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Lesser of two evils... too wet or too dry

June 27, 2012

We have only gotten about 1/2 inch rain over the last month and the 10 day forcast isn't looking promising. Needless to say the garden is extremely dry which leads to my question. What would you rather have, too wet or too dry? I know it is a pain, but when it is dry most of the time we can add water (buckets, sprinkling cans, sprinkers, soaker hoses etc.)and the plants will adjust by sending roots deeper, less insects, less weeds etc. If it is too wet, there isn't much you can do plus increase of disease etc.

Any thoughts or additional comments?


Comments (13)
  • steven1032

    better to dry than to wet. when your too wet you get into probs like root rot, nutrient difeincy.
    too dry can lead to calcium defiency in watermelon and tomatos. they need lots of water
    you can water pepper plants, okra and cow peas every other day or so. its hitting a 107 here and the only thing i water are my cantelopes so i can get them ripe and pulled up. okra is every two or three days depending on if there wilting. same with peppers. whent the heat comes here texass we pull everything up except the peppers and start again end of summer first september.
    thats just my thought

  • wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

    For my garden it MIGHT be better too dry, but for the field crops around me, too dry might not be better. There is a field of corn down the road that has looked beautiful. Now it is starting to tassel...way short....way, way, way dry.

    Do gardeners ever look beyond the fence and care?....curious mind wants to know.

  • tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

    I don't which is really better. For one, it probably depends on what the plants are and what the other weather is like. Right now, too dry and too hot is not a good combination. I do water to keep things going but my average first frost is October 15th. I also find that when my plants are stressed by the heat and drought, they are more susceptible to insects and disease. The water also has to come from somewhere and in my area, that somewhere is undergound. Whenever DH mentions to me how much water levels are dropping in wells around here, it definitely concerns me.

    We generally get monsoon type rains in July and I am hoping that this is a good year, we definitely need it.

  • tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

    I should also note that another problem around here with watering when it it is too dry is that the water is hard and leads to a build up in the soil when there is not enough rain to leach it out.

  • RpR_

    In the big picture, too much water is always better than too little.
    Poor planning of location and method is one main reason for so much complaining about too much water but I remember well the seventies around here when lakes were drying up and rivers stopped running.
    We have had lessor occurrences of said same in the new century.
    Put is this way too much is opulence, too little is poverty.

  • dhromeo

    For me, Last year was a wet year, it was raining every few days in June and I couldn't keep the weeds down to save my skin.


    That was the June rainfall calendar for Springfield, Il last year. we had enough gas in the tank to get us to harvest when july and august turned dry.

    What I was planning if we had another wet spring like that was to install tile drainage, like the big boys do, but instead of using 6 or 8 inch drainage lines every 40 feet in a field, I was going to use 1 inch PVC with holes drilled, or look for something around 1 to 2 inches that would work like tile and make a main outlet to the north of my garden.

    The idea behind artificial tile drainage is that it works equally well in both dry AND wet years. In wet years it gets the water off faster, allowing you to work and plant sooner. In dry years it keeps soils from water logging in the spring after plants have emerged, forcing them to root deeper, so if it does turn dry a wet spring won't cripple you.

  • Belgianpup

    MULCH! Mulch shades the soil and protects it from the sun so you have to water it less than you would bare soil.

    Here in WA, I was warned never to mulch tomatoes. And they were always stressed by the wet/dry/wet/dry in the sandy soil. Albert Einstein said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results". So I mulched the tomatoes with fluffed straw and got the best crop since I've lived here. People say that it keeps the soil too cold -- well the stress doesn't do the plants much good, either.

    So, if something works that isn't supposed to work, whatcha gonna do?


  • zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

    Provided that irrigation is available, I would prefer dry conditions over wet any day. Wet soil can't be worked, and disease thrives in wet conditions. Additionally, if the weather is wet for a sustained period, that also means it is mostly cloudy, so there is reduced sunlight. That combination of high moisture & low light - which often includes cool temperatures - leads to very weak growth.

