An Alameda Garden: The Difference Between Watering and Raining

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Difference Between Watering and Raining

Last night we had the first really good soaking rain that we've had in a long time--a few months at least. Walking around the back yard this morning, I couldn't help but notice how perky everything looked. Even the end-of-season, on-its-last-gasp stuff like the tomatoes and the pumpkin vine seemed to have a bit of renewed vigor and it brought me to a sudden and what should have been obvious conclusion: I haven't been watering deeply enough.

My routine this summer has been to hand-water with the hose twice a week, with occasional extra spot watering with a watering can when the weather got really hot or something looked particularly parched. I think that schedule is OK, but I realize now that it probably would have been better if I'd used a sprinkler on the hose and let it run in each bed for about five minutes. While the sprinkler ran, I could have been doing odds and ends of other tasks (pruning and weeding, for example) instead of just standing there like a moron holding the hose. I thought that by hand watering I was able to give more customized care to each plant or bed. But I think I was kidding myself. And I'm even wondering if the less than spectacular results that I've had this year with blooming and fruiting, which I've been blaming on soil problems or pest problems, may actually have been at least partially due to inadequate watering.

It's too late to test this theory this year. We've got another storm coming in at the end of the week and possibly a third due early next week. And the rainy season typically kicks in around November here (although is weather ever "typical" anymore?). But I'm noting this for next year. And one of these summers maybe I'll actually get my act together and install some kind of drip irrigation system in the back yard. I can dream, can't I?


  1. Yeah, we really noticed a difference in our garden (also in Alameda) when we installed an irrigation system. The right amount of regular water is really amazing.

    On the other hand, rain is free and better for the garden than treated city water with chloramines.

  2. Anonymous5:57 PM

    Soaker hoses are cheap, easy and do the job nicely with little effort. Can be hidden by mulch and left in the bed permanently.

  3. I think you're right. I always thought it was the extra kick of nitrogen in rainwater that made a difference but no doubt it's quantity rather than quality. Which presents its own problems, doesn't it?

  4. One thing that can help you with hand watering is to clean out a tuna or cat food can and set it on the ground where you are watering. Then you can easily see roughly how much water you are really getting to the plants. This helps with the sprinkler, too. When I first started doing this, I was amazed at how long it actually took to get even an inch of water to the plants...I wasn't standing there nearly long enough! (BTW, I actually enjoy standing there like a gives me a chance to relax and just look at stuff :) But in a dry year, it can sure get nerve-wracking when all you seem to do is stand around watering and nothing else gets done!


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