HOME > Chowhound > Gardening >
What are you cooking today? Tell us about it

Watering in dry spells and white mold or dust like substance on top of squash leaves

Bottomless_Pit Aug 8, 2010 06:52 PM

1. How do you water your garden in a dry spell? I talked to a farmer and he said 1 gallon a day per plant in this weather. I just collect rain water and pour close to the stems at dusk. That being said I've already had to get a hand shovel and break up the soil. Now my clay soil is all cracked again despite my watering. I'm finding watering the garden is the hardest part of gardening so far.

2. I have what I think is mold on most of my zucchini and some of my yellow squash. I removed the yellow leaves, the most covered leaves, and the almost dead leaves.

  1. c oliver Aug 8, 2010 07:06 PM

    How big is your garden? Is it financially feasible to put a drip system on it? And in really hot weather, I've still had to hand water. You're on the right track to not water the foliage and to do it in the evening. You may need to amend your clay soil in the future.

    25 Replies
    1. re: c oliver
      Quine Aug 8, 2010 07:25 PM

      The white stuff sounds like "mildew".

      Since you have a clay soil, what you need is mulch!!!!!! Mulch (depending on what you used) also breaks down and helps your soil, balancing what can hold moisture better.
      Is this your first garden? If it is, have no fear, everyone starts someplace.
      A heavily clay soil is hard to water. The top layer dries out and forms something like a "glaze" that prevents moisture from sinking in.
      Again mulch helps. What you want is a long slow watering, So mooisture can be absorbed and soak in, not run off.
      Mulch can be a lot of things.

      1. re: Quine
        c oliver Aug 8, 2010 07:37 PM

        Sheesh, how did I forget mulch --- the gardener's friend? It not only gives immediate help but will help amend the soil over time. Thanks,Quine.

        1. re: c oliver
          Quine Aug 8, 2010 08:56 PM

          Catherine, we are in tune! :-)

          1. re: c oliver
            Quine Aug 8, 2010 09:09 PM

            OK, what have I mulched with?
            When I gardened the best I had sandy soil as well as soil that recently what been part of a construction site, so natural loam was gone.
            A neighbor rototilled my garden site, Very helpful. I made my rows into hills. The valleys were where I walked; leaving the hills as loose as possible.

            1st year I used newspaper and straw. I mulched deeply. I also used some plastic. To anyone looking at my garden, it looked flat, the mulch was that high in the valleys. Holds moisture. It also helps against weeds. More mulch over winter and rototill as soon as ground could be broken.
            Mulch should be something that composts.

            1. re: Quine
              Bottomless_Pit Aug 8, 2010 11:32 PM

              1. This is my first garden

              2. I have a fair amount of wood chips I use as mulch in my garden beds, I mulched late so I don't have as much mulch as I should. Next year I plan to mulch about a week after the plants emerge from the ground. I'm not sure how many inches of mulch I should use.

              3. "How big is your garden? Is it financially feasible to put a drip system on it?" My garden is about 3 beds each with about 20 plants and then about 10 containers. I haven't looked into putting a drip system in.

              As it is now I have to get the water collected from rain barrels and other containers, I use a one gallon milk cartoon for this purpose. Next, I pour the water near the base of the plants. The problem is on a hot day like this I would need to pour about 30 gallons to satisfy my plants, that's a lot of work every day. All I have gotten from my garden is beans. My yellow squash and zucchini have plenty of blossoms and flowers but no veggies. My tomatoes are still green except for one which is orange. I have one pepper that I could pick also and some more on the way.

              I have well water, so I could use a hose to water my plants. I could also fill up the rain barrels if I wanted to with the hose. Maybe I should set my alarm clock for dawn and just hose my plants down on the shower spray setting.

              Which is better, shower spray with hose or dump water from one gallon containers? Part of me wants to give up and let the plants thirst to death and try again next year, but then I know I'll regret it and be sad.

              I'm reading this article, I live in Pennsylvania hardiness zone 6 btw, and I don't understand this part "In most cases, an inch of water per week (rain plus irrigation) should be sufficient. Applying that inch of water in one deep watering will encourage deeper rooting, which leads to stronger, healthier plants. Watering once a week also fits well into most municipal water restrictions."

              So in other words the article "Watering Correctly Saves Time, Money, and Plants" says to water once a week. That might be more fun, though I am unsure what an inch of water per week means, and I'm not sure how to track how much rain came during the week.


