Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association

Is the drought affecting your garden?

July 28th, 2012 | Posted in: Growing Vegetables, News, Sustainable Farming

If you’re a vegetable gardener in Wisconsin (and a lot of other areas in the nation), it’s been a challenging summer of higher than normal temperatures and lower than normal rainfall. Chances are, your vegetables are showing signs of the stress as well. As farmers, we understand. Not only do we grow Wisconsin potatoes, but many of us grow a variety of other vegetable and root crops like tomatoes, peppers, melons, and summer squash.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that your roots crops have tapered fruit. Your harvest may be a bit smaller this year as the plants react to the conditions and produce less fruits or vegetables. And you may see signs of splitting or cracked skin on your vegetables – tomatoes are usually the most vivid example of this.

Watering your garden can be a tricky business – especially if some of the skins of your fruits and veggies have cracked. If you’ve been rather conservative in watering and then start being more generous, the sudden increase in water can cause the cracked skins of veggies and fruits to rupture. Drought and inconsistent watering can also affect the movement of calcium in the fruit. This weakens the cell walls of the fruit, which can lead to ruptures in the fruit and susceptibility to bacteria — often leading to blossom end rot.

So how do you avoid this? Pick a watering routine and stick to it. In these conditions, crops use about one inch of water every 3 – 4 days. Of course how much and how often you water depends on the soil you have, but here is some basic advice for getting the most out of the water at hand:

  • Dig little trenches around your thirsty plants. This will help water runs down towards the roots and collect, giving you the most benefit out of rain showers.
  • Water in the morning or evening. If you water in the middle of the day, you lose a lot of water due to evaporation and the water won’t seep into the ground and get to the roots of the plants.
  • Water deeply and less often, rather than a little and more often. When plants get less water than they need, they send young roots deeper into the soil to find water reserves of moisture. This makes the plants more self-sufficient. If you water often, but not deeply, your plants will only send out shallow surface roots that make the plants more susceptible to drought.
  • Mulch the soil. Mulch protects the soil from the intense sun and helps seal in water and prevents evaporation. It also helps prevent weeds!

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