The Best Times and Methods to Water the Garden

As a youngster I used to love nothing more than watering my nan’s garden, I am not sure whether it was the fact I could press a trigger on the hose and soak whatever or whoever I wanted, but still to this day if there is a hose lying around and the sun is out then I am more than happy to give it a squeeze and “have a bit of fun”.

Watering your garden is not as easy as waiting for it to rain and letting the elements do the work. A surprising number of people do this and only reach for the hose when the rain has become irregular; if only it was that easy. A drought will quickly have you scrambling to the wildlife, and a lack of water will also have an adverse affect on your plants.

Today’s busy lifestyles mean we do not necessarily have the time in our schedules to devote a great amount of time to watering the garden, however with these simple steps and utilising a few handy gadgets, your garden will be looking vibrant and healthy in no time.

When to Water the Garden

You will have heard so many times in your life the old fashioned saying of ‘only water your garden at night time’ but is that really correct? The way I like to explain it to my children when out gardening at home is like this:

If, in the morning we woke up and did not have a drink until the evening, chances are we would be severely dehydrated and have a blinding headache to deal with. I am not sure of the science behind this or if plants can get a headache but I do know one thing; if I was out in the sun all day without a drink I would be slightly annoyed. Not only that, birds often drink from plants when another water supply isn’t available so you’ll attract these birds too.

So the very best time to water the garden is early in the morning, allowing the plants plenty of liquid to last the day. When doing so make certain that water always gets to the roots as sprinkling on the foliage really has very little benefit at all. Talking about roots, having excellent soil will help with drainage and root growth. Here’s some handy steps to keeping your soil in good condition.

Early evening is the next best time but you also need to be aware that if the night is a hot one, any good soaking that you give the garden, can have adverse effects by allowing fungus and other plant related diseases to attack the plants as they will stay wet in the humidity.

If you are going to water in the evening then do so but only give your garden a light sprinkle.

Did you know?

Watering during the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest is pointless as the water will evaporate before the plants can drink it up. You knew that didn’t you? Unless you have plenty of mulch and raised beds that is for the moisture to be trapped underneath.

The Best Times and Methods to Water the Garden

A Good Soaking or a Light Sprinkle?

The general rule is to supply your plants with an inch per week, I always do this with a hose pipe and various hose connectors to reach all the way round my garden as a watering can and water butt arrangement would just be far too much work. I tinkered with the idea of an automatic watering system but never actually followed through on it, I did setup a timer though which is pretty similar. An inch of water is about right, give or take for slight fluctuations in the temperature. If the ground is dry then your garden will definitely need a good soaking but not necessarily every day. It’s always best to monitor it with the naked eye and if your plants are looking somewhat dishevelled then you know what to do. In low temperatures then once a week will be just about right. The best way to test is to do the finger test. Simply place your index finger into the ground as far as it will go and if the ground is still moist then avoid watering.

Did you know?

Too much water can be dangerous to your flowers and plants but in high temperatures then every other day is deemed to be sufficient for the watering process.

Best Methods to Water

There are many devices that can assist you with watering the garden especially if you have a busy lifestyle and are unable to water it at the most important times.

Sprinklers

As much as I love watering the garden it is not always practical and I have a sprinkler system for my lawn that is set on a timer. It takes a bit of practice to get the timings correct but after several attempts, I managed to perfect it and I have now have a fairly decent lawn that doesn’t get water-logged or under watered – both of which I have encountered when I have been mowing the lawn, most inconvenient. I do not recommend using this type of system with vegetables or plants as you need to get to the roots. it works stunningly well on fast draining troughs and hanging baskets though.

Root Feeders

There are a variety of these on the market that are quite useful although I do not speak from experience with these devices, a friend of mine uses them and I strongly advise to research beforehand as placing them too deeply can completely miss the roots of your shrubs.

Trigger/Spray Gun Attachments

A definite favourite of mine and if you get a multi spray version then this can be used in a variety of ways from a misty spray to a pressure jet, depending on what you are using it on. It takes a bit longer to water the garden this way but if you have the time on your hands then it can definitely be the most efficient method.

Watering Can

The good old watering can has been a strong ally for any gardener and it is highly unlikely to ever go away. A valuable tool in any gardeners shed.

Teaching Children

On this blog we have always promoted teaching children how to garden, not only does it promote a valuable life skills but it means you can relax and put your feet up! I am joking of course, kids love playing with water and the last thing that your plants need is to be drowned in the very thing that gives them life; so be patient and teach them correctly.

These are just some of the various methods that gardeners use all over the world but if you have any more handy tips and tricks that we can use and perhaps let us know.

Keep your plants hydrated – Despite the drought

Gardeners in the south and east of England are still facing up to the inconvenience of a long hosepipe ban for months to come (some say until autumn). But let’s not get too maudlin as it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s still plenty you can do to make sure your plants and lawn don’t suffer the worst of it and, in fact, never get dehydrated.

