Good Life

Over the garden fence | Properly watered plants are happy plants

Debra Grim loosens the roots of a plant as she and fellow Penn State Master Gardeners repotted hundreds of plants in April. Make sure your hard work pays off by properly watering plants this summer.
Debra Grim loosens the roots of a plant as she and fellow Penn State Master Gardeners repotted hundreds of plants in April. Make sure your hard work pays off by properly watering plants this summer. CDT photo

The recent rains have certainly been spotty and not much rain delivered, as one would suspect given the cloud cover and the rumbling.

Try some of these methods to irrigate the garden during the summer to keep vegetables, flowers and lawns in tip-top shape Dry periods are inevitable and it is better to be prepared than to try to play catchup.

I have had growers tell me over the years that a sure way to get it to rain is to set up irrigation system. Rain is free and is great if it could be scheduled so that the garden and lawns received an inch to an inch and half of water a week. It normally doesn’t work that way and, at some point during the summer, the garden is going to need to be irrigated.

There are two ways to irrigate the garden. One is overhead irrigation and the other is drip irrigation. If you are on a city/municipal water source it is important to remember that when you water your garden you are also being charged for sewage processing even though your water is not going into the sewage system. This means that it is a good idea to be as efficient as possible in watering the garden.

Overhead irrigation can be accomplished using a wide variety of irrigation sprinklers. They come in all shapes and sizes. The important thing is to put a container out in the wetting pattern so as to measure when you have applied an inch of water or, if you are watering three times a week, then one-third of an inch for each application. Otherwise you will not know how much water you are putting on the garden and may be wasting water.

Irrigate in the morning. This way you will not lose as much water to evaporation and it will give the plants a chance to dry off. It is not a good idea to water at night because the plants will go into the night with wet foliage, which can encourage the development of diseases. Irrigation systems can be placed on timers, which is handy once you figure how long it takes to apply an inch of water to the garden.

Drip irrigation is a method of applying small amounts of water, often on a daily basis, to the plant’s root zone. I am not referring to soaker-hose technology, which is manufactured from recycled tires and from which the water oozes out of the many pores in the hose. I am referring to drip tube or tape in which openings are spaced usually for the home garden at 12 inches apart and the water literally drips out.

There are several advantages to using drip irrigation:

It may require less than half of the water needed for overhead sprinkler irrigation, saving dollars.

High levels of water management are achieved because plants can be supplied with precise amounts of water and no applications are made between the rows or other nonproductive areas. No use watering the weeds in the row middles.

Diseases may be lessened because foliage remains dry.

Activities such as planting, pruning, and harvesting can continue in the garden while you water.

Fertigation can be used as a means of introducing soluble fertilizers efficiently to the roots through the drip irrigation system.

Soil erosion and nutrient leaching can be reduced.

There are drip irrigation kits that can be purchased. If you Google “drip irrigation kits” you will find several different kits.

Remember that water is a precious commodity, so use it wisely and thank Mother Nature when we have a gentle soaking rain.

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