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Too Much Fuss over Watering Technique?

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BackyardBirdGardner
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Post  erbarnett 3/26/2011, 9:21 am

Mel and other horticultural experts have empahasized the importance of not wetting the plant foliage when using a water hose or watering bucket. Supposedly, this technique reduces the possibility of the vegetable plant getting a fungal infection or other disease.

It rains, doesn't it? It also snows, sleets, hails, and drizzles. In the summer and fall, frequent heavy dew coats the plants in the morning. I have noticed that my plants seem to perk up after a heavy rain. They seem to enjoy the water, but not when it starts to puddle up. Are we making too much of a fuss over the proper watering technique? Shouldn't we just make sure the plants get the proper amount of water, and not worry too much about the the way it gets the water?
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Post  Blackrose 3/26/2011, 9:23 am

I've been thinking the same thing. I hope someone here can explain it. Good question!
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Post  Megan 3/26/2011, 9:28 am

Part of the concern is splashback--when the force of the water coming down splashes soil back onto the leaves of plants. Dousing with water from a pail will do this. So will a heavy rain. I had a few problems with rain splashback last year. From what I understand, this is one reason that it's recommended to remove lower leaves on tomato plants.

That's all I've got on that one....maybe someone else will have more. Very Happy
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Post  boffer 3/26/2011, 10:08 am

I'm with you, but here's my understanding

1. like Megan said, splash back onto the plant with soil borne diseases
2. in hot climates, drops of water on the plants act as magnifiers and the plant gets burned.
3. in hot climates, folks are very careful to give their plants plenty of ventilation so they dry out quickly, I guess nasty mildew kinda stuff happens if the plant stays damp.

Where I live...pffft! A couple years ago, I had my best tomato harvest ever. I had indeterminate tomatoes intertwined with beans and cukes. It was a jungle; harvesting was a bear. The automatic yard sprinkler would come on in the morning and blast that jungle from about 6 feet away for 20 minutes. I did most everything wrong, and got a great harvest. No disease or bug issues.

I have to assume that a lot of the watering problems are caused by the climate.

@erbarnett wrote:I have noticed that my plants seem to perk up after a heavy rain.
A lot of folks say that; I don't know for sure why that is.
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Post  FarmerValerie 3/26/2011, 10:21 am

First, rain water is not what most used to water their plants, so that is a variable.

Second, some plants don't like to take a shower every day, my tomatoes hate it, but when it's been dry I rinse them off, we are in the country and it gets dusty out here.

Third, plants like cabbage and califlower really should not get water down in the plant if at all possible, I know if it rains some will get down there, but if too much gets down there they could rot.

Climate does have alot to do with it, it gets in the 90s here in NE TX by May, humidity is usually int he upper 90s too, spraying them with 55 degree well water could shock them, so water temp is another variable.

I do spray some, but the ones that I don't spray are actually doing better this year, the temp of the water has alot to do with it, I believe that. I am going to install drip errigation as soon as I can (I grow for food for the year for my family) but I am also considering several hoses to sit in the sun and warm or rain barrels with sun warmed water to water with.

Also, Mel stated in his book that the biggest reason to dip water was so you were out there, up close and personal with your plants. I'm not going to get down and inspect for stray weeds or grass when I'm spraying...... I do notice more when I'm down there one on one with them.

Oh, and I've read that some plants should not be harvested when wet, like beans and peas.


Last edited by FarmerValerie on 3/26/2011, 10:22 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Add last sentance.)
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Post  walshevak 3/26/2011, 10:31 am

Lightning regenerates nitrogen in the atmostphere and the soil. Maybe that has something to do with it.

Kay

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Post  Blackrose 3/26/2011, 10:32 am

All valid points!

A couple of questions though...

If it's warm and sunny enough, wouldn't that help to allow extra water on/in the plants, like broccoli and cabbage, evaporate to some degree and prevent rotting?

Is the cold water from the hose too much of a shock to the plants? If so, that is another case I can make to DH to get a rain barrel.

