Robbins Farm Garden is a cooperative community garden project at Robbins Farm Park in Arlington, MA. Since 2010, we’ve grown vegetables organically as a group, created an educational resource in the community and continued the agricultural tradition of the farm at the park. We garden Saturday mornings April – November and Tuesday evenings June – September. The project is run through Arlington’s Recreation Department.
While I was watering the other day, I was wondering how long to keep the hose on each bed. Of course that depends on many factors, but I’m looking for a rule of thumb.
First I need to know how much water comes out of the hose:
With the water on full and the nozzle on “shower”, it took almost exactly 1 1/2 minutes to fill a 5-gallon bucket. So that’s 3 1/3 gallons per minute.
Our garden beds are about 6×9 feet, or 54 sf = 7,776 sq in. So 1 inch of water on the whole bed is 7,776 cubic inches. There are 231 cubic inches in one gallon of water. So it takes 33.6 gallons (evenly spread) to get one inch of water onto the bed. At 3.33 gallons/minute, that’s about 10 minutes.
How much “rain” does a vegetable garden need? According to numerous sources (like this one), about one inch per week, total. That’s convenient – 10 minutes of hose time per bed per week, evenly spread, if it never rains.
Of course, that’s a very broad guideline. Mature plants with deep roots could probably be watered with the whole inch once or twice per week. Newly planted seeds, seedlings, and transplants need to get water probably every day, because the roots are so shallow and the little plants have no capacity to store moisture.
Too much watering can be almost as bad as not enough. Soil around mature plant roots needs to dry out so the roots can get oxygen. Sometimes yellow leaves indicate too much water. A number of sources say that watering tomatoes too much compromises the flavor (like the discussion in this article about “dry farming”, which claims that stressed tomatoes taste better).
Wilting in the hot sun is a natural reaction by the plants to slow transpiration, so doesn’t necessarily mean that the plant is water-starved. Dig a little hole and see if the soil is really dry before getting worried.
So the answer to my question obviously depends on what I’m watering (mature plants with deep roots – or not), when the bed was watered or rained on last, and the forecast for rain or watering. Therefore my rule of thumb will be never more than 10 minutes on any one bed, usually probably only a few minutes – especially if the soil is already moist a few inches down – and maybe slack off a bit on the tomatoes.
The first piece of the garden’s accessibility improvement project went up on Saturday: a custom-made garden gate. Though it appeared in one day, it had been planned for years and constructed over the course of months. Later this season, we will be constructing raised garden beds flanking the gate and replacing the fencing, starting with the entry side of the garden. See more drawings here.
Funding for this project was made possible through the Community Preservation Act as part of the Robbins Farm Park Improvement Project implemented in other parts of the park last year (which also included a stone dust path to the garden from Eastern Ave). Accessibility issues were identified through a Town-wide study of Arlington’s public parks conducted in 2014.
We are grateful for the opportunity to make these improvements to the garden and hope to have them completed within the next few years.
Finally, they are here – our first lettuce and spinach! The spinach has done particularly well this year. It’s a new variety: Regiment from High Mowing Seeds.
We harvested some lovely young Egyptian walking onions today. They were a delight to take home at the end of a full day of seed planting. These onions have thrived in some of the garden’s least desirable real estate and we’re grateful for their easy reseeding each year.
Mark your calendars with a big squash blossom star for Opening Day at the Garden on April 6th from 9AM to Noon.
Weather permitting, we will be cleaning up the garden, possibly planting early seeds and seedlings, turning the compost, checking the overwintered crops and harvesting parsnips.
Come join the fun!
Picking up lumber for the new accessible front gate and raised beds.
The first crop of 2019 seedlings, planted on Saturday, are up and growing under lights. The brassicas (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages and cauliflower) were the first to break ground, quickly followed by the greens (lettuce and spinach). The alliums (leeks, onions and shallots) and celery have yet to appear. Thanks to the seedling crew for getting things started!