Growing flowers and vegetables in raised beds requires more frequent watering than traditional in-ground row plots because more plants are grown per square foot and because the soil in raised beds can dry out faster. There are multiple methods you can use to water your raised-bed garden.
The easiest way to get water from the faucet to the raised bed is with a hose equipped with a spray nozzle, but it's best to water plants at their base rather than splashing water on the foliage, where it can promote disease. You can create “hands-free” watering by attaching a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to a faucet and running it through the raised bed near the base of the plants. These systems deliver water directly to the soil where it can be taken up by roots. You regulate how much water crops get by manually turning irrigation on and off at the faucet, or you can install a timer to turn the system on and off at preset times. Install soaker hoses under about 2 inches of mulch to protect them from damaging UV rays.
Seeds need to be kept moist at all times in order to germinate. Use an overhead sprinkler system to water the bed once or twice daily, applying enough water to thoroughly wet the top 3 to 4 inches of the soil. Be careful not to overwater, because too much water can rot the seeds. You can reduce evaporation from wind by covering the sown seeds with landscape fabric and pinning it in place. You can water through most fabric. Once you see sprouts, remove the fabric. Seed germination takes about one to two weeks, depending on the crop.
Establishing Seedlings and Transplants
When seeds have germinated and you see the first set of leaves, cut back to a light watering once a day for one to two weeks. To ensure you are not overwatering, stick your finger into the top 2 to 4 inches of the soil. It should be moist, but not soggy. Transplants also need to be established in raised beds with a light daily watering. Water either in the early morning or in the evening so crops can take up the water without evaporation. During very hot days, plants practice water conservation and won’t take up as much water. Sometimes this results in a plant looking wilted during the day, but returning to normal when the temperature cools off in the evening.
As plants grow and become established, they don’t need to be watered as frequently. Most mature crops need about 1 inch of water per week, either from rain or irrigation, to produce flowers and fruit. You can get this to them through long, deep waterings once or twice a week to encourage deeper rooting. Water untli the soil in the bed is wet, but not soggy, from the top of the bed to the bottom. Retain moisture in the soil by applying a 2-inch layer of mulch.
- Gardener's Supply Company: Gardening in Raised Beds
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Building a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
- Colorado State University Extension: Irrigating the Vegetable Garden
- Colorado State University Extension: Block Style Layout in Raised Bed Vegetable Gardens
- Colorado State University Extension: Water Conservation in the Vegetable Garden
- Photo Credit Brendan Delany/iStock/Getty Images
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