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I Knew That ...

This week’s blog comes from the department labelled, “Things I knew, but didn’t think of”. The news flash is “different plants have different water needs”. I knew that would get you. But now for the “but didn’t think of” part. Move from landscapes to gardens.

Different plants have different water needs. For a few years I have been studying and increasingly applying a concept called companion planting. This is a concept where you try to put different plants together that are complementary while keeping plants separate from other plants that do not tolerate one another. It seems like a simple idea and it is based on good evidence. But it gets complicated in application. I thought I was making pretty good progress on the idea until this week.

This week, the concept got a lot more complicated and the results will reverberate around in my garden for a while. Different plants not only have characteristics that need to be matched to adjacent plants. You also need to consider water needs. My water system does not easily adjust to different water needs of adjacent plants. I tried to design it to allow for adjustments but there are still some challenges. I am working around the challenge this year, but next year this insight will affect my garden planting layout.

What are some common guidelines on garden watering. The table below is a collection of information I have gleaned from various web sites as I tried to understand water needs. You will be able to find lots of opinions and guides on the topic, these are just a few that I try to summarize what I have found.

Strawberries 1 to 1-1/2 inches Per week apply when dry

Raspberries 1 to 1-1/2 inches Per week apply when dry

Onions 1 inch One or two times per week

Lettuce 1 /3 to 1/2 inch Every other day

Peppers ½ inch Every 3 days

Peas 1 inch Per week

Tomatoes ½ inch Every other day

Corn ½ inch Every other day

Carrots 1 inch Per week

Green Beans 1 inch Per week

Potatoes 2 inch Per week

Cucumber 1 inch Twice per week

Squash 1 inch Twice per week

Zucchini 1 to 1-1/2 inches Twice per week

Cantaloupe 1 inch One or two times per week

One inch of water is about equal to ¾ gallon. One inch of water should result in soil moisture down to ab out four to five inches deep.

As you can see, some garden plants have similar water requirements, but others are strikingly different. In general, a good soaking less often is preferable over watering every day. But with some plants there is a need for frequent water. Watering early in the day is preferable and applying water at ground level instead of sprinkling is highly preferable.

With my water system, I have discovered that I need to think about water compatibility as well as basic plant compatibility. There are so many things to learn.

A couple a years ago, a popular politician made a comment about farmers suggesting that they didn’t have to know much because, how hard can it be to throw a few seeds in the ground and wait for the harvest. Having grown up in an agricultural community, I found the comment to be incredibly underinformed at best. Agriculture is a complex business with about a million variables. It is a miracle that it works.

Fast forward to my current gardening efforts and I can say confidently that gardening is complex and there is a lot to learn. I am making mistakes all the time. I would rather learn while I have the comfort of buying what I cannot produce rather than waiting and hoping that I can produce when I can no longer buy. When the stores are empty is not the preferred time to start learning.

I hope that many of you are at least starting to garden with whatever bit of ground and energy you can commit to the work. In my experience, the limitation on gardening is generally one of energy and commitment rather than available dirt. We are almost at the point for many plants that it is too late to start. But if you haven’t started yet, you can still get some harvest if you get going right now.

If you have questions or useful garden information, add a comment to this post.

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