Watering Your Garden.

By: Rick Skew

To state the obvious, plants cannot live without water - a prolonged dry spell in the summer months can lead to serious losses the plants most at risk. Newly planted shrubs and trees, bedding plants, shallow-rooted vegetables and climbers growing close to a home. Even deep rooted well established plants like Roses can suffer, trials have shown that growth may be impaired and the flowering season is curtailed if these plants are not watered during a dry summer.

Like all garden plants, the battle against water shortage begins well before the dry days of summer. Incorporate adequate organic matter into the soil before planting or sowing, and ensure the soil is thoroughly moist to a depth of about 9 inches when planting or sowing. Mulch in late spring - you will have now done all of the preparatory work that you possibly can.

Soil with an average crop of plants loses about four and a half gallons of water per sq. yd per week in the summer and 2 gallons per week in spring and autumn. This is equivalent to 1 inch of rain water in summer and 1/2 inch in spring or autumn. If there is no rain and you haven’t watered the ground, this water comes from your soil's reserve and drying out occurs.

A point is reached when there is not enough water left to support healthy plant growth, and foliage starts to look dull. Leaf rolling is soon followed by wilting and leaf fall, the final stage is death.

The solution:
The answer is, obviously, to water..... but to do this properly is not as easy as it sounds. Timing, quantity and method all have to be considered. There is, on the other hand, a few general principles.

A plant should never be left until it starts to indicate visible signs of distress during a prolonged period of drought. Wilting means you have waited too long, the time to water your plants is when the soil below a few inches depth is dry and the foliage looks dull.

Never apply a tiny quantity of water (less than 1 gallon per sq,yd) and then repeat the watering every few days. This constant soaking of the surface and water-starvation of the lower root zone results in rapid evaporation, surface rooting which is damaged in hot weather, and germination of weed seeds.

Choose between overall watering and point watering. When you have a large area to cover and lots of plants of varied sizes, then overall watering has to be your choice. This involves watering an area rather than restricting the watering to the root zone of each individual plant. Some people use a watering can, but you really do will want a hose pipe if watering is not to be a prolonged chore.

The standard system is to walk slowly along the borders and around the beds with a hand-held hose fitted with a suitable nozzle. a sprinkler makes the task easier and is necessary for all but the tiniest of lawns.

The best method of watering vegetables and shrubs are the sprinkler hoses and seep hoses, but they can be expensive. Point watering is used where there is a limited number of large plants to deal with. The methods used are all designed to restrict the water to the immediate zone covered by the roots of every plant.

Water thoroughly once you have decided to water. If you are using a watering can, take off the rose. Hold the spout close to the bottom of the plant and water slowly. If you use a sprinkler water in the evening - never in hot sunshine. With overall watering apply 2 - 4 gallons per sq. yd, using the higher amount during midsummer in sandy soils and with high risk plants.

With point watering use 1 - 4 gallons per plant, depending on the size of shrub or tree. Repeat the watering if there is no rain. There is no easy way to work out the correct time for this repeat watering. Dig down with a trowel and examine the soil at 3 - 4 inches below the surface. If it is dry, then water. As a general rule watering will be required about every 7 days during a period of drought.

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An extraordinary amount of my time is spent in my garden, but as I am getting older and things have become harder to do. I have decided to use a company called Garden Design London. Up to now they have given me all the help and advice that I have asked for. I still do a bit of pottering around my own garden.

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