              1. re: Bottomless_Pit
                Bottomless_Pit Aug 9, 2010 03:30 AM

                I went ahead and followed the advice of watering thoroughly today, Monday at dawn for 45 mins. I tried to water each individual plant once a little, twice for a moderate amount, and then the third time give it as much water as i felt comfortable. I focused on my tomato plants, give more to the tomatoes in my double dug garden bed. I plan not to water my containers for at least 24 hours and my beds at least 48 hours.

                1. re: Bottomless_Pit
                  morwen Aug 9, 2010 06:12 AM

                  This is something I had asked you before but hadn't received an answer, if the water barrels were your only source of water or if you could run a hose to your gardens. Now that I see you have access to a hose, I'd recommend you pick up a soaker hose for each of your raised beds. They are inexpensive (you can sometimes find them at dollar stores and if you do, they'll be on sale now) and they'll last for years. Snake one around the plants in the interior of each bed under the mulch leaving the connector end accessible. Connect it to the hose leading from your water source. Allow it to run for an hour or so, disconnect and reconnect to the next bed. Repeat as needed. Soaker hoses are the best and most water-efficient way to water your garden thoroughly and deeply without wasting water. Overhead (or spray) watering wastes water through evaporation and indiscriminate spraying and can actually spread diseases (like mildews) from plant to plant. Soaker hoses also allow you to do other things while your garden's being watered. Just remember that you have a hose running because they're doing their thing invisibly. Set an egg timer or some such (or the alarm on your cell phone if you have one) to remind you to move the connector hose to another bed or turn off the water entirely.

                  Continue to water your containers at least once a day and better twice a day. Plants in pots dry out much more quickly than plants in beds. Irregular watering or lack of water encourages blossom end rot in tomatoes and peppers. Water from your rain barrels will be perfect for this. Tomatoes and peppers are calcium lovers as well so take your eggshells, crunch them up and place them around the base of the plants.

                  In order to know how much rain you're getting a week, pick up a rain gauge. This is simply a cylinder marked with inches on the side. You sit it somewhere in your garden and after a rain the amount of water collected in the cylinder will tell you how much rain your garden has received. It can be deceiving in that if the weather has been extremely hot and dry for a long period of time (like now) the occasional 1" of rain isn't going to give the deep watering your garden needs. It must have that 1" at least once a week, preferably spread throughout the week. Otherwise it just sits on the top and evaporates causing plants to root shallowly instead of deep rooting where they can pick up the nutrients they need. Plants also need water to be able to absorb and process the nutrients. So you still must augment with watering during droughts and dry spells.

                  Remember gardening is a lot like the instructions on a shampoo bottle: shampoo, rinse, repeat. Or in the gardener's case: cultivate, weed, water, repeat.

                  1. re: morwen
                    c oliver Aug 9, 2010 07:43 AM

                    OP is getting great advice. I don't have time this morning for a lengthy post but there are cheap battery operated, programmable times that attach between the faucet and the hose so soaker hoses would require no effort. Also having been on wells for almost 20 years I didn't run the well dry when I forgot to turn off. Also drip irrigation systems are definitely an easy DIY project. More later. GREAT thread.

                    Oh, one more thing. Wood "chips" (the big kind) IMO are pretty worthless, better than nothing, but they really never decompose. Also depending on what they're made of I think I remember that they can actually leach "good stuff" (can't remember what at this moment) from the soil.

                    1. re: c oliver
                      morwen Aug 9, 2010 10:50 AM

                      I agree with your opinion of wood chips. I much prefer them for pathways. Newspaper is probably the cheapest good mulch around if a person is on a tight budget. They use to say use only the black and white pages but since most newspapers are now printed with soy based inks I think you can use them regardless. And they can be tilled right into the garden.

                      I also like straw (not hay, hay is full of weed seeds) when I can get it. This year I used black paper mulch for the first time and really liked it. It did an excellent job of retaining ground moisture and defeating weeds in the places where we used it as opposed to the spots where we didn't.

                      1. re: morwen
                        c oliver Aug 9, 2010 10:57 AM

                        I like your idea of straw (definitely not hay). When we got our first horse, we bedded his paddock with straw ONE TIME. What a mess cause it got wet and heavy and almost impossible to remove. Bad for a horse paddock, good for garden mulch.

                        1. re: morwen
                          Bottomless_Pit Aug 9, 2010 01:17 PM

                          "Continue to water your containers at least once a day and better twice a day. Plants in pots dry out much more quickly than plants in beds. Irregular watering or lack of water encourages blossom end rot in tomatoes and peppers. Water from your rain barrels will be perfect for this. Tomatoes and peppers are calcium lovers as well so take your eggshells, crunch them up and place them around the base of the plants."

