Drought stress relief is possible for vegetable plants, gardeners
Growing vegetables in a drought can be stressful not only for the plants but for gardeners. But there are some solutions, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist.
“ This year in Texas, we are facing a drought, and people are asking about stressed plants,” said Dr. Joe Masabni, AgriLife Extension vegetable specialist. “And of course this year, lack of rain is the issue.”
Masabni said a rule of thumb for raising vegetables is about 1 inch of water a week either from rainfall or irrigation.
“But when it’s been so dry for so long, we forget that we need to irrigate more frequently to keep the soil profile moist and the plants healthy and never stressed,” he said. “Good production comes from a situation where the plants never undergo any kind of water stress.”
Masabni acknowledged that home gardeners often forget that plants need even more water as they grow bigger. He said while plants may need a half an inch in May, in July they may need an inch or more because the plants are bigger, and the soil and air temperatures are warmer.
“ The problems of lack of moisture can be easily fixed by using soaker hoses or drip irrigation,” Masabni said. “Set a watering system to run in the morning for half hour and a half hour in the afternoon early in the season or maybe an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon, every day, later in the season.”
He said these recommendations can be adjusted for local soil type and conditions.
“For commercial growers, a drought means a losing operation. But for a homeowner who can manage water, even if you get one-third of the yield, it’s still enjoyable, and still tastes great and is still very nutritious,” Masabni said. “Just adapt to the weather conditions and water more regularly.
“Drip irrigation is the way to go in Texas,” he stressed. “Even on a regular, normal year drip irrigation is best because it’s more efficient. Ninety percent of the drip irrigation water is used by the plant, compared to 40 percent to 60 percent of surface irrigation. So you can use half the amount of water with drip irrigation and get the same yields as with flood irrigation. Drip irrigation for a homeowner with a vegetable garden is the only way to be successful.”