One of the biggest gardening mysteries that I have yet to solve is the elusive "gardening watering schedule." Oh it confuses me to no end. If you recall last year one of our biggest issues was water. I'd turn on the sprinkler at dinnertime with intentions of watering the garden for about an hour, then wake up the next morning and see the sprinkler still going and run out there in my PJs and slippers splodging out to the garden to turn it off. Then we had the flooding from Tropical Storm Faye that did not help our watering dilemma.
This time around I'm having better luck, but I'm still unsure of how to water the garden. Should it be daily? Weekly? For 15 minutes? For one hour? If you do it wrong, your plants will punish you severely. I know this because I got cracked tomatoes and blossom end rot last year. I also caught my carrots and radishes making an ark late one night, which was not a good sign.
So this time I decided to call our local extension office and ask them how to water a vegetable garden. I'm a doubter by nature so I decided to call the extension offices for both local counties and pretend on the phone I lived in whatever county I was calling and compare the advice of both extension offices. I live right on the border of two counties, so that is how I justified this web of lies.
When I called the first extension office and told them of my watering dilemma they told me that the master gardener was out, but that Abe could answer my questions. I wondered who Abe was - a gardener?... or the janitor?...but happily spoke to him because just by hanging out in the extension office he has to know more than I do about gardening. Abe told me to water my garden every other day for about 30 minutes. He said to water early in the morning and not late in the afternoon. He said that our sandy Florida soil does not hold in much water so you cannot go long between waterings like you can if you have real soil. Every other day for 30 minutes definitely surprised me.
I then called the next extension office in the neighboring county and spoke to Sophie. She answered the phone by saying "Master Gardener Extension Office," so I felt confident. Sophie said she wanted to confer with two master gardeners and call me back with the answer. I was even happier with that. I knew when she called back she'd have conflicting information from Abe and I'd be able to out him as the janitor giving illegal advice over the phone, causing scandal in the gardening world. When she called back she said that I should water three times a week for about 30 minutes a pop. She mentioned that Florida's sandy soil doesn't hold water well so that watering often is better than watering less. She also said I should test the soil by digging down a few inches and seeing if it's moist. If it's not, I need to water longer. Very similar to ole' Abe's advice, wouldn't you say?
I even found an online site that mentions watering twice a day in the summer when it doesn't rain. How crazy is that? So I think I can cross over-watering off my list of possible causes of garden failure. Since I've been watering the garden every other day for 15 minutes, I'm clearly watering less than what's suggested locally. I've had quite a few garden-blogging friends wonder if I was overwatering too, so realizing I'm not watering enough is quite a revelation for me!