When it comes to gardening, water is life. You can grow stuff in poor soil, you can do a poor job of feeding your plants and get them too little sun, but if you don’t deliver on the water your plants will die. This makes setting up a good system of getting water to your plants critical to success. You’ll want an irrigation system that not only gets enough water to your plants but delivers it where it’ll do the most good. So how do you choose the best sprinkler for a vegetable garden?
We took a look at several different ways of irrigating your garden vegetable and ranked them based on what they have to offer.
For the most part, things we liked were the ability to keep water as low and off foliage as much as possible. We all liked running through lawn sprinklers on a hot day as a kid. You can get away with that on a grass lawn, but in a vegetable garden that leads to all kinds of bad outcomes.
We liked things that offered a slow but thorough wetting as opposed to systems that splashed water around quickly. If it hasn’t rained much around your garden, your soil is likely to be dry.
A slow watering will mean penetrating the ground and saturating it. A fast watering will mean more of it will run off without doing any good.
Of course, we also preferred irrigation systems that are durable and easy to maintain. You don’t want to spend a lot of time and/or money patching up or cleaning an irrigation system, especially when it gets into the hottest part of the summer.
We hope you find our “best of” reviews helpful. As a side note if you are looking for an article on how to garden indoors, we have you covered right here.
For vegetable gardens, simple is the way to go. And a good soaker hose is as simple as it gets. Just lay the hose down next to your plants and turn on the water. The soaker hose will swell and water will start to seep from the pores.
An advantage is that you can just leave it there all summer long. You don’t need to pull it all up after each use and lay it down again when you next need to water.
Soaker hoses in general come with a tremendous advantage in that they put water right on top of the root systems, rather than spraying water across the ground. This means no splashing on bare earth or the foliage.
This helps in a couple of ways. The first is that it cuts down on excess moisture, which helps lots of the fungi that plague gardens. It also deprives a lot of water to weeds.
What we like about this particular hose is that its circular design, which means it’s easier to snake it around individual plants.
You’ll want to watch the water pressure with soaker hoses. Too much can damage them. And these, made out of recycled tires, are a bit easier to damage.
Runner up 1
Our top two picks for garden sprinkler systems aren’t really sprinklers, but soaker hoses. What can we say? We like soaker hoses.
It can’t be said enough that the easiest way to prevent fungus outbreaks and weeds is to limit the amount of water available to them and putting water on foliage when the sun is up risks burning leaves.
How does that work? The water acts as a magnifying glass for the sun, focusing the sun’s rays on a specific point on your leaves.
Soaker hoses put water right on top of the plants for a gentle, thorough soaking rather than spraying it around where everything can benefit from it.
This particular soaker hose is a budget-friendly alternative to our top pick and is a little more durable. Both of those are tremendous plusses.
So, why doesn’t this get out top nod? The flat design.
If we’re talking about running a soaker hose down a long bed, the flat design isn’t a big deal. But most people’s gardens aren’t long beds. They have confined spaces.
Rounding a corner with this flat soaker hose means putting a kink in it that impedes the flow of water. Before the kink, you have adequate water pressure. After the kink, the pressure falls right off.
That makes them less useful in gardens, enough so to drop it from contending for the top pick to first runner up.
Runner up 2
Over the years, there’s been a proliferation of irrigation kits. These are multi-piece watering kits that come with all kinds of different spigots and sprayers and mister. The idea behind them is that you can just turn it on and it’ll give you the watering experience that you want for as long as you want it.
It’s a good idea. We still like our soaker hoses. For starters, these kits are pretty complicated. Unless you know exactly what you’re going for, you are likely to have more irrigation kit than what you can really handle.
The other thing is that the more complicated an irrigation system, the more frequent things will go wrong with it. To maximize the value in these, you need to leave them out where they are exposed to the elements. Some of the more delicate plastic parts are apt to break and you’ll need to replace them or risk losing water pressure to leaks.
What we do like about them is their versatility and their ability to water everything all at once. You can get a variety of different settings on individual fixtures so you can micromanage where the water goes. That’s not good when it comes to people, but it’s just dandy when it comes to water in your garden.
We like this one because it keeps the water low to the ground. If you have plants with a root network close to the surface, it’ll get water to all of the roots rather than just the ones in the path of a soaker hose.
Runner up 3
This system promises a maximum amount of versatility when it comes to delivering water across your entire garden. If you know exactly how to use it and in what cases an overhead watering is appropriate, this is a great option.
It comes with lots of fixtures with a variety of settings so you can wield mastery across your entire garden. You can spray from above, hit a mid-line watering, or keep it pretty close to the ground.
We tend to think of this as an irrigation system for people with a lot of experience rather than a casual gardener for all those reasons.
In addition, the greater the variety something offers, the more moving parts it probably has. That means increasing the amount of time maintaining it, rather than spending time on your plants. That’s a bad investment of time.
We will say that it’s less expensive than a top-quality soaker hose, and replacement parts aren’t all that expensive. In the long run, it’s probably also a bit less expensive.
We just think that what a soaker hose delivers makes it worth the investment in money.
How to Plant Tomatoes
The undisputed queen of the summer vegetable garden is the tomato. Everyone might have a favorite pepper or squash, but what people will ultimately judge you on is the health and vigor of your tomatoes.
Getting tomatoes that are the envy of the neighborhood starts with getting the in the ground right.
The first step is knowing a little bit about the tomatoes you’re hoping to grow. The growth in heirloom tomatoes means that you have tomatoes that can be tailored to just about every growing region.
Some varieties come from places we associate with tomatoes like Italy, but some come from cooler climates like Germany and Russia. If you’re buying heirloom starters from a nursery, you’ll want to know where the breed comes from so you can match it to your climate type.
Also, check out the one- and three-month forecasts to get an idea if your summer will be delayed or if it’ll be long and hot. If you live where summers are short, you might want to look for a variety that produces fruit early so you can maximize yield.
If you’re just looking to grow some basic tomatoes, that’s cool, too.
When you go to plant your tomatoes, keep an eye on the forecast. Tomatoes like heat — daytime temperatures above 75 and nighttime temperatures no cooler than maybe 60 are ideal — and lots and lots of sun. Pick the sunniest spot in your garden to plant them.
Before you put them into the ground, you’ll want to figure out how to keep them off the ground. Tomatoes are a natural vine, which means they spread out. However, putting their fruit in touch with bare earth can lead to problems and lots of pests, so you’ll want to keep those vines up.
Two common approaches involve tomato cages and staking them. Cages are good if you don’t do a lot of pruning because one cage can keep multiple vines contained in a place that makes them easy to manage. If you prune your tomato vines to limit foliage, stakes work well.
Different heirloom varieties will have different spacing requirements, but in general, 18 inches to two feet between plants is a good rule of thumb. You want to give the plants their own space to grow in without crowding each other. This also permits good airflow between plants to reduce the possibility of a fungus outbreak.
There are two ways to start the plants. The first is direct sow after the last chance of frost. Unless you live where it is warm year-round, this isn’t an ideal approach as most tomatoes require a minimum temperature to germinate and will take a while to grow.
Better is to start them as seeds indoors six-to-eight weeks before the last chance of frost. Most people will just purchase starters from a nursery.
Don’t just plop the starters into the ground. Dig a hole deep enough to cover all by the top few leaves of your plant. Prune off the leaves that you’ll bury. Don’t worry, the plant will recover and, in fact, develop additional roots between the plug and the top of the soil. This makes for a healthier, more vibrant plant.
Push the dirt back into the hole, and you’ve planted a tomato.