Success of a crop is enhanced with irrigation. Generally speaking, if you keep your tomatoes happy, the rest of the vegetables will receive enough water. Obviously, irrigating a garden containing many kinds of vegetables is not simple. Early in the season when plants are young and have small root systems, they remove water from the soil near the center of the row. As the plants grow larger, roots penetrate into more soil volume and withdraw greater quantities of water faster.

In sandy loam soils, broccoli, cabbage, celery, sweet corn, lettuce, potatoes and radishes have most of their roots in the top 6 to 12 inches of soil (even though some roots go down 2 feet) and require frequent irrigation of about 3/4 to 1 inch of water. Vegetables which have most of their root systems in the top 18 inches of soil including beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, muskmelons, peppers and summer squash. These vegetables withdraw water from the top foot of soil as they approach maturity and can profit from 1 to 2 inches of water per irrigation.

A few vegetables, including the tomato, cantaloupe, watermelon and okra, root deeper. As these plants grow they profit from irrigations of up to 2 inches of water.

The period of yield formation or enlargement of the edible product (fruit, head, root, tuber, etc.) is critical for all vegetables and is most critical for non-fruiting crops. Moisture deficits at the enlargement stage normally result in a smaller edible portion because nutrient uptake and photosynthesis are impaired.

Irrigation, especially over irrigation during the ripening period may reduce fruit quality. Ample water during fruit ripening reduces the sugar content and adversely affects the flavor of such crops as tomatoes, sweet corn and melons. Moisture deficits at ripening do not significantly reduce yield of most fruit crops, irrigate at this time with extreme caution.

To reduce the probablility of diseases, irrigation should be scheduled to start in early morning and conclude by mid-afternoon to preclude undue lear wetness or microclimate alteration during the early evening and night.

Watering the garden.

Irrigation water must meet established standards for quality, particularly with respect to organically non-compatible contaminants. See When To Water and Drip Irrigation.

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