In the heat of the summer, and especially if we haven’t seen a drop of rain for some time, water becomes an eternal challenge for every gardener.
Yet growing your own food is becoming essential; far more than a hobby or loving pastime of days gone by. So how can we ensure an adequate water supply during those dry summer months ahead, when many regions have water restrictions in place to boot?
You may already be aware that different types of soil have different water-holding capacity – clay, sandy loam etc. But more than this, did you know that the more alive your soil is, the better it is at retaining water?
Like everything in gardening, it begins in the soil!
For this reason, and many more, I hugely advocate putting in the effort to build your soil quality from the outset and then maintain a regular feeding programme to keep your soil and your plants at optimal health. For more on the soil sponge, discover my earlier blogs here.
Over the years, I have mastered some great ways to both retain water and make water stretch further; so read on as I reveal these secrets for you now!
TIP #1: HOW YOU WATER YOUR PLANTS MATTERS
Watering plants at the root source means the soil can absorb the entirety. Overhead watering not only wastes the valuable water, it also creates a high rate of evaporation, leaf burn and plant stress, inviting pest and disease.
TIP #2: WHEN YOU WATER YOUR PLANTS IS ESSENTIAL
Always water in the cool of the morning, before the sun gets too hot. Did you know that your plants are ‘awake’ in the day and ‘asleep’ at night? During the sunshine, your plants are busy photosynthesising – the process to convert sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into energy stored as chains of sugar (also known as plant starch). At night, plants burn up this sugar while they sleep, which gives them fuel for continuing their growth the following morning. Therefore, they need a good drink in the morning and it will provide moisture for your plants all day long.
TIP #3: HOW MUCH WATER YOU USE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Watering little and often is much more productive for your plants’ growth, rather than a big drink once a week. Over the summer months, give each plant about a cup of water each day, or three cups every three days at the stem only.
TIP #4: RETAINING WATER IS THE NAME OF THE GAME
Mulching on top of your plants not only keeps the moisture in the ground by reducing the soil temperature and evaporation from the heat of the sun, it also encourages roots to go deeper into the soil layers, where the water is held.
Once the topsoil dries out, turning hard and crusty, water will actually run straight off rather than being absorbed. When mulching, be sure to leave space between the plant’s stem and the edge of the mulch – this is the space to apply water.
TIP #5: SAVE WATER FROM YOUR HOME TO USE ON THE GARDEN
There are many ways to save water from the home to water your plants each day if you simply adjust your mindset to consider that every drop you save helps towards the survival of your plants. You’ll be surprised how much water you will save by following these tips:
· Place a bucket in your shower and catch the water while waiting for it to reach your desired temperature. In some homes, you can save as much as 8 litres per shower!
· Gather some 10-litre buckets or vessels and place them under every tap in your home to catch waste water! When you turn the tap on to clean your teeth, wash your vegetables, rinse your hands or rinse your dishes, be sure to catch every drop. When the bowl is full, tip the water into your bucket – and be amazed how much you water you can collect.
Be mindful that any waste water containing soap is best avoided for vegetable plants. But if you use environmentally-friendly products, you can use this water for fruit trees.
Happy summer gardening!