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Watering a mostly clay Garden for a newbie

Posted by Markshep 8a (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 27, 12 at 18:27

I have a bigger veggie garden than normal this year (11X30). It is wet an inch down and all plants are mulched but if i only water 2 times a week my plants are all wilted over within 1-2 days since last watered. I water every day when over 90+ and every 2 days when in 80's and I do not have wilted plants.When I water I use a overhead sprinkler for 15-20 mins. At about 4:30 am before I go to work. (all I have right now) My question is, Am I watering too much? I can't see my veggies surviveing if i only water 1-2 times a week. I have read that too much water is as bad as not enougth. Will a watering gauge give me a acurate rate of how much water I am putting down? I realize that it all does not soak in because I am in heavy clay. About half the garden is amended with sand and topsoil but the other half(what I planted 1st) is all clay. We have 2 raised beds that are doing great, that we water every 3-4 days and all is good, but it is all topsoil in the raised beds.

Thank You for your time and responses!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Watering a mostly clay Garden for a newbie

You know, I just don't have a good answer for you because you've answered your own question.
The heavily amended soil is easier to water, drains better, holds water better....
Yet the clay soil dries out.
I have some farmer friends who grow in clay, slowly amending as they can, with cover crops. They use drip tape and an irrigation meter. The drip tape they purchase can be used for several years. My buddy Scott said he runs for 2 hrs. twice a week in long rows, in heavily mulched beds. There is very little evaporation, no disease spread from overhead watering.


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RE: Watering a mostly clay Garden for a newbie

You need to HEAVILY amend your soil at the end of the summer with carbon components (75-85%) like wood chips, dead leaves, dead straw and also some nitrogen components (15-25%) like fresh grass clippings and things from the kitchen (peel of banana, cucumber potato, carrots, etc). As many egg shells as you can get in their will provide needed calcium for a vegetable garden. Let it all sit and till in the middle of the winter giving it a good, heavy watering. By Spring, you'll have wonderfully rich soil that yields plenty of vegetables and holds water:-)!


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RE: Watering a mostly clay Garden for a newbie

Thank you,

Ok I will have to make it through the year and go from there. Makes you wonder how people did this back in the day when there were no tillers and such. I am not from down here originally and am curious if this was the way they did it or if you just used what you had as far as soil goes that is.


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RE: Watering a mostly clay Garden for a newbie

not sure what kind of mulch you have, but with clay, it's best to try to get the water under the mulch. I'd try a soaker hose instead of an overhead sprinkler. Low and slow is the way to go with clay so the water will be absorbed. If you do that the clay soil will hold the water for a long time. With overhead, it's probably puddling up before it's absorbed (because hard clay when it first gets wet is impenetrable), and then it's evaporating. That's if it's even penetrating the mulch.


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RE: Watering a mostly clay Garden for a newbie

I am using Pine Straw, I have a lot of it. I have already used the Veggie garden budget on the 2 raised beds for the year (The wife wanted tall beds, they are 5'X10'x24" and 4'x8'x24". My clay Garden is 10'x30' and i have another section that is 12'x18' that have not dug up yet. I did all my digging by hand so I did a section each weekend and planted and so forth. So Next year I plan to either buy soaker hoses or a drip line system with a timer hooked up, seems like the soaker would be cheaper but the drip line would be better long term, I have heard from people who have soaker hose issues with it clogging. That and a tiller is next years purchases, unless I am find a good used one cheap later in the year.


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RE: Watering a mostly clay Garden for a newbie

I have read that pine straw that is very thick can actually repel water. You may want to lift up the pine straw to make sure that the water is reaching the clay.

We had two years of bad drought here a few years ago and first the advice was to mulch deeply, and then it was make sure you water under or remove the mulch before watering.


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RE: Watering a mostly clay Garden for a newbie

looks like the water is getting down just fine so far. I think I was not watering long enough. I have learned a lot this year and I think next year I will be more prepared.


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