Ways to get more water in your plants:

  • Before putting new shrubs or trees into the ground make sure the soil has been well and truly drenched by filling up the hole you’ve chosen with water right to the top and only planting the shrub or tree once the water has completely drained away. Heavily wet the root ball too prior to planting, use a trough or bucket and just drop them in.
  • Dig shallow trenches around the plants where you want the water to go for maximum impact. A pile of compost also keeps the surrounding soil moist. It’s well worth investing in a compost bin, not just for this purpose either.
  • It’s best to water your garden either very early in the morning or late at night as during both these periods water evaporation in minimal.
  • If putting out terracotta pots in your garden or porch always put a large saucer underneath to catch any rain fall and make sure the water doesn’t drain away onto the path or lawn.
  • When draining your patio area make sure the water makes its way towards your plants and lawn
  • When cutting the lawn don’t get carried away and crop it too much. Longer grass gives deeper roots and therefore increased shade. You don’t want to be turfing the lawn again!
  • Keep weeding religiously as you don’t want the plants and the weeds both competing for what little water there is.

Earlier this week TV gardener Charlie Dimmock spoke on behalf of Thames Water when she urged garden lovers to consider plants this year which didn’t require a lot of water to flourish.

She said: “If you plan your drought garden you can get as much enjoyment out of tending plants which are better equipped to deal with a drier soil, like lavender and Bergenia.

Bergenia
Bergenia

“When you do have to water new plants, do it early morning or in the evening to minimise evaporation and apply the water directly to the soil over the roots and cover the soil with mulch to store in the moisture.” I actually use an automatic garden watering system to ensure I use less water, but also plants seem to prefer morning and evening watering.

“When it comes to the lawn, it is green to be brown. Their shallow root system means they will go brown quickly in a drought but they will recover just as quickly when the rain comes. You don’t need to water well-established plants, they can use their roots to find their own”

Planning for the drought

The first thing that comes to my mind is (in a drought) avoid flower hanging baskets, as beautiful as they are, they really need consistent watering. The next issue is what can be done to keep the wildlife coming back during a drounght.

The ban is the first main step of Thames Water’s drought response plan, which has one aim – getting everyone to use less water.

Thames Water is one of seven drought-affected companies imposing ‘temporary use bans’ before Easter Weekend, traditionally one of the most popular gardening periods of the year.

Richard Aylard, Thames Water’s sustainability director, suggested gardeners install a water butt to store rainwater or use “grey water” from the kitchen.

"grey water" from the kitchen
source : www.pinterest.com

Guy Barter Chief Advisor of the Royal Horticultural Society advised gardeners not to worry too much about their lawns as most can be left unwatered without causing long-term damage, no need for a lawn mower in a drought then… He said buds in the grass practically hibernate during the brown dehydrated period, only to start growing again in the autumn months, then a top tip, in November you’ll mow the lawn for the last time before the next year.

How Gardeners Can Help Wildlife During The Drought

After experiencing two of the driest Winters and Springs on record, many parts of the country are parched which has naturally had an impact on the wildlife as well as on our gardens – but there are some simple steps gardeners can take to help the wildlife survive the drought.

Many gardeners have already found a way to beat the hosepipe ban currently placed on areas in southern and eastern England after many water companies took this decision due to low reservoir levels. It seems that gardeners in Oxfordshire are harvesting rainwater in large water butts to combat the drought and to allow them to carry on tending their gardens while they can’t use hoses to water plants and vegetables. Water butts always have a convenient tap so you can simply fill up a watering can and get a little exercise in the evening whilst it’s nice out. If you have a great deal of watering, some are resolving the issue with the use of a wheelbarrow to take the weight of the water from ‘a to b’.

And now gardeners can step in and come to the aid of wildlife during the drought, by adopting a few measures. As an avid gardener, the birdlife in your garden is probably already important to you and it may be you have adopted practices to help the animals when water is scarce. Whether you’re already taking care of the wildlife in your garden or are keen to start, we have a few ideas for you.

Keep in mind that birds will likely be thirsty at the moment because of the lack of rainfall, and also hungry because of the knock-on effect of parched soil. For example, it may be harder for birds to get hold of worms because the ground is harder when dry – if this is the case, it’s a good idea to lightly dig the soil to aid the birds who can then get to the worms more easily. Lightly digging the soil is a great tip for the aeration process too. In a drought, try water-saving techniques like mulching plants and soil too, using leaf mould or well-rotted manure for example, as this retains the moisture and encourages earthworms and insects to survive, which in turn can become bird food. This is especially effective in plant pots and troughs where there is a self watering tray placed under to catch excess water lost. Hanging baskets are a bit of a no-no in droughts. They simply ask for too much water, as beautiful as they look when they are well watered and happy!

When it comes to feeding the birds, again you want to select the right foods for them during the drought. Leaving out chunks of apple, for example, is good as this fruit has particularly high water content. You can then also make bird feeders available too, with foods high in nutritional value. Be sure to leave fresh water out too, and keep an eye on this source to prevent it getting dirty or warm in the sun. Don’t be too fussy though, the animals can survive well enough drinking moisture from pools and grass.

Another measure is to keep your lawn mower locked in the shed – by letting the grass grow long, insect life is encouraged which can then be a food source for birds. If you have any mud in your garden, keep it wet so that birds like house martins and swallows can use the damp mud for building nests. Normally, birds can find muddy water at the edges of reservoirs and randomly on the ground but when the earth is parched such findings are rare – by adding some water to mud the birds can make new nests as well as fix any that need mending.

As much as possible, water the plants in your garden. It may not be possible to use a hosepipe but you can still fill up a watering can and keep plants healthy throughout the dry weather conditions. Plus, if you do harvest rainwater you’ll have an extra supply of water to splash around your garden – either literally or by topping up bird baths.