As gardeners and even non gardeners the summer weather this year is superb. Plants are flourishing and pests and diseases are too bad either. However, the elephant in the greenhouse, is the potential of water shortages and hosepipe bans. Watering in summer 2018 is a challenge but simply targeted isn’t onerous.
Why is water so important to plants?
It seems too obvious to read the next paragraph but please do.
Plants without water will die, that’s a given. However, some water given occasionally, might just keep them alive but since plants absorb nutrients as a solution a plant that is too dry becomes starved of nutrient. In this situation plants won’t thrive and in fact are more prone to insect attack and have reduced resistance to diseases. Adequate watering is therefore essential for the best results.
What to water, where and when, watering in summer in 2018 should follow these steps
Watering Can or Hose Pipe?
Hose pipes seem to be the answer for easy and speed but in reality most of us over-estimate the amount of water we are pouring on to the soil or compost. We get bored easily too and give up too quickly. However in combination with a large watering can you have a very low tech. ‘Killer App’.
Stretch your hose pipe out to the length you need to water and use it to fill your watering can. The advantage of filling and pouring the content of the watering can you have an instant measure of the amount of water you are applying. You have no idea with a hose pipe.
It’s vital you know how much water your are applying for……
Watering newly planted border plants
Newly planted plants rely on the ability of the roots growing in the compost with in the pot shaped root ball until these roots have grown into your garden soil. Until this point, which might take some months, you must keep the root ball wet. When you plant it’s always a good idea to make a funnel like depression in the soil around the stems, this will direct your water towards the plants stems and it will then peculate into the root ball. A mound of soil will disperse your water onto the surrounding border soil, directing it away from the root ball. If the root ball dries out it will shrink and pull away from the border soil preventing any moisture present in your soil traveling towards it. watering into a soil depression keeps the root ball wet and the excess runs into the border soil. Water daily and in the evening. More later.
Water pots and baskets
Compost in pots should not reach the rim of the pot so that you can fill with water to the brim. Regular watering keeps it moist and makes it easier to re-wet. Dry compost shrinks and most of your water runs down the gap and out of the drainage holes.
This is applicable to hanging baskets too, but it’s far worse. Hanging baskets hang in the hottest, windiest places which makes drying out quicker. Watering morning and evening are often needed.
Water retaining crystals or compost ‘pre-loaded’ with water retaining media will produce amazing hanging baskets because of the constant supply of water that the water retaining materials area able to release as the plants need it. This means a constant suply of food too. Use them on pots or baskets. Make a note for next spring.
It’s better to water in the evening in very dry weather as the soil or compost can ‘use’ the water and not compete as much with the high evaporation rates. A second watering in the morning is very beneficial for hanging baskets and essential in extreem heat.
Collecting ‘waste’ water
You can recycle water from your washing up in the kitchen, and from showers and baths if you just use soap or washing up liquid. DO NOT recycle water from dishwashers and washing machines. The often contain chemicals harmful to plants.
If you do use your ‘safe’ waste water you might fin carrots pick up the scent of your soap. They are still edible but slightly floral.
Water from your washing up bowl will contain food particles and fat. Pour this though some fabric to act as a filter first.
If you bathroom waste pipes are on the exterior of your home you can divert the waste pipes, possibly by disconnecting and extending them into a water butt or series of water butts. Or if the waste links into a down pipe you can use a water collector designed for collecting rain water.
Don’t water your lawn
If your established lawn is brown it will recover once it has sufficient rain. Sometimes watering can make the problem worse if you are not able to apply enough water. The roots stay shallow and rely on your watering.
New lawns must be kept watered. A sprinkler watering late in the day is the most efficient. The water can soak in over night. A watering timer fitted to your tap might help here.
Investing in a micro-irrigation might be a good idea for your garden. They prove to be essential for pubs and businesses and if you have time away regularly micro-irrigation is a good investment with the addition of a timer.
Watering while you are away
If you don’t have a watering system and rely on friends and neighbours, pushing all you pots together and into the shade will make it easier to keep them watered. When pots are close it increase the humidity around them and reduces water loss. Plants in shade also use less water. To help your friends and neighbours, collect used 2 litre drinks bottles and add a watering spike to each one.
If it starts to rain
Keep watering – the rate of evaporation is so high that most of the water evaporates before the plans can use it. It would take days of continual rain before it has a big impact on your plants.
Hose Pipe Bans
Some areas are now considering a Temporary User Ban (TUB) or as we all know it a ‘hose pipe ban’. Once these are in place you can no longer use mains water via a hose pipe for watering your garden or washing your car. Gardeners can still water their garden whilst a TUB is in progress by using trickle irrigation fitted with a timer and pressure relief valve.