Raised bed gardening is a great way to cordon off your garden, which indicates to the kids it's not a place to play. In addition, the soil in raised beds warms quicker than the surrounding soil in spring, and raised beds are easy to keep weed-free. Depending on your budget and time constraints, you may choose to install drip irrigation or sprinklers, or you may prefer to use a garden hose on your 4-by-8-foot raised bed. None of these methods answers the question of how often -- and how much -- to water the bed. For that, you'll have to check your garden often.
1. Feel It Out
The easiest way to find out whether it's time to water your raised bed is to stick your finger in the soil and test it out. If the top 1 to 2 inches feels dry, it's time to give your plants some water. Wet the soil to a depth of 5 to 6 inches, suggests the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. However, don't plan to water to that depth every day. Watering lightly on a daily basis is less beneficial and can harm some plants. Instead, water deeply as seldom as you can, depending on the stage of the plants.
2. Starting Seeds
When you plant seeds or are watching those little shoots take off, water more frequently. During this time, keep the seed bed moist at all times, but not soaking, which may mean a daily schedule. Watering heavily can cause the seeds to wash away or end up on top of the soil instead of in it. Try not to disturb the seedlings as they start growing. Avoid walking into the bed and do your planting from outside the bed instead of standing inside it. Standing on the soil compacts it and can do damage to the tender young plants.
3. Vegetable Growth
When the plants have become established and you're starting to see tomatoes, corn, eggplants or other types of edible vegetables appear, water deeply. You don't have to water every day, but don't let the soil get extremely dry, either. As a rule, if your tomatoes appear to be getting enough water and the leaves are not brown at their edges, the rest of the garden is probably getting enough water, according to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. That's because tomatoes tend to root deeper than other plants, meaning you have to get the water down farther to keep them properly hydrated. Continue using the finger test to make sure everything is getting enough water or hold a ball of the soil in your hand. If it's crumbly and won't form a ball when you squeeze it, it's time to water again.
4. Other Considerations
How often you water is going to depend also on the outdoor air temperature, as plants need about three times as much water in hot weather as they do in cool weather. Because raised beds tend to be drier than in-ground gardens, consider mulching around the plants. Add compost, straw or leaves to prevent surface evaporation so you can water less often. If you live in an area with water restrictions or you want to be really specific about how many hours of watering you should do each week based on the watering system you have, several websites provide online watering calculators to help you out.
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