Last year I used the hose with a long adjustable wand on it. It has 7 or 8 settings on it. I would usually use the "light shower" or "mist" setting to water. Mist took longer, but it stopped the soil from splashing up on the plants. I could see how that may be a waste of water through evaporation while watering now though.

All of these variables are frying my brain!! I would really like my SFG to be 100 times better than last year.
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Post  FarmerValerie 3/26/2011, 10:54 am

@Blackrose wrote:All valid points!

A couple of questions though...

If it's warm and sunny enough, wouldn't that help to allow extra water on/in the plants, like broccoli and cabbage, evaporate to some degree and prevent rotting?

Is the cold water from the hose too much of a shock to the plants? If so, that is another case I can make to DH to get a rain barrel.

Last year I used the hose with a long adjustable wand on it. It has 7 or 8 settings on it. I would usually use the "light shower" or "mist" setting to water. Mist took longer, but it stopped the soil from splashing up on the plants. I could see how that may be a waste of water through evaporation while watering now though.


Blackrose, don't stress, it's not worth it, believe me I know. A bad back, too much "nevermind I'll do it my self, and stress landed me on the couch or in bed for almost 4 months last year, from July till the end of October, that's growing season.

In our area we have full sun on every box by 10AM, until the sun sets. In high summer that's 8 hours of TX sun. Throw in 90% humidity, and temps in the mid-high 90s and your plants are steamed before you pick them. I need to water twice a day here, but watering in the AM sometimes will kill my plants, so they get dip method and only 1/4 of a 16 oz container, and a prayer. The sun will magnify the heat through the drops. There were times when I turned the hose on low, set it in a box, weeded/tended the next box, and then moved on, rotating tending and watering.

If you have a disease on one tomato plant there is the risk of water spray spreading it. Not sure how much, not even sure how true that is, but that is what I have been told. Since I am growing to feed my family (and extended family) I'm not willing to risk it.

I read in both SFG books that the cold water could shock the plants, I have noticed through personal curiosity that plants that get warm water do tend to do better, however a blast with the hose when rain is sparce does help. I set it on mist or light spray and water from above (gets tricky when doing vines) like the rain does, so the water goes down, and then I have to time it right so they have time to dry before night fall.

As for cabbage, I read if the water gets down in that tight little ball, it's there. So, I'm over cautious, also my husband is not 100% sure this method works, so this is my way of showing him it does. I try very hard to stick with Mel's methods so I can make improvements-like getting rid of my now warped beyond reccognition landscape timbers and graduate to cinder blocks filled with MM. Hopefully with all the money we save on food, I will be able to do that this fall or next spring. My garden is a test, if it works hubby will be 100% on board and the needed improvements will not be a cost, they will be an investment.

As I said, don't stress over the little things, do what you can as you can, if you need to use the hose, do it. I have 24 boxes of various sizes, I will be using the hose from time to time, I do not want to spend 4 months on the couch again, watching my garden go to heck.
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Post  FarmerValerie 3/26/2011, 10:59 am

@walshevak wrote:Lightning regenerates nitrogen in the atmostphere and the soil. Maybe that has something to do with it.

Kay

Kay, yep that does have something to do with it, and all the other wonderful things floating around up there that the rain pulls down. One more reason for me to pull out my 3 barrels and "act" like I am making a watering system. That usually is the motivating factor in getting things done here. Like the time I pulled out the camode that would not flush, took the toy out and left it sitting by the back door........
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Post  erbarnett 3/26/2011, 11:45 am

I have learned so much from this forum. Here are a few more comments:

Splash back is not much of a problem with Mel's Mix. It absorbs the water so quickly.

I don't think the temperature of the water is that critically important. I have been in some heavy summer rains, and the water can be cold. The plants seem to prefer natural water to tap water, but I have no reason why this would be so.

