Over the summer months keeping plants well watered can be a challenge. The method chosen to water plants has a significant impact on how much water is absorbed by plant roots. Irrigation systems like soak hoses and dripper irrigation systems that water into soil, rather than onto plants, are the most efficient - they ensure plant roots grow deeper and are more resilient to dry conditions.
Choose plants that suit your soil type (i.e choose succulents for sandy soil) and group plants with similar water requirements together. This will automatically set up your garden to have plants with the same watering needs together and avoid over-watering other plants. Soil in pots dries out faster than soil in the garden so group your pots together. By minimising their exposure to the sun this will help to stop them drying out.
As a general rule you only need to water every 3-5 days (this may increase in summer, especially on edible crops). Less frequent, deep soakings encourage plant roots to grow feeder roots deep into the ground in search of water. This helps plants to better survive short term drought.
Check the moisture of your soil. If the soil is moist 10 centimetres below the surface it should be fine, if it is dry at this level it needs to be watered. In hot weather you may want to check the moisture every four to seven days.
Overwatering plants can do as much damage to the health of plants as not enough water. A damp growing environment will make plants vulnerable to diseases like root rot, blackspot and mildew. A diseased or stressed plant is also more likely to become a home for pests.
Use a combination of water saving techniques in the garden to ensure the best results.
General watering tips
- Use roof-collected rainwater or 'grey water' from the bath or washing machine to water shrubs.
- Collect rainwater in tanks or barrels. This will save money on your water bills.
- Ask your local council about water efficiency checks.
- Raise lawn mower blades in hot weather to prevent lawns getting stressed and leave clippings on the lawn as mulch.
- When you clean your fish tank, use the 'old' nitrogen and phosphorous-rich water on your plants.
- Water early morning or in the evening to avoid water loss through evaporation. Water droplets on leaves in bright sunlight can act as lenses, concentrating the sunlight and burning foliage.
- Apply water close to the ground and aim along the dripline of plants (which is beneath the outer edge of the plant’s canopy).
- Water the highest parts of the garden first: any run off will go to the lower dry areas.
- Adjust sprinklers so they do not spray on paths, driveways and against buildings.
Water saving products
- Apply SaturAid granular soil wetter like to garden beds, pots and lawns to assist water in reaching the root zone of plants.
- Mulch with Tui Pea Straw Mulch or Tui Mulch & Feed -the convenient two-in-one combination provides the benefits of mulching whilst the healthy additions of blood and bone, mulching straw and sheep pellets replace vital nutrients used by your plants.
- Compost is an excellent water saver, it improves the soil by increasing moisture holding capacity, particularly in sandy soils.
- Check your irrigation, taps and hoses for leaks. A dripping tap can leak up to 10 litres of water a day.
- Use a soak hose in garden beds rather than a sprinkler.
- Remove weeds, they compete for the moisture and nutrients.
- Use cloches or growing tunnels to help retain soil moisture.
- Give plants an application of Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic plant tonic at least every month to make them thrive and help them cope with temperature fluctuation.