Are you watering to keep the garden going?

shamrockva(Virginia [z7A])July 25, 2010

Since it's been so dry here in central Virginia, gardens have really suffered this season. Some farmers have already plowed up corn crops due to lack of moisture.

How about your vegetable garden? Are you having to water it to keep things going? Or have you just decided to let it go, hoping mother nature will provide some needed moisture?

This unusually record-breaking heat and continuing drought has caused most growing things to suffer. Plus, on the heels of an unusually severe winter, so many plants are stressed to the critical point.

Are you watering things? Or just waiting for the much needed rain?

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cyn427 (zone 7)

I am absolutely watering here in northern VA. Even so, I have lost some things. Also, may need to take out a second mortgage when the water bill arrives-ha. Still, I can't just let everything die. We had a storm pass through on Sunday, but even that didn't saturate the soil which is as dry as ever. we so need a couple of days of good soaking rain, don't we?

Hope your garden survives...and mine, too! Oh and for the farmers especially!!!! The thought of them having to plow under their fields is heartbreaking-especially when it is that wonderful summer corn!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 1:08PM
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The only things in the vegetable garden that have survived are those that I've been watering and even some of them are not looking too good. Some shrubs (roses especially) are getting watered, too. The lawn is crispy brown. At least it hasn't needed cutting much this summer. We had a teaser rain yesterday but it fizzled out in just a few minutes. Anybody know a good rain dance?


    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 4:21AM
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I definitely watered, and I'm grateful for my Square Foot Gardening soil, which seems especially good at retaining moisture.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 11:52PM
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I'm watering and I'm on a well so I'm keeping an eye on water levels. I definitely agree we need a good rain dance around here and soon. For christmas I'm thinking I want water barrels and when I win the lottery I'm planning on a pond. A good sized one. I think you can tell I'm not thinking things will improve.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 10:49AM
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I only know about what I'm going to type because I read up on it in preparation to do the same thing. I even had the food-grade barrels purchased. Instead of rain barrels, now they are almost completely filled with soil so I can grow more veggies in them as they sit in line in my driveway. Please be careful when using collected rainwater from your roof. There are many contaminants that can harm your plants, and even make you very sick. Bird poop on the roof can carry ecoli bacteria. The rain barrel sellers don't tell you that part. Also, if your shingles don't let the black fungus grow on them, it's probably because they are coated with copper chips/flakes/dust. That's what keeps the fungus, which I believe is a form of plant, from growing and staining your roof. Just be careful.



    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 8:38PM
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I have to disagree with you on this veggie_pak. I have used rain barrels in Tidewater for years with nothing but great results. My 200 gallons kept me from using the tap for three weeks this summer. I have never lost a plant or seen any odd fungus that could be attributed to the water. I have collected off of asphalt shingles and rolled tar.

It could be argued that rainwater doesn't have the added chemicals that tapwater does (chloramines mostly). These chemicals help to keep the bacterial load down so it's safe for human consumption. Since plants form complex synergistic relationships with the bacteria, fungi, and other soil micro-organism, keeping those organisms alive (not putting chloramines on them) is good for the plants.

The Virginia Living Museum in Newport News uses them as does a Norfolk Solar Homes Tour house with a 3200 gallon rain water tank. The 3200 gallons waters a green roof and a regular lawn. Since they spent a lot on money installing the green roof, the family is very focused on keeping it as healthy as possible and keep a very close eye on how it's growing. New Zealand and Australia have used rain water collection as primary sources of house hold water for hundreds of year. It is still used in many places in both countries but the taps are now labeled non-potable. There are some precautions to take if you plan on drinking the water but for plants and flushing the toilet, as is is just fine!

I'm a big proponent of rain barrels, can you tell?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 9:31PM
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You barreled me over... Ha! Ha!

I'm happy that you have successfully been using rainwater for your garden. I'm just saying be careful, that's all. It seems that there is no consensus on which way to go, so just be informed. That's all I'm saying. If I think something is cause for my own concern, then I could not in good conscience, not share that information with other people that are doing relatively the same thing that I am. Here is one of the articles I read, and there are many more that read the same way. But, I'm sure there are many others that say it's fine to use it too. I only express concern with the issue because before I retired after 40 years on the job, some of my work involved sampling and analysis of heavy metal contaminants prior to contracting out for waste disposal. I'm just being cautious, that's all.

