In this article, you’d get all the answers you seek on how often to water raised vegetable garden. So grab a cup of coffee because this might take a while. But I promise that by the end, you’d get everything down to an art in terms of the watering schedule and frequency for your raised vegetable garden.
How often a raised vegetable garden is watered is crucial in optimizing plant growth and guaranteeing abundant harvest. You’d be surprised by the number of vegetable gardeners that treat this issue with levity. They figure that since the heavy lifting of creating the raised garden is over and done with, other things would naturally fall into place with little effort to deliver that thriving vegetable garden they desire.
Fact is, proper watering of your raised garden is just as important as setting it up. And how often you do it could be the difference between a mediocre vegetable garden and a contender for the award of the best ‘Raised Vegetable Garden’.
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How Often to Water Raised Vegetable Garden
Vegetables grown in raised gardens usually require more water. But more water can cross the line into too much water quite easily.
When it comes to the frequency of watering any raised garden bed, several variables have to be taken into consideration. Ultimately, the aim is to make sure you don’t overwater your plants or give them too little water. In both cases, the veggies would be the worse for it.
Below are the critical factors to consider when deciding how often to water raised vegetable garden:
When to water
The timing has to be the first consideration. For the most part, it is recommended that you do it once a day preferably early in the morning.
If you can’t do it in the morning, the next best time is late afternoon. Don’t do it when the sun is completely down though. You don’t want the plants to remain damp for too long as this can cause fungal diseases. A bit of the late afternoon sun and heat to dry the water on the plants is necessary.
So under normal conditions, you only need to water the vegetables once a day. But other conditions might enforce some adjustments to this basic schedule. We would discuss them in the sections below.
Never water your plants in the middle of the afternoon when the sun is at its zenith. The only exception is if you are doing it regularly three times a day using drip irrigation or some sort of automated watering system.
The is because the disparity between the heat from the hot sun and cold water can shock the veggies into distress. Besides, you’ll lose a lot of water through evaporation.
Types of veggies
The types of veggies on your raised beds would also determine how often you water. For instance, veggies with fruits above ground like cucumber and tomatoes would require more watering than root veggies like radishes and potatoes.
Then you have the succulents that can store water in their thick stems and leaves. The implication is these won’t need as much water as other plants.
The type of soil
Soil type has a direct bearing on the watering schedule. Ideally, the best soil for raised vegetable gardens should be more of loamy than clay or sandy soils. Basically, each soil type holds water differently and that determines the watering frequency. The general rule for all types of soil is never to allow it to become fully dry.
Sandy soils need more watering than clay or loamy soils because water drains out faster. So while the recommended amount of water per week should be about 1 inch, you would have to water more often to keep it at that level with sandy soils.
When the water is less than 1 inch, the vegetables become stressed, start to wilt, and eventually perish. For loamy and clay soils, the wilting points are about 2.2 inches and 1.8 inches of water per foot of soil respectively
This leads us neatly to how to test soil moisture levels. You could use any of the methods below to quickly do it.
Rain gauge – This only applies in the rainy season. Simply get and install a rain gauge on a slightly elevated area of the garden so splashing water from the ground doesn’t get into it.
Soil moisture meter – Sold in most garden stores, the device is easy to use. It automatically reads the moisture level when the probe is inserted into the soil.
Finger test – Stick your finger into the raised garden bed on non-rainy days. If the soil is dry about 1 inch below the surface, the plants need watering.
Ball test – Any soil that has reached the plants’ wilting point would not form a ball when squeezed. Simply scoop up some soil in your hand and squeeze like you want to make a ball.
If the soil sticks together when you open your fist, the moisture level is okay and you don’t have to water. But if the soil breaks, it needs watering.
The prevailing weather conditions have to be taken into account when planning the watering schedule. The weather indices that could affect your watering frequency include:
Rainfall – While rainwater is the best type of water for plants, rainfall doesn’t always imply that you shouldn’t water the garden. Depending on how heavy and how long the rain fell, it could be insufficient for the garden because some rain might be wasted as runoff surface water while some more would be lost to evaporation especially on hot days.
Again, the soil test as described above should be done to ensure the garden got at least 1 inch of water. Water the vegetables if it is less than that.
Temperature – Temperature extremes would definitely affect the frequency of watering. The water consumption rate of the crops can become more pronounced in dry, hot weather especially when this is combined with the improved soil drainage of raised vegetable beds.
So in hot summer months, the watering schedule should be tweaked to twice daily from the basic once a day. While the standard watering frequency aims for 1 inch of water per week, when the heat is excessive, however, an extra half an inch of water or soil moister for every 10°F increase in temperature would be needed.
Stage of growth
When the veggies are at the seedling stage, they don’t need too much water. But Daily watering and constantly moist soil are essential.
At maturity, you might want to cut down on how often you water the veggies. What is needed at this stage is deeper watering and not necessarily daily. And never allow the soil to get dry all the way down.
How to improve water management in Raised Garden Beds
Mulch – It is a great idea to always mulch your garden beds. This reduces the water lost through evaporation. Mulching your soil also prevents weeds from growing on the beds.
Light-colored organic mulch such as rice hulls or yellow straw would be perfect. To further reduce the watering frequency, you could add a layer of compost and worm castings on the beds before covering them with your preferred mulch.
Use liners – Line the bottom of the raised garden bed with weed fabrics, newspapers, or cardboards to help reduce the amount of water lost through drainage. Liners also help in curbing the spread of weeds.
Water the beds deeply – This ensures water sinks deep into the soil. When watering, only stop after the water forms a pool around the plant.
Some Signs of Under- & Overwatering
There are quite a few tell-tale signs that let you know that the garden beds are waterlogged or are getting too much water. These include:
- Proliferation of algae
- The soil is soggy
- The appearance of root rot disease
- The plants are not growing as expected
- Dark tips might appear on the leaves
The following vegetable symptoms are pointers you can use to quickly know your vegetables are not being watered as often as required:
- The soil gets dry fast
- Discolouration of leaves to yellow
- Wilting of the leaves and stems