Vegetables need adequate and consistent water to grow well. Most vegetables are 70-95 percent water, and they need to get all that from somewhere. When it comes to watering your vegetable garden, we have found that a drip irrigation system with an automatic timer is the best way to achieve the consistent watering that crops require. A drip irrigation system, while a little more costly and time consuming to install than say, a garden hose, will end up saving you time, water and money in the long run.
Drip irrigation is a system of narrow plastic tubes that deliver water at a slow rate directly to the surface of the soil. Since the water is emitted slowly, it has time to soak into the soil, rather than run off or through the soil. A properly installed and monitored drip system will deliver just the right amount of water with very little waste. Once installed, its is largely hands-off, although you will want to check the moisture level of the soil every week or so as the weather changes, to make sure you are not over- or underwatering. A weekly moisture check and 30 seconds updating your timer settings will ensure proper watering all season long.
Drip irrigation can also provide useful when planning your garden. We always seed and transplant along drip lines, so that we have consistent germination and water sent right to the emerging plant roots.
One of the most important benefits is that, once you have a drip system installed and operational, you can spend your garden time weeding, planting and harvesting rather than just standing around with a hose. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to keep up with seasonal garden tasks with the watering component off the to-do list.
Drip irrigation systems can seem complex, but all you need for a vegetable garden is something simple, easy and inexpensive.
Many companies sell drip irrigation kits for small gardens that include everything you need to build your system. We strongly recommend looking into these. We particularly like the DripWorks Garden Bed Irrigation Kit from Dripworks. (Do not be confused by the designation: Soaker Drip Line, this is actually ¼ tubing with emitters every 6 inches. We recommend emitter tubing of any size over soaker hose, as it tends to last much longer and water more evenly.) We also like the Drip Tape Row Crop Kit Drip tape is our favorite irrigation medium, and what we use in 80% of clients gardens, but it is also less flexible in terms of spatial arrangement.
1/4 inch emitter tubing (Drip Tape Row Crop Kit with Timer) works really well in pots, around perennials, and in garden beds formed in organic shapes.
Drip tape (Drip Tape Row Crop Kit with Timer) works well in square beds or for long rows.
For detailed instructions on how to install your own drip irrigation system, check out our book: Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard