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Ask Gardenerd: When to Water?

A question came in from Karen at Ask Gardenerd this week: “During these very hot summer days, what’s the best time of day to water my vegetable garden?”

Irrigation is key during hot weather in climates where rain is scarce. Here in Los Angeles, where days are topping 108° in the Valley and other inland areas, and rain is non-existent, it’s important to water regularly to keep plants happy. But when? It’s a good question.

Ideal watering times

Watering is best done before 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m. any time of year, but in the summer, before 8 and after 5. This gives plants a chance to drink up water before sun and heat hit your garden. Water during this time frame to prevent evaporation as well.

If you live on the coast water in the morning. This gives leaf surfaces a chance to dry down during the day and helps prevent powdery mildew and other coastal fungal infestations.

If you live inland  water in the late afternoon to allow plant roots to cool and absorb moisture overnight.

Ideal watering tools

Drip irrigation puts water where plants need it most.

Drip irrigation is a huge tool for saving water and delivering water right where plants need it most – the root zone! We prefer 1/4″ tubing with 6″ emitters for small-space gardens. It coils nicely through raised beds and covers root zones for bio-intensively planting crops.

Don’t forget mulch!

Mulch is another important tool for keeping water where you put it. It also helps keep roots cool and provides food for soil microbes. Put down a 3-4″ layer of mulch around plants and you won’t have to water as often.

With the three-pronged effort of timing, tools, and technique, your plants will be happier and healthier. Thanks for writing in, Karen. We hope this helps.


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Cyndii

    Is Laurel sumac poisonous?
    I am not sure what our overgrown plant is that is overgrown ing our chain link fence.
    Located in Laurel MD

    1. Christy

      The foliage is toxic and the sap can cause itching and irritation. It’s very invasive and can siphon away nutrients and water from raised beds if the roots invade those beds.

  2. Leeja

    How often to I water tomatoes in 5 gallon pots in this hot weather? I water in the morning at 7 am until the pot overflows. However, they do not even seem to shoot up (indeterminate) but are producing tomatoes.

    1. Christy

      As with many questions, the answer is, “it depends.” If your pots are black, they will dry out faster than white pots. If they are paper pots they might breathe better than plastic pots. So the best test is your finger. Stick your finger in the soil all the way, and check the tip when you pull it out. If there is moist soil stuck to your finger, the pot doesn’t need water. If it’s dusty and bone dry, give it some water. Tomatoes like to dry down between waterings. I water mine every other day, but I’m on the coast. If you are inland you might need to water every day. The finger test will help you get a better sense of your specific needs and you can move forward from there.

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