How Much Water Does Each Plant Need?
Most backyard vegetable gardens are over watered, this means by watering plants properly, we can grow food with less water. The side benefit to proper irrigation is growing a “better” gardner. A better gardner that grows a stronger plant able to defend itself against pest and diseases, a plant that produces higher quality fruit, higher yields and fruit that tastes better. Of course natural systems are complex and interconnected and it’s helpful if we can understand the many “levers” that operate the system.
As discussed in this movie, the amount of water for your garden, depends on your soil type, weather, location and most importantly, the health and vigor of your plants.
Strategies for Improving Water Efficiency
Drought Tolerant Varieties
For each plant type, select varieties that require less water such Sonoma County Master Gardeners list of drought tolerant vegetables or plants listed in this article in The Sacramento Bee. When selecting plants keep in mind “drought tolerant” and “heat tolerant” are different attributes of a plant.
Days to Maturity
Crops needing fewer days to mature require less irrigation before harvest and often produce higher yields. (Days to Maturity Table)
Growing cool season plants in warm season is usually unsuccessful, wastes a lot of water, to produce low quality food with undesirable taste and texture.
Review Classification of Vegetable Crops by Rooting Depth in order to determine the frequency and intensity of your watering schedule.
Critical Watering Period
Vegetable plants do not need the same amount of water throughout the season. Fluctuate your watering based on the development stage of your plants and be sure to deliver sufficient water during critical growing period.
Sources of Drought Tolerant Seeds
Petaluma Seed Bank (associated with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) has over 1,200 heirloom vegetable seeds, many with low water needs. Simply go to their website and enter “drought” in the search field for a list like this.
Bountiful Gardens is a good sources of open-pollinated vegetable seeds, is associated with John Jeavons and their website has a section of drought tolerant vegetables.