• Autumn Shultz

Not all plants are equally thirsty: a guide to watering

Updated: May 4, 2021

When should you water?

Consistent watering can be a good habit, but a better habit is feeling your soil to determine watering needs.


• Pick up a small handful of garden soil.

• When the soil sticks in your hand, and you can form a ball, it is moist enough.

• But if it barely holds together in your hand, or if the surface looks hard, baked, or even cracked, it’s time to water.


Water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off in the sun. This will help avoid fungal diseases like Powdery Mildew, Downy Mildew, and Blight.


How much should you water?

Most vegetable plants require 1 to 2 gallons of water a week.

Water deeply - to 5 or 6 inches down. Frequent light watering will just evaporate quickly and won’t allow moisture to build up in the soil and be available to plants in the heat of the day. Depending on the depth of your plant’s root system (shallow rooted plants may require more watering than deeply rooted ones) you may find yourself watering 2 or even 3 times a week in the hot Tennessee summers.


Mulch!

Adding a 2-3 inch layer of mulch (grass clippings, dead leaves, shredded newspaper, un-dyed wood mulch, or straw) to the whole top of your garden bed will maintain soil moisture by avoiding evaporation.


Watering Chart

  • Beans - When flowers form & during pod development - 2 gal./week

  • Beets - Before soil gets bone-dry - 1 gal./week

  • Broccoli - Don’t let dry 4 weeks after transplanting. Head development. - 1-1 ½ gal./week

  • Brussels sprouts - Don’t let soil dry out for 4 weeks after transplanting. - 1-1 ½ per week

  • Cabbage - Head development. Water frequently in dry weather. - 2 gal./week

  • Carrots - Early root enlargement. Before soil gets bone-dry - 1 gal./week

  • Cauliflower - Water frequently for best crop. - 2 gal./week

  • Celery - Water frequently for best crop. - 2 gal./week

  • Corn - When tassels form & when cobs swell - 2 gal./week

  • Cucumbers - Flowering & fruit development. Water frequently. - 1 gal./week

  • Lettuce/Spinach - Water frequently for best crop. - 2 gal./week

  • Onions - In dry weather, water in early stage to get plants going. - ½-1 gal./week if soil is very dry

  • Parsnips - Before soil gets bone-dry - 1 gal./week

  • Peas - When flowers form & during pod-forming & picking - 2 gal./week

  • Peppers - Steady supply from flowering through harvest - 2 gal./week

  • Potatoes - Tuber set & enlargement when the size of marbles - 2 gal./week

  • Radishes - Plentiful, consistent moisture for root enlargement - 2 gal./week

  • Squash - Water frequently for best crop. - 1 gal./week

  • Tomatoes - For 3 - 4 weeks after transplanting & when flowers/fruit form - 1 gal. 2x/week




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