In dry weather it is better to water less often but thoroughly than frequently and lightly. Light watering simply encourages roots to grow near to the surface and these will immediately suffer in dry weather whereas deeper roots have a reserve to draw on. It takes time for water to sink through the soil. Check by pushing a finger into the ground: it can look very wet on the top and feel bone dry only a short way below the surface. It is at a deeper level that roots need water.
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The exception to the above rule is when watering seedlings which have just been planted out, as they can take up only a little water at a time and will need daily but light watering.
Watering based on type of vegetable
Leafy vegetables need a lot of water throughout growth.
Fruiting vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers benefit most if they are watered well when flowering and when the fruits start to swell.
Root vegetables should need little watering in the early stages unless it is very dry when, if they are not watered, subsequent heavy rain could result in the roots splitting.
Some methods of conserving water
- Dig in organic matter, which helps to conserve water in the soil.
- Mulch plants to stop the top layers of soil from drying out.
- Water around plants, but not on any surrounding bare soil. This simply encourages weeds to grow.
- Use a length of special flat watering hose with small holes in it. Where possible keep this in place beneath the mulch.
- Protect plants from wind which quickly dries out the soil’s surface.