Watering is one of the most important jobs that a gardener has to carry our, especially if they have a greenhouse. One of the most frequent reasons that plants fail to thrive is too little of too much water.
In the garden plants lose water when the condition are warm or windy. Some plants need more water than others so it is important to understand the needs of your plants. Some plants will suffer if they are overwatered and it doesn’t help that given too much water tend to display the same symptoms as those that have been given too little. Also plants can wilt in hot conditions even though they are not short of water as temperatures cool they perk up.
The frequency at which you will need to water your garden will vary depending on your soil type. A clay soil will retain moisture whereas water will quickly drain through a sandy soil.
Watering is best done by nature but in very dry periods nature will need to be given a helping hand. Seedlings will also need more artificial watering as their roots can only access water in the very top layer of soil.
Soil that is too free draining can be improved by adding moisture retentive matter such as compost. Moisture retention is also improved by adding a mulch to the surface of the soil.
It is likely during the growing season that you will have to give nature a helping hand.
Wherever possible watering with rainwater is preferable to using tap water, however it seems that nowadays we either have too much water or not enough. According to some weather forecasters this trend is set to continue. We all know that our precious plants can’t survive without water so it makes sense to try and store or conserve as much water as we can to get us through the times when it just refuses to rain.
For those of us who have water meters it also makes economic sense too. so you may wish to have some method of storing rainwater. It is surprising how much rainwater can be collected from the roof of a greenhouse of shed.
Lots of water falls on roof surfaces so it makes sense to try and collect as much of this water as possible using water butts. According to the RHS even in the driest areas of the U.K 150 water butts could be filled with the water collected off a house roof.
Connecting water butts to down-pipes is easily done. You can even connect several water butts together to provide for even more efficient collection. Water butts also have a place on the allotment plot where water can be collected from sheds, greenhouse roofs and other structures. If you are unlucky enough to be on a site without an adequate water supply storing and collecting water is even more crucial.
There are many styles of water butts available, some are purely functionally whereas others are more decorative. The style you choose will depend on taste and where you wish to site your water butt. Below are just some option. All butts will required extras with which to attach the butt to a drainpipe and if not already provided a tap. Some will also need to be placed on a stand to ensure that you can get a watering can under the tap.
Every gardener will need at least one watering can. When carrying water around our allotment plot I prefer two watering cans of the same size. Not only does this cut down on walking backwards and forwards so watering takes less time but it also balances the body.
When choosing a size and style of watering can consider how it will be used. For watering the greenhouse I prefer a smaller long spout can. The lighter weight of can makes it easier to water plants high on a shelf and staging and the longer spout means the plants at the back of staging can be easily reached.
The type of rose is also important as some have larger holes than others. A finer spray is needed for watering seeds and seedlings. Some cans come with interchangeable roses and also a bar shaped sprinkler.
Some cans also have a parking space for the rose when it isn’t in use - this is really useful as it is so easy to put down the rose and forget where it is. It can be hard to spot amongst grass if it is green like ours.
If you use weed-killers then it is important to keep a can especially for this task so that you don’t inadvertently kill your plants.
Additionally you may want to invest in a hose pipe but bear in mind that some areas will operate a hosepipe ban during periods of drought.
We prefer to use our watering cans as in this way we know exactly how much water is being applied but at times we just can’t keep up with watering using just the cans so we do occasionally use a hose pipe. The problem on our allotment site is if one person is using a hose it reduces water pressure so much that if someone else accesses one of the taps everything slows to a trickle.
To use a hose pipe to water plants you will need an attachment such as a gun nozzle or sprinkler. Sprinklers can be left to water plants whilst you do something else but do need leaving in one place for a while so that plants are adequately watered and again some councils may ban their use.
Different styles of sprinkler are available some rotate, others pulse and other swing from side to side. We prefer the latter as it seems to water the ground more thoroughly.
You may also need some means of keeping the hose tidy and to prevent it from kinking.
A hose pipe with a jet attachment is also useful for blasting aphids or whiteflies from plants.
There is also a wide range of irrigation systems that use either a seep or soaker hose or a thin plastic pipes onto which a series of nozzles are fitted creating a drip system
The seep hose is a normal hose with tiny holes along one side and a soaker hose is a porous pipe through which the water passes as it flows. Both types of hose are laid directly on the ground and can be curled around the plants that you wish to water. The hose can be left in a permanent position and can also be buried beneath the soil surface. The advantage of this type of hose is that it delivers the water directly to the soil and roots and so is less wasteful of water. Seep and soaker hoses can also be attached to water butts.
he drip system operates by creating a network of thin plastic pipes with nozzles located by the plants that you wish to water. You can also arrange the pipes so that they links a series of tubs or troughs. Nozzles can be turned on or off or adjusted independently to deliver a varied amount of water to each plant This system can be used successfully to irrigate raised beds. A timing device can also be attached to a tap and set to deliver water at certain times and for a certain length of time.
These systems can be used to water plants when you are unable to but will only work effectively over certain distance or water will not flow to the end of the pipe.
All these systems can be used to irrigate raised beds and the drip systems can be used in a greenhouse.
Drip systems can also be attached to reservoirs of water which is useful if you are on an allotment site where your system can’t be permanently attached to a tap or your tap is sited some distance from your greenhouse.
There are also watering systems that work by capillary action.
A reservoir feeds water to plants using a material that soaks up the water using capillary action. The plants sit on the permanently damp material and moisture is soaked up into the compost. This way the pots don’t sit in a pool of water which can cause damage to the root system by overwatering.
At a simple level you could line trays in which your plants sit with capillary matting and water manually. The matting will absorb moisture which will then be available to the plants