How much water do your veggies need?

Our garden experts sets High Desert gardeners straight

By Liz Douville / For The Bulletin

Published Jun 17, 2014 at 12:06AM

Stage at which water is most critical

Beans: during flowering and pod development

Broccoli and related cole crops: during head formation and enlargement

Carrots: during root enlargement

Corn: from tassel to silk and ear filling

Cucumbers: during flowering and fruit development

Eggplant: from blossom set through fruit enlargement

Melons: from blossom set through fruit enlargement

Onions: during bulb enlargement

Peas: during flowering and pod filling

Peppers: from blossom set through fruit enlargement

Potatoes: after initial tubers form

Squash, summer: bud development and flowering

Strawberries: plant establishment, runner development, fruit enlargement

Tomatoes: from blossom set through fruit enlargement

“Maybe it will rain this week” isn’t part of a normal over-the-fence conversation heard in Central Oregon this time of year. The Weather Channel offers an online weather chart for Central Oregon that lists the mean precipitation for the region as being .92 inches in June, .56 inches in July and .34 inches in August. Remember, those inches, or lack thereof, are shared with La Pine to the south, Prineville to the east, Bend in the middle, Sisters to the west, Redmond gets some of it and Madras to the north. It’s no wonder we all have to do some irrigating.

A graphic on critical times to irrigate from the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University prompted serious thoughts for my own backyard. I am really conservative with my water, but I wondered if I really did put the water I used to good use. That led me to reviewing the vegetable gardening section of the master gardener handbook, “Sustainable Gardening.”

So many problems in our garden can be directly related to our watering practices. Our usage of water becomes more critical every year, so it’s important that we attempt to make our watering applications as efficient as possible.

In an ideal garden, we would have planted by grouping plants with similar moisture needs together in a watering zone. I am sure that is an area where the pre-planned computer diagrams would be of value.

Unless you have been working the soil over the years, you have discovered our native soil has zilch water-holding capacity due to the lack of organic matter. You can start changing that by adding mulch between the rows of plants. A 6- to 8-inch layer of organic mulch can reduce water needs by as much as half. In addition to conserving the water, you will reduce the weed growth. Three cheers for that benefit.

To help move us into more water efficiency, I compiled a list of favorite vegetables in Central Oregon and the development stage that is most critical for watering.

Water is most needed at transplanting time and during the first few weeks of development and during flower and fruit development. Always make sure you water deeply and not just a spritz over the top. The light watering prohibits the roots from developing deep into the soil, resulting in weak plants more prone to disease and inferior production.

For the bees

I have received a notice from the Oregon State University Extension Service regarding the insecticide that killed so many bees last year and the new label information. This applies to homeowner formulations that include imidacloprid and dinotefuran in the ingredients. A new label for 2014 should include the picture of a bee in a red diamond in a white background and the wording below.

Please “bee” aware!

Do not apply the product while bees are foraging (usually early in the day).

Do not apply to plants that are flowering.

Only apply after all flower petals have fallen off.

My personal advice is to learn how to garden without relying on chemicals to do the job nature has been doing for eons. Continue to learn more and appreciate the ecology of our High Desert home. A little rabbitbrush, bitterbrush or even the native white yarrow can be a good thing in the eyes of Mother Nature.

— Reporter: douville@bendbroadband.com