, especially if used with an automatic timer.

Drip systems apply water directly to the plant with no waste. Additionally, drip systems do not get water on the leaves, which means there is less likelihood of disease occurring. Overhead sprinklers may contribute to disease, but are easy and inexpensive. They are not particularly efficient, often losing 30 percent to 50 percent of the water output to evaporation or wind drift.

How can you conserve water in the garden? Group plants with high-, medium- and low-water requirements and water accordingly. Apply mulch to a depth of 4 inches to keep the soil from drying out, reduce weeds, and protect plants. Work a lot of compost into the soil, because organic matter holds water like a sponge. In addition, provide wind protection. Finally, keep weeds under control, as they compete with your plants for moisture.

Enjoy your garden and decrease your workload. Plan an efficient irrigation system.

For more gardening information, contact me, 887-2252 or send e-mail to:skellyj@unce.unr.edu. Check out many useful horticulture publications at www.unce.unr.edu.

- JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/ Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.


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