Right, it’s getting drier and drier – the rains we’ve had in Newtown, Wellington the last month have mostly been less than 4mm, which isn’t quite enough to really wet the soil and make my edible oasis thrive. So at the moment, I’m watering about twice a week. I’ve discovered over the years that proper watering makes a huge difference in yield and thus my satisfaction – not just how much water the plants can access, but also how you provide that water for them.
Here’s how I’m going about watering my edible oasis:
- I’ve got good equipment: a hose attached to town supply (ideally it would be to the rainwater tank, but we’re renting and on a flat area so it would be difficult to have enough pressure) and a watering wand like this one.
- First time, I measured my water flow / pressure by simply counting the seconds it takes to fill a 10 liter bucket or watering can.
- I angle the wand so it sprays upwards rather than down wards, holding it at about head height. The droplets fall gently like rain instead of being sprayed onto the soil with high speed, so I avoid erosion and surface compaction.
- I water each square meter of vegetable beds and the soil immediately around them for as long as it took to fill the 10 liter bucket. Aiming for 10-20 liter of water per square meter, knowing that food plants consume 5 liter per square meter per day, I adjust the quantity to how often I water.
- To be able to make the water penetrate and limit run-off and erosion on the beds, I water a little, move to another spot, go back again, and swap between the two or three spots.
A few further tips:
- Frequency: If you water everyday, a little bit, the plants will grow shallow roots and won’t survive a couple of days without you tending them. If you water a lot, more rarely (1-2 times/week), their roots will go deeper down and you can get away with a whole week without watering.
- Mulch: Always mulch in summer if you can find the materials. Anything works, and every material has its own inconveniences… more on this later!
- Size: Don’t spread your vege garden too widely or you’ll have a huge area to water, which also evaporates more quickly. A smaller area, very well prepared with deeply open soil (double dig it!) and a lot of organic matter will hold more water. Plants can also be planted more closely, which reduces evaporation from the soil.
- Other systems: If you choose a soaker hose or sprinkler system, which are more automatic, I’d recommend you spend some time every couple of days walking slowly through your garden, contemplating each plant and getting a feel for how they’re doing. Watering with a wand doubles as garden-connection time for me, valuable for discovering pest and disease problems before they can do any harm.