Understand and follow correct watering principles, and find the best way to water raised-bed gardens to have a productive and healthy garden.
The best way to water a raised-bed garden will provide consistent and even watering, be easy to use and maintain, and ideally be simple to install as well.
Raised-bed gardens are a productive and simple way to grow herbs, fruits, flowers, and vegetables in your backyard. However, how you water the raised beds can mean the difference between a healthy, thriving garden or plants that struggle with under-watering, over-watering, and everything in between.
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7 Tips for Watering Raised-Bed Gardens Successfully
1. Spend time in your garden each day while watering
Whichever method you choose for watering, it’s important to pay attention to the system while it is operating. If you have an automatic watering system, program it to run when you are normally in the garden.
When you are in your garden while it is being watered, you can spot problems (such as a dead battery or a broken timer, a leak in a line, over-watering, or under-watering) before the health of your plants is affected or water is wasted from flooding, etc.
2. Pay attention to the weather
Plants require more water when it is dry, windy, or in the summer heat. During the summer in hot areas like Arizona, raised-bed gardens often need watering every day. Other times of the year, the raised beds may only need to be watered 1-2 times per week. Adjust the frequency of the timer for seasonal conditions.
3. Be aware of the watering needs of your plants
Adequate moisture is essential for healthy crops. “A healthy plant is composed of 75%-90% water, which is used for the plants vital functions, including photosynthesis, support, and transportation of nutrients and sugars to various parts of the plant.” (Arizona Master Gardener Manual p.180)
Monitor plants for signs of under-watering stress (such as brown dry-leaf edges, slow growth, leaf curl, wilted or dropped leaves, or branch dieback) to help determine how often to water. Plants that wilt in the afternoon but recover by morning are suffering heat stress, not water stress.
Allow plants to develop some heat tolerance by not over-watering. Signs of over-watering include soft rotten roots, constantly wet soil, light green or yellow new growth, leaf curl and drop. Inconsistent watering causes problems.
4. Water less frequently but more deeply
Water deep enough to moisten the plant’s entire root system. Shallow watering that does not water the entire root system discourages healthy root growth.
Use a soil probe (any kind of long metal object such as a long screwdriver) after watering to check watering depth. If the probe moves easily through the soil, it is moist. If not, the soil is dry and you need to water longer.
Let the top inch or two of soil dry out before you water again. It is a good idea to occasionally water twice as long to flush the salts out of the root zone and soil.
5. Water in the morning
Plants absorb moisture more effectively in the morning. Watering early in the day hydrates plants before the daytime heat. Morning waterings also help prevent waterborne diseases and pests that can occur if you water at night.
6. Water raised-bed gardens evenly and consistently
Some type of automatic watering system is the best way to water raised beds. Timers can be adjusted to water every day during the warmest months of the year, or less often depending on rain and other weather conditions.
Inconsistent watering causes seeds and seedlings to dry out and die, and it stresses established plants which invites pests and diseases.
Watering can be an expensive part of gardening. Finding the best way to water raised beds will help conserve water and not waste it.
7. Choose the best type of automatic watering system
Types of automatic watering systems include soaker hoses, sprinklers, and drip lines attached to a timer. I’ve used all three of these methods in my garden, and have found drip-line irrigation is the most effective way to water raised-bed gardens.
- Soaker hoses often get clogged, crack, and don’t always water evenly.
- Sprinklers in the garden can encourage and spread disease by getting the leaves wet. Spraying water results in excess evaporation and doesn’t always reach the soil and evenly moisten the root zone.
- Drip lines water the soil, not the plant. Drip lines also provide water at an even rate, allowing the soil to absorb the moisture with minimal waste or evaporation.
Which type of drip-line irrigation system is best for watering raised beds?
My favorite drip-line irrigation system is the Garden Grid from Garden In Minutes. I’ve added them one or two at a time to the raised beds in my garden, and the beds that have them benefit from this type of even watering.
Here are a few reasons why I think the Garden In Minute’s grid is the best way to water raised-bed gardens
- Because individual holes are pre-drilled along the tubing, each part of the bed gets watered. This system efficiently waters all parts of your raised beds evenly.
2. It is simple to connect the system to an automatic timer.
3. The grids come preassembled and can be installed in minutes (really!) with no tools.
5. At the end of each season, it’s easy to lift the grid off the bed to add compost to the raised bed.
6. If you add a flow valve to each bed, it is simple to adjust the flow of water into each individual bed.