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The Pueblo County Extension office provides assistance and programs for citizens in five main areas: Agriculture, Horticulture, Family and Consumer Science, Natural Resources and 4-H Youth Programs.

Irrigating the Vegetable Garden   arrow

sprinkler head in lettuce gardenIrrigation in your vegetable garden is a critical consideration to make if you want to have healthy, productive plants that produce delicious harvests. Letting your vegetable garden get too dry can result in small yields, and poor-quality produce.

Even though vegetable gardens need to be irrigated regularly, there are techniques you can use to conserve water and irrigate efficiently.

Water needs change depending on the crop, and the weather, but generally speaking vegetable gardens need ¼ inch of water per day. If you only want to water every other day, you would apply a ½ inch every two days. Checking your soil for moisture is a good way to tell if you are watering enough. You want to water when the top two to four inches of soil are dry.

There are many methods to irrigate your vegetable garden. You can use sprinklers to irrigate, but it should be a different zone than your lawn since water needs are not the same. This is not the most efficient way to irrigate since much of the water will be applied to the plants instead of the soil where it is needed. Also, water splashing on leaves can encourage the spread of disease.

Hand watering is another option. You will be able to focus the water at the base of the plant, and you will be out in the garden every day so you can stay on top of any problems that may arise. The downside is that hand watering is very laborious and time consuming.

Drip irrigation is a great way to irrigate a vegetable garden. Water is slowly applied right to the roots where it is needed, and you don’t have to take the time to go out and water every day. The downside is that it can be time consuming and expensive to set up, and there will be maintenance involved.

To conserve water and help with soil health, vegetable gardens should be mulched. A mulched vegetable garden can reduce water consumption by up to 50%. Grass clippings straw are great options for mulch in the vegetable garden. Be sure the clippings you are using are free from herbicides or other harmful chemicals, and that the straw is weed free. Wood chips are not a good mulch for the vegetable garden. They take many years to decompose, and during that decomposition process they will be tying up nitrogen that your plants need to grow.

No matter the irrigation method you choose for your vegetable garden, you will surely be rewarded with a bountiful harvest of fresh, home grown produce.