                          Hmmm, so I can water my beds like 1-2 times a week, but the containers, even the tomatoes with 3 feet roots need watering daily? I'll try the egg shells around the base where the mulch isn't. I read you need a 1inch mulch free zone around the base of each plant to prevent dampness, I'll put the egg shells in the mulch free zone.

                          Maybe I'll try some newspapers for mulch. Around my area everyone has small wood chips right up the base of their plants. My wood chips are free and thus much larger. I'll also look into the various $1 stores for soaker hoses. Sorry for not responding sooner about the hose Morwen, I wasn't sure if it was moral to use non-rain water on a garden so I was quiet.

                          1. re: Bottomless_Pit
                            morwen Aug 9, 2010 02:45 PM

                            Moral? *snicker* The more I talk with you the more I realize when you said newbie, you weren't kidding! I, on the other hand, think it's immoral to let my garden die of thirst!

                            I'm on a well and that's what waters my garden. That's also why we use soaker hoses and watering wands, so the water gets right to the roots and not on the leaves or wasted to evaporation.

                            We're watering our beds daily. Even though we've finally gotten some rain, it's been sparse and those beds are dry down deep. Thus, the soakers are on daily for at least and hour and sometimes twice a day, morning and night. Even the tomatoes in the beds with three foot roots get watered daily because if the soil isn't damp way down, the plants can't feed, thus you get leaf wilt, flower drop, blossom end rot, and very little or no fruit. Goes for the rest of the garden as well. I cultivate at least once a week in the morning before the heat hits to keep the ground broken up and soft so the water can be absorbed. This also keeps the weed population way down and fluffs the mulch, letting me know if I need to add more..

                            The containers need watering far more often because they dry out faster, especially clay pots, from evaporation and heat. Right now those are getting watered at least twice a day and 3x a day is even better. I water those with a wand so no water gets on the leaves or wasted.

                            Newspaper mulch isn't pretty, but it sure does the job if you're on a budget. If the neighbors have a problem with it, tell them to buy you a load of pretty mulch.

                            1. re: morwen
                              Bottomless_Pit Aug 9, 2010 06:10 PM

                              Here's a video of me watering my garden:


                              I noticed the rotten bottom of the tomato and within two hours moved the container and threw the rotten tomato far away. Hopefully the plant isn't infected.

                              Think I need to pull most of the leaves off my zucchini? I really don't want the mold spreading. I'll look into a soaker wand, though looks like extra work detaching and reattaching the wand from the hose.

                              I don't have that many newspapers, I reuse newspapers for others things. Any idea of where to get newspapers, other than paying for a paper that has been decreasing in size and increasing in price.?

                              1. re: Bottomless_Pit
                                morwen Aug 9, 2010 07:47 PM

                                Blossom end rot only affects the individual tomato it's on. It won't spread to neighboring tomatoes or plants. In fact, if the tomato (or pepper) is ripe and the rot hasn't spread too far, you can cut off the rot and the rest of the tomato will be fine for immediate use.

                                If your zucchinis already have downy mildew it's really next to impossible to get rid of. You can try using fungicides but unfortunately it spreads really easily from your hands, brushing your clothes against it, watering from the top, the breeze, it's just a pain. Best you can do is just figure it's there and see if the plant keeps producing for you. Sometimes they will. That's what really taught us to use soaker hoses and watering wands. We still see it from time to time but mostly when there's been a lot of rain or ongoing humidity. You can get a jump on it by using good watering habits from the beginning of planting your garden. Good air circulation is key too. Don't crowd your plants too much. From looking at your video, your zukes don't look to badly infected. If you keep watering from below and the humidity isn't killing you they probably will be fine.

                                Recycling bins are a great place to scarf up old newspapers. Or if your neighborhood has curbside recycling, run out and grab the neighbors piles before the truck comes. Recycling bins are good places to grab old milk jugs to use for seed starters, transplants and cloches too.

                                1. re: morwen
                                  Bottomless_Pit Aug 9, 2010 10:05 PM

                                  Ok thanks for the info, I read somewhere online that you had to uproot the entire tomato plant if the plant got blossom end rot. Can you tell from the video if I crowded my squash too much?

                                  "From looking at your video, your zukes don't look to badly infected. If you keep watering from below and the humidity isn't killing you they probably will be fine."

                                  Its been really dry the last week or so. Maybe most of the mold is already dead.

                                  I was looking at how to use a soaker hose and read an article, "WATERING TOMATOES DRIP BY DRIP"

                                  The article says I need a regulator to reduce the water pressure for my soaker hose. I'm not too worried about it, I figure the water will come out faster, and slower than what I have been doing.


