Few things are more therapeutic than watering the garden. It’s an easy job, up to a point, but one you don’t want to get wrong. Now the days are becoming warmer, that doesn’t mean you can’t use some advice to make sure your plants are getting what they need.
It’s easy enough to give the garden a quick spray with a hose but many traditional gardeners still prefer old fashioned watering cans because it’s easier to judge exactly how much water you’ve used. It also makes for some great exercise – but be careful not to strain anything if you’re lugging heavy cans about.
Traditional watering is great way to engage children in the garden, too. Simply pick up a smaller watering can and send them off to look after the easy – to reach pots and containers!
Getting the right amount of water to each of your plants is a real balancing act. In general, the darker the leaves, the more heat they absorb so the more water they need. But this rule of thumb doesn’t take into account their position in your plot.
Plants that sit in the baking sun for most of the day will obviously need far more hydration than those tucked away in a shaded corner. And beware those sitting under eaves don’t dry out because they’re not getting any rain.
When it comes to beds, borders and vegetable plots, you should be trying to water to about 20cm under the soil.
Moisture depth is important because it means the water is reaching plant roots and the risk of evaporation is lower, so it’s more efficient. Simply spraying the surface risks losing the majority of water to drying out. Your plants need a really good soaking.
There’s no need to drown baskets and boxes in water until it’s dripping from the bottom – you’ll risk washing away the soil and losing any nutrients. In reality, little and often is best so a small can of water each day should keep most plants in containers content.
Also consider adding some Miracle-Gro® Moisture Control Water Storing Gel, which will dramatically increase the ability of container soil to stay moist.
These small crystals expand into gel and quite literally hold moisture into the soil.
A fine-textured compost will help them to work most effectively. Finally, lining your baskets and containers to help slow water loss is also an option. Even a layer of (pre-read) newspaper in the bottom will help stop water pouring from drainage holes.
Mains water should be used sparingly – especially if you’re one of the increasing number of UK households on a meter. At peak times, water companies meet demand by using groundwater supplies – which is bad for the environment and puts prices up, too.
My advice is to give your garden a drink in early morning or evening, to cut down on water evaporation.
Another tip which I find useful is to simply move your smaller pots into the shade – it’s a quick way to save a lot of watering woes.
If a potted plant has dried out, dunk it into a bucket of water until escaping bubbles stop coming out. This will be much better for the plant than having water pooling on the soil’s crusted surface or running straight off. You can then repeat and reuse the water for other potted plants that may need it.
Water storing is another facet to gardening that’s worth exploring if you haven’t already. A typical water butt holds about 200 litres and they’re cheap as chips to buy. They’re also really easy to install. If you’ve got space, there’s no reason not to have a few of them.
Plus, the absence of the chemicals that make tap water safe for drinking makes rainwater a better choice for watering needs.
For larger gardens, you can install a rainwater-harvesting system, but these can be rather pricey if not installed when the house is being built. However, forward planning will hugely benefit your plants with a reliable water supply and is kinder to the environment too.
Improve the quality of your soil by adding compost and manure to the surface and dig well in. This will help sandy soils retain moisture. Don’t forget that the healthier the soil, the less your plant has to work. This goes for water absorption too.
When giving plants a good dousing, a hose that can provide multiple settings is always best. This is because the spread and intensity of cover will need to adapt for each plant and situation.
For instance, delicate or young plants need a gentle shower, whereas dense foliage or established growth will benefit from a vigorous soaking.
Buy a good hose that gives this level of control, doesn’t kink and stores well. Some can even be fitted to walls for ease of access. For fruit and veg, use an oscillating sprinkler. When fixed up to an automatic timer, they’re a simple way to make sure your garden gets watered during the busy summer months. This is especially important with crops like pumpkins, cucumbers or tomatoes.
Automatic timers can’t adapt to unpredictable weather though, so home gardeners can also invest in automatic irrigation controls. These have sensors that turn off the water supply when it is raining or the soil is too moist.
Mount some wire baskets on your
shed wall as storage, saving you shelving space
and keeping things off the floor.
As well as being practical, watering is one of the most relaxing tasks in the garden. Enjoy it.
Happy gardening everyone!
How can I stop my camellia from looking yellow?
These plants are ericaceous meaning they do not like limey soils, it’s best to feed your camellias with sulphate of iron or liquid sequestration of iron for a quicker uptake. Adding regular feed and organic matter around the plant aids the plant health.
Should I keep deadheading roses?
Yes, regular deadheading will keep the plant producing more flowers. Do it all summer and early autumn. The only time you might avoid deadheading is for rose cultivars that bear hips in the autumn for decoration or to be harvested.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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