This year, the City of Columbia is raising water rates during the summer months to encourage water conservation. This may impact community gardens to a great extent. The Community Garden Coalition and others have worked with the City to successfully create an exemption to protect some community gardens from the highest water rate tier.
Regardless, we all want to make the best use of the water we use and not waste it. Following are some tips for efficient and effective use of water.
Most plants need about an inch of water a week. In very hot and windy weather, they may need two inches of water in a week. Raised beds will need more water than regular garden plots.
It is best for the plants to water deeply once or twice a week. This will encourage the roots to move deeper into the ground and will make more efficient use of the water in the soil. When you are starting seeds, it will be necessary to keep the soil moist, so you may need to apply water more than once a week until the plants are established.
Many of our soils in central Missouri are high in clay content. Adding organic matter will benefit plants and also increase the water holding capacity, making better use of water. Compost is one of the best ways to add organic matter.
Applying water to the base of plants will make the best use of water. Ideally soaker hoses or drip irrigation is the most efficient, but that is not practical in most of our community gardens. Directing water to the base of plants will help in water conservation. It will also keep water off the leaves of plants and reduce the chances of diseases.
Watering in the morning is better than watering in the evening as leaves of plants will have a chance to dry off during the day and will reduce disease development.
Mulching plants will help conserve water. Leaves and grass clippings and straw make good mulch and can be turned into the soil in the fall to improve organic matter. The Community Garden Coalition provides some straw during the season. (Ask your garden leader if you don’t know how to obtain straw.)
To make watering easier, group plants that require the most water together. These include lettuce, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers and cabbage. Group plants that require less water together. These include beans and corn.
At some gardens, there have been times where water was left on all night, soaking the garden plot and running onto other plots. This is very wasteful and we hope you will make an effort to see that this doesn’t happen at your garden. If you find water left on and unattended, it’s best to turn it off.
Water is essential for plant growth. The CGC and garden leaders want you to be successful in growing your garden and encourage you to use the amount of water needed for plant growth. Following proper watering techniques will result in the best plant growth and production.
Prepared by guest contributor Don Day with assistance from members of the Community Garden Coalition board of directors. Don is a garden leader of the Broadway Christian Church Community Garden