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How to Water Garden 101

By January 20, 2014 January 23rd, 2016 Irrigation & Watering, Uncategorized

How much should you be watering your garden through the season?

The First Two Weeks After Planting Your Garden

Keep the top 1/2″ of your soil moist for the first week after planting. This may mean hand watering your garden every day for a couple minutes, or even watering twice per day if the weather is really hot. If you’re using a hose, use a very gentle “shower” setting at low pressure to ensure that you don’t displace any seeds on the surface—many of which are only 1/8” under the soil. No need to water a lot, just enough so the top 1/2″ of soil is moist. Put your finger in the soil to test that it’s moist about ½” down. After the seeds have germinated and the plant roots have gone deeper into the soil, it is ok to reduce the frequency of watering to just once per day.

After Plants are 2-3” Tall

Reduce your watering to just once per day. If you’re watering by hand, water the soil so it is wet about an inch deep. Push your finger into the soil one inch to test the moisture level. We suggest watering again when the top inch of soil has dried out. Ideal soil moisture should feel like a moist wrung-out sponge— not muddy but not dry and crumbly.

Irrigation Tips

  • When temperatures are above 90 degrees, watering twice per day is recommended.
  • Water your plants if they show signs of wilting. A little wilting is ok in the afternoon, but too much wilting can stress and stunt plants.
  • The best time to water is two hours before sunset, or in the morning when the water won’t evaporate as quickly.
  • If you are watering by hand, we suggest watering your bed two or three times over, letting the water sink into the soil instead of flooding it all at once. A deep soaking is the best way to water when your plant roots are established.
  • Another way to test your soil moisture is to take a handful of soil and press it into a ball. If it crumbles immediately, it is too dry. Poke the ball with you finger—if it crumbles or breaks apart it is probably the right moisture. If it stays in a muddy ball after poking it, the soil is too wet.
  • Let your hose run for a minute or two before watering your garden until cool water comes out. The sun heats up the water in the hose during the day and the hot water isn’t good for your plants.

Urban Farm Company Irrigation Systems

The Urban Farm Company has a unique system of drip irrigation and sprayers that comes into the bottom of our gardens and blankets the top of the soil with both drip emitters (two per square foot) and two sprayers to ensure evenly moist soil for high seed germination. These times are approximate, and may need to be adjusted depending on your unique backyard micro-climate. Check the moisture level of the soil every week or so as the weather changes, to make sure you are not over- or under-watering.

Once your seeds germinate, you have the option to turn OFF your two sprayers if you feel that you don’t need the mist spray any longer. If you have tomatoes, squash, or cucumbers planted in your garden, we recommend that you turn off your sprayers once your seeds have germinated. To do this, follow the 1/4″ irrigation line from the sprayer itself back to the 1/2″ header at the top of your bed. Where the sprayer line meets the header line, you’ll see a small black valve with an arrow on it. Turn the valve so that the arrow runs perpendicular to the irrigation line.

Suggested Irrigation Times For Urban Farm Co. Drip Systems
***These times are approximate. Always check the soil by feeling it! If it’s too dry, add one minute per day. If it’s too wet, reduce 1 minute per day.

  • In the spring and fall (April, May, September, October):
    • If to your spigot, set your timer for 7 minutes, once per day
    • If connected to an existing line, set your timer for 5 minutes, once per day.
  • In the summer (June, July, August):
    • If connected to your spigot, set your timer for 12 minutes, once per day.
    • If connected to an existing line, set your timer for 9 minutes ­­­­­­once per day.
  • In the winter (October through March) disconnect irrigation from hose and bring timer inside for winter. Hand water every 2-4 weeks as needed to keep soil from drying out completely.
  • In the first two weeks after planting:
    • Supplementally hand water with a gentle setting on a garden hose or watering can to make sure the surface of the soil stays evenly moist and you get good germination.

To change the timer, turn the circular dial to whatever setting you want to change, and use the (+) and (-) buttons to toggle up or down. For example, turn the dial to “Watering Time” and press + to increase the watering time. Or, turn the dial to “Clock Time” and use the keys to change the clock time. When you are done adjusting the timer, turn the dial back to “Run” so it runs every day. If you want to turn the drip system off, turn the dial to “Off”. It is important to keep your spigot turned on low so the pressure doesn’t break the timer when it runs every day. Official instruction manual and warranty information can be found here.

How to Build A Drip Irrigation System: Drip Irrigation Guide.

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6 Comments

  • Edie says:

    I’m looking to built my own drip irrigation system for my garden. What is the flow rating for the emitters you use? Any other resources or tips for achieving even moisture with drip irrigation systems would be wonderful!

    • The flow is actually determined by the pressure going through the line! We usually set our pressure reducers at 25psi, which would put out .63 gallons per hour. Even moisture can be done with sprayers, but once the plants grow the sprayers typically hit the plant leaves and don’t evenly wet the soil. Lot’s of drip emitters is your secret! (Some people use soaker hoses, but they tend to break down in the sun after a couple years).

  • Roam Clarm says:

    Should we set-up a fog maker and water the garden whole the day. It’s not waste water but keep the garden (soil) humid

    • The Urban Farm Co. says:

      I would not recommend setting up a fog maker. While plants want consistent soil moisture in the garden, if they have too much humidity, they can tend to get diseases or viruses (depending on the plants). Summer and winter squash, for example, will get powdery mildew if the relative humidity around the plant is too high. Most annual vegetables are happiest if they have consistent soil moisture for their roots to tap into, but if they have good airflow around their leaves. And you don’t want to over do it with water, consistent moisture means that you want your soil to consistently feel like a moist, wrung out sponge (moist, but not wet). Hope that helps!

  • Scooter says:

    HI, excellent information to have! Would you recommend any irrigation supply companies in particular? (small raised bed setup). Thanks!

    • The Urban Farm Co. says:

      Hi there! Yes, we use CPS here in Boulder/Denver for a lot of our fittings and pipe, and then for some of the smaller pieces like sprayers, barbs, and tubing we use Dripworks, an online retailer. Thanks!

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