                                  Hmm, the article also says my hard well water might not be effective

                                  "In general the trickle tape is more versatile than the soaker hose. Although both are effective in slowly providing water, soaker hoses are not very effective when stretched more than 200 feet for a single bed. Also, if the water you are using is very hard or your source of water is from a pond or rainwater, you will be better off with the trickle tape. Water containing impurities will more likely clog the soaker hose even after filtering. "

                                  I'm also wondering if I need a cap or something for my soaker hose, I wonder if my soaker hose has two ends or one end and a cap.

                          2. re: morwen
                            Quine Aug 9, 2010 02:48 PM

                            Yes newspapers then straw on top is my favorite quick mulch. As I said I hilled my garden rows, so the valleys were piled deep. I would walk in the valleys and that would leave the hills nice and fluffy.
                            Bottomless, you want to think of mulch as almost a compost material, you want it to work all summer and be broken down enough by next spring to be worked into the soil. Wood just doesn't do that well.

                            And definitely straw not hay, Sometimes you can get lucky and find a farmer who has some spoiled straw (got wet when baled) and this is great to use.

                            1. re: Quine
                              Bottomless_Pit Aug 10, 2010 03:56 AM

                              I'm going to wait to mulch until I plant my next crop. Here's a video of my new soaker hose watering my garden.


                              The hose sprays a good amount of water back at the joint between the garden and soaker hose. Its hard to believe how quick the soaker hose drips. I left the soaker on for a little over an hour.

                              1. re: Bottomless_Pit
                                morwen Aug 10, 2010 07:28 AM

                                I love your enthusiasm!

                                I'm glad you invested in the soaker hose. Whether you use hose or tape is up to you, they both deliver water in basically the same way. Next spring when you ready your beds, lay in the soaker hose before you plant and mulch. It's much easier to arrange it efficiently and when it's under the mulch it works even better. The mulch slows evaporation. Most soaker hoses come with an end cap that you can remove to attach to another hose or leave attached as the end of the line. There are also kits and adapters out there so you can water multiple beds at once with a piece of solid hose between the beds so you don't lose water between. We've never found a regulator to be necessary. We control the flow of water at the spigot. Had to play around with it a bit but now we know how far to turn the water on to regulate the flow. Check the end where the soaker connects to the regular hose. You may not have them screwed together properly or the little rubber washer that helps make a good seal may have fallen out. You shouldn't be losing so much water there.

                                We've used the same type of soaker as you have with both hard and soft water and have never really noticed a difference, but if you have extremely hard water I could see where over time it might clog the hose and the tape may be a better choice for you. That's a call you'll have to make.

                                Our current set-up has our three 4x12 raised beds hooked together and then we have four 2x16 terraces hooked together. In between those is a 20x20 area which currently holds the strawberries and several temporary beds (slated to be raised and terraced this fall) which we water by hand with the wand. Then there are the multitude of pots and planters, also wand watered. With the soaker hoses in place we've cut the daily watering chore down from 2 1/2 hours of hand watering to about 45 minutes of hand watering including harvesting, twice a day. Next year we expect to be hand watering only the pots and I'm looking into a kit that will eliminate that.

                                1. re: morwen
                                  c oliver Aug 10, 2010 07:37 AM

                                  Great info. It's really easy to run a little drip system to pots.

                                  1. re: morwen
                                    Bottomless_Pit Aug 10, 2010 12:34 PM

                                    Thanks, I've always been blessed with good enthusiasm. I figure why wait, so I can forget and the excitement dim? I want to weed out all the problems my first year.

                                    I'm glad I put the soaker hose in, my dad tells me not to water the plants at all, not even rain water! My dad thinks gardening is up to God since God controls the weather. I'm more of a fan of watering my plants in a dry spell.

                                    "We control the flow of water at the spigot. Had to play around with it a bit but now we know how far to turn the water on to regulate the flow. " Hmmm, my dad says "always turn all the way" referring to valves and spigots. I guess I've failed to heed my dad words in the past, and I will do so again, in order to try your advice.

                                    "Our current set-up has our three 4x12 raised beds hooked together and then we have four 2x16 terraces hooked together."

                                    Wow 4x12 that must be a pain to weed/hand water. No wonder you use soaker hoses. Some diagrams suggest all the soaker hoses should be parallel. Seems instead you just take off the end cap and connect one soaker to another.

