Garden Essentials: Access to Water

This week's topic is a little more applicable to gardens that are not close to your house or building. Your garden is located somewhere else: you rent a plot at a community garden or your plot is located far from the house. 

All gardens are going to need to water during the growing season. Rainwater is best, but it is not delivered reliably. You can have periods of drought and it can wipe out your vegetable garden. Your plants will dry out and die very quickly!

Water is a challenge because it is heavy and difficult to transport. Your garden needs a lot of it through the season and in most cases, it's impractical for the gardener to carry enough water to keep the crops growing well. 

Your choices are:

  • Access to a water system (e.g. your home's supply or municipal water system)
    • A water hydrant is connected to the water supply, usually by underground pipes.
  • Collect water such as a rainwater collection system. 
    • The water can be pumped or gravity-fed to the garden through a hose

If you are considering a community garden, be sure to understand how the garden provides water. It should provide water. The water should be close by so it's not too difficult to lug a hose to your plot. Consider how difficult it might be to uncoil and recoil the hose.

Sturdy Hose and Nozzle

Ideally, you want the water source hooked up to a long, sturdy hose. The hose should have a durable, metal nozzle. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it needs to work consistently and it should not to leak at the join point. It's really annoying when the nozzle has leaks!

Personally, I prefer the "wand" type nozzles. They extend your reach, and it's a bit easier to direct the water close to the ground when you're standing. You don't have to crouch or reach.

It's nice to have a nozzle or wand that has its own shut off - that is, it isn't on when the water is on at the hydrant. It's handy to be able to stop the water as you are watering. Ideally you should be able to control the flow from the nozzle, too. 

Irrigation Systems

Irrigation systems are automated systems connected to a water source that you can program to water your garden. They require equipment, set up, and maintenance. They can be expensive. Drip irrigation systems are popular for home vegetable gardens - they use less water by supplying water slowly (at a "drip") right to the roots of the plants. Evaporation is reduced. 

Systems like this usually aren't permitted in community gardens. 

But you can install one at your home if you desire. It can automate the watering process, which can help your plants get the water they need consistently. 

How to Water

When watering your garden, spray the water gently close to the surface of the soil. You don't want to soak the leaves of your plants, as the excess water can promote some types of plant diseases. You also don't want to splash the soil or mulch too much because the soil or mulch will cling to the lower plant leave and again, possibly promote disease.

It takes time to water a garden well. Sometimes you can multitask by setting the nozzle at a trickle and resting it near the root of a plant. While the water slowly soaks in, you can pull a few weeds, prune a leggy tomato, or any other garden task. 

  • Tip - use your smart watch or smart phone to set a timer so you don't get distracted with your tasks after you've laid down the nozzle. You don't want to flood one section of the garden, and only give a sip of water to another! This will help you water more evenly and use your maintenance time at the garden efficiently. 

By watering near the surface of the soil close to the plants roots, the water can seep in quickly, right at the root where it's needed. When it seeps in the soil quickly, less water is lost to evaporation.

Water is as important to the successful vegetable garden as long hours of sunlight. It's very important to provide your crops the water they need to thrive. Consider water access thoughtfully - when the access to water is easy, watering becomes a smooth and painless maintenance task. Your crops will reward you with a lovely harvest!


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