The following is one of the articles I read:
[From an Environmental Toxicologist with the Minnesota Department of Health (April 2006):
Thank you for your inquiry concerning a warning you read in the newspaper about the use of collected rainwater for vegetable gardens. My search for data to back up the warnings turned up some useful information, but not all of the answers that you need.

Rainwater washing off of roofs has been studied to determine the load of contaminants picked up from roofing material. Some rainwater collection systems, intended for drinking water, discard a first "flush" of water off the roof in order to make sure that organic material such as bird droppings do not contaminate collection tanks. The water is then treated for drinking.

But the contaminants that you could be worried about are the heavy metals and polyaromatic hydrocarbons from asphalt shingles and other contaminants that may deposit onto roofs from air. It appears that contaminants that rainwater washes off of shingles may be a significant source of surface water contamination. The contaminants that are washing off of roofs include zinc, lead, chromium, arsenic, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. It is similar to what you might collect off of a parking lot.

It is possible to find data on the amount (concentrations) of chemicals in rainwater from asphalt roofs. However, I was not able to find information on whether or not the levels were high enough to accumulate in garden plants intended for consumption.

I believe that warnings not to use roof-top collected rainwater for vegetable gardens are taking a precautionary approach. I do not know if the calculations have been made that would determine the extent to which these substances are accumulating in plants. Those calculations would need to be made before the MDH could tell you whether you could safely use the water for vegetable gardens.

From another website: "When NOT to use a rain barrel for watering: If you have certain kinds of roofing material you shouldn't use rain barrels for watering plants. If your roof is made of wood shingles or shakes that have been treated with any chemical (usually chromated copper arsenate-CCA) to make them resistant to rot and moss, lichen and algae growth, don't water your plants from a rain barrel. Water collected from copper roofs or copper gutters also should not be used. Zinc (galvanized metal) anti-moss strips-usually mounted at the roof peak-also produce toxic chemicals you don't want in your garden. Don't use rain barrels if you have these strips (you may want to remove them), or if you have had your roof treated with moss-, lichen or algae-killing chemicals within the last several years. Note that nowadays there are asphalt shingles on the market which have zinc particles imbedded in the surface. Check your shingle specifications if you have recently re-roofed.

In addition, general practice is to avoid watering vegetables and other edible plants, such as herbs you plan to use in cooking, with rain barrel water collected from asphalt-shingle roofs. These kinds of roofs may leach various complex hydrocarbon compounds, so most people avoid using water from asphalt-shingle roofs or flat tar roofs on plants meant for human consumption. To date there is no definitive research on the amounts and types of hydrocarbon compounds which may leach from such roofs, though it is common practice to use water collected from asphalt-shingle roofs for watering ornamental plants and shrubs. Enameled steel and glazed tile roofs generate little or no contamination and rainwater harvested from them is commonly used to water vegetables."]

If anyone made it this far down the message, I just want to say that I am glad that we have a place to share our thoughts and experiences with each other.

Thanks for your reply to my comment. I appreciate it.

Have a great gardening day!


    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 11:07PM
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Glad to have a little more activity here too.

But ya didn't convince me. I am more inclined to move the steel roof up on the priority list though!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 7:22PM
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But now you are aware, so all is good. Speaking of watering, I lost my first inch and a half diameter pumpkin yesterday due to wet conditions. Now I see my butternut squash are also turning yellow. That's not good. My soil drains well, but we had so much rain! Not just last night, but recently. I think we need sunshine and a breeze to dry it out. I hope for that today.

This site has the potential for being a great forum for local gardeners. Could be tweaked a little, though. It would be great if you could read through the articles, then, the ones you comment on would come up under a search for your name, or something like that. It's a bit tedious to have to go all through the postings to see replies to your comments. Maybe they'll read this and fix it. I hope so. Even if they don't, I don't plan on quitting it.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 7:37AM
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Here is the web site for that info and much more. Interesting reading if nothing else.

Also, I am blessed with a shallow well at my house, put in by the original owner in 1945. Surprisingly, the water table is only nine feet down. I did the cotton string and a weight test to find that out. I replaced the check valve, the pump motor and installed a pressure tank this year. It's great! Now, I want to get my water analyzed to make sure there is nothing bad in it. The guy next door put in an above ground pool, and when they dug the base, they found an oil storage tank. It must have had some oil in it because it sure smelled strong. They crushed it with a backhoe and quietly took it away. I do have a nice picture of it still in the ground in the excavation though. You never know when you might need info like that. You have to protect your interests.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 7:58AM
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