Tips from Sarah the Gardener
Water is the liquid of life. We all need it to stay alive and well, and so do our plants. For plants, it is so much more than giving them a drink when they are thirsty, it is an integral part of their health and well-being. Water is drawn up from the roots and distributed throughout the entire plant acting as a carrier of nutrients and minerals. It delivers them to where they are needed allowing the plant to function efficiently. The water pressure within the plant helps it stand tall and strong. A easy-to-spot sign of insufficient water is wilting.
Water is also important in the process of transpiration which helps the plant to regulate its internal temperature preventing it from getting too hot, it’s somewhat similar to sweating on a hot day. In addition, it has a role to play in photosynthesis, the process in which the plant converts the sun’s energy into sugars to feed itself.
Taking all this into consideration, it is in your best interest as a gardener to ensure that plants are well hydrated in order for them to remain in good health. Healthy plants reward us with beautiful flowers and abundant harvests. That being said, just throwing water at the garden from time-to-time, whilst may keep plants alive, isn’t the best method to follow. To water a garden well, you need to know how plants like to receive their water for the best outcome.
The best way is rain. Naturally! There is nothing like a good rainfall to water the garden but with the right equipment, we can do a very good job at standing in for nature when rain isn’t forthcoming. Having said that, in the height of the growing season, a good summer shower may not be enough to penetrate deep into the soil and so always check by digging a small hole to see if it was actually a good soaking or if you still need to water your garden as well.
The key to a healthy garden is to ensure the soil stays evenly moist. A situation where the soil swings from bone dry to sodden and back again isn’t ideal for plants as it causes disruption to the essential processes occurring within the plant. Thick mulch is a great way to stop the garden drying out and conserve the moisture in the soil. It is best to apply it to wet soil.
Some plants have personal preferences in regards to how they like to receive their water. Plants like cucumber, potato, tomato, pea, pumpkin and zucchini really prefer to be watered at the roots. If they get their leaves wet, it makes them more susceptible to fungal diseases like mildew and blight. Other plants really don’t mind, however, watering at the roots is always preferable if you want to avoid wasting water because of evaporation.
Watering the garden is best done first thing in the morning when the water has the best chance of soaking into the ground before the heat of the day evaporates it away. Not all of us are fortunate enough to have a schedule that allows us to do this though so it’s fine to water in the early evening. The drawback with evening watering is that damp conditions can linger longer thereby increase the risk of fungal diseases, but if this is the only time you have then it is the best time for your garden.
Watering at midday isn’t recommended as the evaporation rate makes it wasteful and there is the added danger on hot days of sun scorch on wet leaves.
Now that we know when to water, it is equally important to know how to water. A deep watering every few days is much better than a quick splash every day. The water needs to penetrate deep into the soil to make the roots follow down deep to find it. Not only does this give your plants strength and stability against the wind, but also protects them from the effects of the surface drying of the soil around the plant.
To ensure a deep watering, set your sprayer or nozzle to the soft shower setting and start watering by waving it over the soil to soften any surface crusting that may have formed since you last watered. A well-placed sprinkler will also do the job. This crusting can cause the water to run off away from where you need the water to be. Once this has been absorbed, the water should be able to penetrate into the root zone resulting in a deep watering. Give your plants a good refreshing drink and then come back and give them a splash more remembering not to have the pressure too high or you will blast the soil away and harm the roots.
Automating your watering is a great way to ensure the soil is evenly moist throughout the season. The pre-soaking mentioned above can be easily programmed to precede a deep watering session. The GARDENA range of Water Computers has a product for all types of gardens and gardening styles.
In addition to a water computer, irrigation systems are affordable, easy to install and will deliver water directly to the plants where and when you need it, saving time and money. Automatic watering comes into its own over the holidays especially considering the hottest part of summer happens to coincide with the festive season and family holidays away. There is such peace of mind leaving for a holiday without having to worry about the state of the garden upon your return.
And finally, it is important to look after the health and well-being of the gardener. Make sure you drink plenty of water while out in the garden and don’t forget to apply sunscreen often and wear a hat. The sun’s rays not only dry out the soil but can also cause a nasty sunburn. It is so easy to lose track of time whilst working up a sweat in the garden so it is important to take care of yourself, so you can take care of your garden.