                                    "There are also kits and adapters out there so you can water multiple beds at once with a piece of solid hose between the beds so you don't lose water between. "

                                    I assume you use some sort of adapter as not to waste water when the water moves from bed to bed. You think its ok that my soaker hose is wrapped about 1.5 times around my zucchinis? I figured its betters than leaving the excess soaker hose outside the bed and wasting water.

                                    1. re: Bottomless_Pit
                                      c oliver Aug 10, 2010 02:02 PM

                                      Perhaps long, long ago God controlled the weather. Then humans caused global warming so I'll shoot down that argument. And if you ever research the history of the San Joaquin Valley which feeds millions of us, you'll see what bad shape we'd be in foodwise without modern irrigation techniques. Continue ignoring your father :)

                                      1. re: c oliver
                                        Bottomless_Pit Aug 10, 2010 05:54 PM

                                        Wow, "By some estimates, 12.8% of the United States' agricultural production (as measured by dollar value) comes from California, and the majority of that is in the San Joaquin Valley."

                                        That's a lot of $$$ from unnatural agricultural. Update on my unnatural irrigation at home. I tried turning the knob of the faucet that is attached to my hose until I got the min. amount of water, about one quarter of a turn.

                                        Next, I saw the hose was still leaking, though not as bad. I unscrewed the hose, saw plenty of water was coming through and then reattached the hose. Water still leaks but its about as much as leaving a kitchen sink faucet on the min. amount.

                                        Its late dusk now, I'll leave my soaker on for an hour and see how fast the drops come out. I figure its better to thrash out these problems the first year, rather than have to deal with them my second year. I want my second year of gardening to run a lot smoother.

                                        I hope I don't have to water in the winter. I intend at some point to have winter crops and/or cover crops.

                                        1. re: Bottomless_Pit
                                          morwen Aug 11, 2010 07:32 AM

                                          "Wow 4x12 that must be a pain to weed/hand water. No wonder you use soaker hoses. Some diagrams suggest all the soaker hoses should be parallel. Seems instead you just take off the end cap and connect one soaker to another."

                                          Actually, the 4' width allows me to reach the center of the beds from either side without too much trouble and there's not much weeding to do anymore because we cultivate regularly and mulch. We're also careful to put only fully composted manures on the beds and we don't put cow manure on anymore because that was a huge source of weed seeds no matter how well composted. We stick with horse and poultry. This year we've fallen in love with black paper mulch. No weeding at all in those beds.

                                          The soaker hose is running about a foot in from the side up the long side of the bed, curved to go to the middle, run down the middle, and curved to go back up the other side about a foot in. Sort of S shaped. Then it is connected by a regular non-porous hose to the next bed and the pattern repeats.

                                          In the terraces we use adapters that allow us to connect the soaker hoses to Ts that connect to the non-porous hose that connects to the regular hose. So in the 2' wide terraces there is one soaker running the length of each terrace. Those parts we bought as a kit from (I think) Home Depot, many years ago.

                                          We have a two hose Y adapter on the outside spigot because we run one hose up to the garden and the other hose goes to the front of the house where our containers are. When we water the garden we have to disconnect the hose that waters the beds and move it to the set-up that waters the terraces. Then we disconnect that and connect it to the wand to water the temporary beds. We can run both hoses at the same time without a noticeable drop in pressure from either of them.

                                          We grow late fall/winter crops in the raised beds under plastic supported by hoops made of PVC conduit slid over 2' rebar pounded a foot into the ground. http://www.chow.com/photos/451494?tag... In this photo you can see the plastic draped at the back of the bed. The need to water diminishes as the weather gets colder. Production slows down but we were harvesting into January of last year until an ice storm pulled down the plastic. By the end of November we weren't watering at all.

                                          We do cover crops on new beds and beds that are out of the rotation (resting). We don't water them at all once they've sprouted and got going.

                                          1. re: Bottomless_Pit
                                            Quine Aug 11, 2010 02:24 PM

                                            You can easily fix that leak, it just needs a soft plastic/rubber washer in there. You can make yourself one pretty quick. Just cut out the hose size circle from a plastic (soft as possible) lid and make the inner hole you cut the size of the hose inner opening, WhaLa!

                                            1. re: Quine
                                              Bottomless_Pit Aug 11, 2010 08:02 PM

                                              Cool, I can see the washer for the soaker hose, so it must be the garden hose that's leaking. The above makes sense except when I had the noozle attached instead of the soaker hose there was no leakage.

                                              I'll try the plastic circle trick, I like do it yourself projects. I don't like to be overly reliant on merchants.

              Show Hidden Posts