Water & watering

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Even small alterations in domestic gardens can make a big difference to the planet. This is one of an occasional series that will give you tips to make being a ‘green gardener’ a lot easier than achieving a gold medal. Last Saturday’s blog was water–orientated and this week continues the theme.

I know we’ve had more rain than we could care for in Britain this summer, but we should be grateful as it’s filling up the reservoirs and underground aquifers that were dangerously low. However much water falls from the sky, fresh, as distinct from salted, water is a finite resource. It is constantly recycled, not just by humans, but by raining on the ground, thence into streams, then taken back up into clouds to fall again as rain. It is a resource which we can easily reduce our use of and recycle ourselves without too much effort.

Water conservation – if you have room for a water butt then you should have one – or two. They come in various shapes and sizes from huge below ground tanks to slim wall hung versions so there should be one to fit your garden. You can also use ‘grey water’ for watering any thirsty non-edible plants. It may be too complicated for you to have a pipe system from your bath/shower, but it’s easy to have a bowl in the basin and use the water from washing dishes and hands. Grey water doesn’t store without treatment so use within a day.

Before you water your garden, ask yourself: is that plant really thirsty?

Established plants and lawns tend not to need extra watering by us humans. There will be some exceptions, flowering herbaceous perennials under the shade of a tree, for example, plus fruit bushes and trees at key times such as pollination & fruit setting. Make sure the water gets down to the roots, which is where it’s needed. Check the soil at root level by gently digging down. If it’s damp then the plant doesn’t need watering.

Dry soil on the surface is fine, so long as it’s not crusting over. This would cause rain to bounce off the surface rather than be absorbed. Break it up with a hoe if necessary. Make a note to add more organic matter in the autumn, as this will reduce the crust effect. Plants in a rain shadow – under trees, against fences, in a porch will possibly need watering even when it rains, so do check. Water thoroughly but not often to encourage the plants to send their roots deep into the soil where there’s more likely to be stored water. Exceptions would be annual vegetables and some annual bedding.

Watering in the evening or early morning reduces evaporation (water loss) so the plants get maximum benefit. If slugs and snails are a problem, which they probably are for most of us as the wet spring sent their population soaring, then you may find watering in the morning rather than the evening is better. This reduces the moistness around the plants overnight, when those gastropods are most active.

If you’re giving your tomatoes, beans or other plants a feed, water them first, they then absorb the feed more efficiently. And on that note, I’m off to water my own tomatoes and sugar snap peas; and hopefully pick a few – if those blinking snails haven’t eaten them…

If you would like some design advice, or a consultancy on how to manage the water – or lack of it – in your garden, we have the inspiration and the know- how

So get in touch

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