    This year has been like a SoCal summer here so far; sunny nearly every day, lots of heat... little to no rain. My garden is way ahead of where it has been for the last several years, where we had a very wet start of the season. Barring the unforeseen, it should be a banner year for most of my preservation seed crops.

    Not great for the farmers around me though, who got their crops in early due to the warm Spring, only to watch them wither in the heat without rain. Almost none of the farmers irrigate in my part of the state. July usually brings a lot of thunderstorms here, hopefully that will bring some relief.

    I strongly second Belgianpup's recommendation for mulch, especially in hot dry conditions. Most years I lay down 20-25 bales of marsh hay or alfalfa. Not only does the mulch conserve moisture & reduce watering, but the mulch cools & stabilizes soil temperatures. My beans in particular languish under hot conditions, unless heavily mulched.

  • jolj

    Too dry is best, you can add water easer then you can remove it.
    I am with zeedman & mulch.

  • RpR_

    Jolj-- tell that to farmers and gardeners who get to sit and watch their crops die, when irrigation or watering bans are in effect.

    It would seem some here believe that water is always there regardless of reality.
    I can see that point but it is a fools folly far too often.

    One can usually over come too much water with simple better planning and garden construction but nowadays like the commercial, too many want to push the easy button.

  • Slimy_Okra

    I think the problem is really "How much below or above normal the precipitation is". With this climate change thingy (I'm still on the fence on that), maybe the Midwest will eventually have to switch to growing drought-tolerant crops like sorghum and millet. The Canadian Prairie, known for wheat, has suffered through several wet summers in the past few years. This is actually turning out to be a good corn year in the Prairies.

  • soilent_green

    The title says it best - both circumstances are bad. So given the "lesser of two evils", to me it has to be too dry.

    There are so many bad things related to gardening in too wet conditions based on when this occurs: How do you prep? How do you seed? How do you do maintenance? How do you harvest? Everything is a hassle, everything is a mess. Not to mention diseases, rampant weed germination, soil compaction, root rot, rotting root vegetables, poor harvests, poor keeping qualities of produce, etc. A too wet situation has no positives whatsoever that I can see, related to home gardening.

    Gardening in too dry: I take "too dry" to be different from "drought". If the situation is severe, long term drought than what is the point in even worrying about a garden - it will be toast no matter what you do. The problem is that too dry usually goes hand in hand with too hot - the double whammy that stresses and kills. And pests and diseases can easily damage and kill stress-weakened plants as well. But there are positives such as fewer weeds germinating, root veggies come out clean, plus some veggies thrive in the heat (my peppers LOVE it). Mulching, target watering, and strategic use of removable shade can still get a person a very good harvest under too dry conditions.

    My question is: When will cisterns come back into wide use? Around here every old house had a cistern in the basement to collect rainwater for household use. None are used anymore, and new houses obviously are not built with them. I collect rainwater in cisterns for gardening use because it is better water for plants than well water, I am not stressing the well supply, and I can use it to get over the dry spell "humps". I have around a 6-8 week supply. If I use up all my rainwater then I consider my situation to be in a drought and all bets are off - I may start using well water or I may just decide to pack it in for the season. Usually I will cut back and just focus on the critical stuff being grown mainly for seed stock.

    My nightmare is: Having to someday rely on home gardening as a primary food source and having either of these two evils occur. Food for thought, so to speak.

    Have a good day.

  • RpR_

    TOO dry is always a drought.

    At the same time, what is too wet?

    I have no more weeds wet than I do dry and actually some particularly nasty stubborn weeds thrive in the dry.

    I think this may be regional item, as too wet down south is different from too wet up north.
    I do not have any more troubles with disease wet than I do dry.
    I was listening to farm radio last year in May and they were speaking of type of seed that would have to be used, or switched to, depending on how late they got into the fields but were more worried about not getting into the fields early enough to be able to get crop insurance in case the crop failed.

    I suppose from that point of view "too dry" is better as one can get in to plant and if the weather kills it, insurance still puts some money back into ones pocket; whereas if it is "too wet", one gets in to plant after the cut-off date, nature kills it, one's gamble becomes a total sum loss.

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