Watering raised beds

passionvineApril 14, 2014

I am attempting to grow vegetables in raised beds again this year. Last year I had some success but the most persistent problem I have is that the beds seem to dry out daily. Is daily watering a requirement for raised beds? Is there something I can add to the soil to help retain water better? Since I have this garden at my mother's house, I am not there on a daily basis and this poses a problem. Thanks!

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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Can you explain some more what type of soil your bed has?

One thing that probably would help is to more deeply soak those beds. They should hold 3 days I would say.

Materials that help to absorb and hold water are organic matter, clay, peat, and certain additions that are made to hold water....often used in containers.

Lastly, mulches help prevent evaporation.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 5:41PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Is daily watering a requirement for raised beds?

No, not at all. Like Wayne said your fill in the bed is likely the issue. Either that or you are just assuming it needs water daily based on the appearance of the surface only. That leads to frequent shallow watering and shallow rooted, stressed plants.

Often the surface appears dry while down at the root level there is plenty of moisture. Always stick your fingers deep into the soil to check before watering.

Also if you aren't already, then mulch the beds heavily to help retain moisture - and to discourage you from using the soil surface as an indicator for watering. :)

Dave

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 5:58PM
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passionvine

The soil is a mixture of well-rotted cow and horse manure as well as compost and leaves. I did not use any of the existing soil since it is pure red clay.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 11:46PM
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ceth_k(11)

How often do you go to your garden at your mom's house? Very few vegetable gardens can settle for weekly care.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 12:49AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

The soil is a mixture of well-rotted cow and horse manure as well as compost and leaves. I did not use any of the existing soil since it is pure red clay.
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

Actually, I believe, clay is very good when amended with organic mater. What you have is 100% OM which has a very low moisture retention quality. If you dont like your native soil, you can add what is sold as "Topsoil". That is nothing but amended inorganic soil , by mother nature, gradually over many decades, maybe longer.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 6:30AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

"The soil is a mixture of well-rotted cow and horse manure as well as compost and leaves. I did not use any of the existing soil since it is pure red clay."

That is not soil. I think you would be better to mix that with some of the existing soil underneath. Fall is usually a great time to do that when the soil isn't wet.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:49AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Agree. You have no soil in there. Add some. Shoot for 50: 50 at least. Trying to garden in 100% organic matter has many problems and maintaining proper soil moisture levels is only one of them.

Dave

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:53AM
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passionvine

Thanks for the information. I am about to add some beds and I am going to make them shallower and will mix the existing clay soil with the ammendments. I am usually there on a weekly basis (sometimes two times a week). I did set up a sprinkler and asked my sister to water it every day. I will see how that goes.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:55AM
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andyinnyc

Since you have a sprinkler set up, why not buy a timer from Home Depot and just automate the process?

Water timers are cheap. Just keep the timer off the ground - water getting inside will short it out.

I'm lazy, so I love timers with either drip, soaker hoses or even a sprinkler.

Andrew

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 2:06PM
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bggrows(6a/6b)

This year I am trying burying 34 oz. slim water bottles with small holes up and down the bottles right next to my 16 tomato plants leaving the top above the soil for filling. In the past, I have planted my toms on their sides but this year I am going straight down and deep in a 12" high raised bed due to the last two years of droughts.
Have been saving the bottles since I saw this on another site
earlier this year. I did a small hole in the bottom of each to make sure all the water drains out.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 11:22AM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

I would do soaker hoses or drip (we can't use drip do to the minerals in out water, clogs easily) rather than a sprinkler. That way, you can decide how long to water each bed, and plant accordingly.
For example, all my tomatoes go in one bed because they pretty much have the same watering needs. 1x per week on a soaker hose for about 1/2 hour. Others need more water.
I have a 4 hose splitter connected to soaker hoses in 4 different beds. Some days I water some beds, other days I water the other beds.
I wouldn't go with a sprinkler, though, cause some plants get burnt and some (in humid areas) can get diseased. Nancy

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 9:23PM
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auntnana21

I am a HUGE proponent of drip irrigation. I use it in my fruit orchard and when I built the raised beds it was almost automatic to add it to them. I use 'fertigation' so the plants get water soluable fertilizer through the drip system when needed. It's on a timer that has a rain delay sensor because I am just a little anal retentive about it and because if I get hit by a bus or something I still want my tomatoes watered.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 4:44PM
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tcstoehr

I agree with using a good percentage of soil in the raised beds, but so many people don't as they follow the Mel B. method from his book "Square Foot Gardening". It's purely peat, compost and perlite. And perlite is hardly soil as far as I'm concerned. These mixtures absolutely do dry out fast despite the water-holding capacity of peat and perlite. Even my two beds of 50% soil and 50 peat/compost require daily watering during warm weather. And once you let peat dry out it's difficult to remoisturize it.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 1:36PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Add my vote for plain old soil. My beds mostly use the ground underneath, topped with a good quality soil/compost mix that I got from our local quarry. I amend with compost every year, but nothing as formulaic as the Square Foot Gardening books will have you think you need.

Like others have said, my drip system is my best friend. I've got it on a timer and really do ignore my garden during the week, until it's time to harvest and I need to go out more frequently.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 1:54PM
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bdot_z9_ca

Loribee, what a beautiful garden, so tidy and lush at the same time. And what a happy gardener! Are you northern or southern CA?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 3:43PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Thanks! I am north of the Golden Gate.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 3:56PM
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