Gardening & Living in Grand Style
Proper watering is one key to good vegetable production…
by Michael Johnson
Jun 05, 2014 | 874 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Home vegetable production – is there anything better? Well, if it didn’t take so much weeding and remembering to water and keeping the insects at bay and checking for diseases and then the worrying as to whether it’s all going to come together so you get a bountiful harvest, then no, there isn’t much better.

Of course, even with all of that you know the true joy when you sit down to eat those fresh vegetables.

Most of the time when I am talking with people about their vegetable gardens, once we get past their problems with insects and sometimes diseases, we talk about how well the plants are producing. Beyond good soil preparation, which should have happened months ago, watering and fertilizing are the keys to good production. This article will provide some thoughts on watering vegetables.

For any plant, watering isn’t as simple as having your system turn on periodically, or going out and moving the water line when you remember. For good plant growth it’s important to think about the plants you are trying to water, the surrounding plants, the surrounding landscape conditions and what you are trying to achieve with your efforts.

For most vegetables think deep and infrequent, but not so infrequent the soil dries out too much. After all, your end goal is to have your vegetable garden produce, and hopefully produce a lot. Beyond just the needs of the growing plant, those vegetables are made up of a high percentage of water. So, deep and infrequent is best, and whoever thought watering any plant for 10 to 15 minutes a day, every day, was a good idea wasn’t or isn’t a farmer, so don’t follow their example.

Most vegetable plants require consistent soil moisture throughout their lives for good growth and production. That doesn’t mean a barely survivable low soil moisture. It means a field capacity soil moisture, which means soils that are holding as much water as they can after any excess has drained out. Of course, as the plant grows you will want to increase the spread and depth of your irrigation for appropriate root growth.

When you aren’t watering well or deeply you are more likely to have soil moisture fluctuations. That can cause poor plant growth and lead to cracking or splitting of vegetables, a condition that is commonly seen in beets, cabbage, radishes, turnips and tomatoes. It can also result in browning of the blossom end of vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers. Moisture fluctuations can also cause off-flavors of vegetables such as carrots, celery, lettuce, spinach and other greens, radish, turnips, and Swiss chard.

Another consideration is that during main growth periods you should never allow your vegetables to wilt – this will lead to a decrease in yield. While I understand that people who allowed their plants to wilt at times during the season might, at the end of the season, be happy with their yield, they should know that if it hadn’t happened they likely would have had a better yield and potentially have been much happier. Right?

Finally, there are those vegetables that do reach a point in their life cycle where water should be applied less often to both improve flavor and increase storage life. Reducing soil moisture, the operative word being reducing not stopping, on cantaloupes and watermelons as the fruit ripens can improve flavor. With onions, garlic and potatoes, reducing water as the plant matures and the foliage starts to yellow or brown and fall over will limit any splitting of the bulbs and tubers, and will increase storage life.

So, I hope it’s been a good growing spring for you so far, and next time I will discuss fertilizing needs of vegetables during the season.

Thought for the day: “Gardening requires lots of water - most of it in the form of perspiration.” —Lou Erickson

Previous articles can be found on The Times-Independent website, www.moabtimes.com. Have an idea you’d like Mike to consider writing about? Want more information about these topics? Call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 435-259-7558 or email Mike Johnson at mike.johnson@usu.edu.

Copyright 2013 The Times-Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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