I just think that if you keep the soil healthy with good compost every year, rotate the crops, buy only disease free plants from the nursery, and keep the plants in full sun with good ventilation...then you will get no fungal diseases.
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Post  BackyardBirdGardner 3/26/2011, 12:25 pm

My 2 cents is simple. I've watered from the top and plan to continue doing so. I water with impunity. I agree that rain and nature do it so why worry about it. However, I don't expect anyone to feel sorry for me if I succumb to disease after disease someday, either.

I just don't have the patience to set a bucket out in the sun with a ladle in it and water so diligently. I'm not retired yet or doing this as a full time job. I think it's better to water under the leaves. If you know it causes problems, why not avoid them? Again, though, I just don't have/dedicate the time to do so.....and, therefore, gamble a bit.

I will say this, though. Rain water is FAR more effective than any hose watering no matter the method. It may be the chlorinated water vs natural water. But, wow, I can dump inches on my lawn and one little tenth of an inch rain does better.
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Post  FarmerValerie 3/26/2011, 12:33 pm

I think this is one of those things where you do what works for you. I'ts my/your garden, if you want to dip water, drip water, spray water, then do it, it's not like the SFG police are going to show up and shut you down. It's like Paula Dean says, first time you try one of my recipies do it just like it says, then adapt it to fit you and your family's taste. It's just one of those things not worth getting excited about.
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Post  Patty from Yorktown 3/26/2011, 2:16 pm

Beware of long black hoses sitting in the sun. That water can get hot enough to burn. However it is a great way to take a shower while camping.

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Post  Goosegirl 3/26/2011, 8:39 pm

@Patty from Yorktown wrote:Beware of long black hoses sitting in the sun. That water can get hot enough to burn. However it is a great way to take a shower while camping.

Patty in Yorktown

That one's a nasty surprise when you try to drink out of the hose! Very Happy
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Post  Old Hippie 3/26/2011, 9:37 pm

My garden isn't that big that I can't water by hand. I like to do it because it gets me in there with my plants and I notice bugs or disease much sooner than if I just turn on the sprinkler. It is a total destresser for me. I too don't think it is necessarily a bad thing to get water from overhead. As several have mentioned that is what happens when it rains. That may be okay now and then but if that is the ONLY way the plants get watered, then it could become a problem, particularly for curcurbits which start to decay if their leaves get wet all the time.

Some cities have so many chemicals in their water that plants don't seem to like so it makes sense to use rain water, that has been warmed. Apparantly, watering the plants with really cold water from the hose, shocks the plants in the same way that it shocks you when you take a shower in cold water. Most of us don't like that and supposedly plants don't either. Whether that is true or not, I don't know. I know it is more comfortable for ME, when I am watering if I get water on myself, if the water is a bit warm.

A big reason for watering by hand for me is that less water is wasted. When I was a kid growing up in southern Saskatchewan, we had a huge garden in order to provide food for the family. Water in that part of the country was scarce. we didn't have lawns and sprinklers. Mom and Grandma used water from dishes, baths and laundry to water. We had a cistern to save rain water and it was used sparingly. That is how I learned to garden. Water was too precious to waste.

I have noticed when I used the sprinkler to water my plants or even when it rains, if the plants are big and leafy, sometimes the water only gets on their leaves and not down at the roots where it is really needed. When I water by hand the water gets where it does the most good and less of it is lost to evaporation.

And it is FREE. I don't have to pay for rainwater. Instead of letting a valuable resource run down the drain I am making use of it. This also helps to ease the strain on our sewer systems.

It is a personal thing. Don't sweat over it. You can only do what you can but for me that is why I use rain barrels and water by hand.

Gwynn
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Post  Megan 3/26/2011, 10:02 pm

Thank you, Gwynn. That is really good input. Smile
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Post  acara 3/26/2011, 11:28 pm

For us down here, it basically comes down to 3 things ...

A) Splashback .... which leads to fungus

B) Burn from water magnification

C) Top watering too late in the day, which leaves the water on the plants overnight, which leads to fungus.

You can hand water & top water down here, as long as you do it in the morning ... which doesn't fit my schedule, so I rely on the drip irrigation/timer.
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