With a lawn, one wants to encourage deep, drought tolerant roots and lush green growth. This can be accomplished through deep, infrequent waterings which forces the roots to follow the water down and feeding the turf a high nitrogen fertilizer to enhance growth.
Following that pattern for a vegetable garden, however, will result in dismally limited if any yield when it comes to food production.
With vegetable gardens, one wants to keep the ground moist (not wet) which allows the plants to constantly take up nourishment as they need. If the soil is allowed to dry out the plant has to begin focusing on deeper root growth, adversely affecting yield which equals less food for you and your family.
Thus the recipe for optimum vegetable food production boils down to more frequent but shallow waterings that keep the soil just moist without it being too soggy (plants need oxygen just like us). This will take a little tinkering to figure out what this means to you in your specific situation, climate and soil conditions.
The good news is, you will actually use LESS water overall while increasing yield!
How I figured it out for my situation
Following the instructions in the Mittleider Gardening Course I set up my system to water automatically for ONE MINUTE at about 6:00 a.m. I watched my garden through the day and observed that my soil just started to dry out around 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon so I set my automatic timer to water again for ONE MINUTE at that time – which carried it through just fine until the next morning.
As the season heated up, I found that I needed to move the 3:00 p.m. up to about 1:00 and added an additional watering later in the afternoon.
Your soil may or may not drain as fast as mine and might even retain the moisture the whole day through with just the one watering. It’s something you’ll need to experiment with and might take a little adjustment until you get it just right.
Living in the Utah desert, this has been perhaps the most difficult concept for me to accept and it required a definite shift in my thought process compared to how I care for the rest of my landscape. But now that I’ve begun to understand what vegetable plants need in order to feed me and my family, seeing the results consistently as I’ve implemented those concepts I am absolutely convinced that this will help you be more successful in your vegetable garden as well.
Here’s a video demonstrating how I mark my pipe for the Mittleider automatic irrigation system
and a 2 part video explaining how I determined how many zones I would need for my garden