The art of watering

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With summer fast approaching your garden needs to be ready and refreshed for those hot days so you can relax and enjoy sitting in it on those balmy nights.
Keeping your plants happy with plenty of moisture sounds easy – but watering is an art. Flailing the hose around willy-nilly for five minutes every now and then is not how to keep your plants alive. You need to monitor your garden daily to determine its needs through the hotter months. Consider your soil, the type of plants you have as they will all have different requirements, and pay attention to weather forecasts – hot, windy weather dries out the soil very quickly.

Frequent, shallow watering keeps roots from growing deep and makes plants susceptible to drought. Over-watering can drown plants by filling up soil pores with water leaving little or no oxygen for plant roots. Also, excessive watering leaches away nutrients and can contribute to groundwater contamination.

Hand watering keeps you in control but can be time consuming and inconvenient for you, as the ideal time to water is first thing in the morning. Drip irrigation systems require an initial investment of time and money but, once installed, are convenient and conserve water. You can set up a drip system to meet the needs of individual plants precisely and then alter it throughout each season as watering needs change. Sprinklers have the disadvantage of wasting water by watering paths and other open spots. They also lose water to evaporation and wind drift. Because they wet the foliage, sprinklers also can promote the development of leaf diseases.

Here are some guidelines to ensure all your plants stay lush and stress-free.

Seedlings need to be kept moist without being drowned, so water gently every day or two using a watering can with a rose on the end or a soft spray nozzle or arm on the hosepipe.

Newly planted and developing plants need to be watered deeply but less often to encourage deep root growth. Water to a depth of at least 15 cm then let the surface 4 cm dry out completely before watering again – a moisture meter is an excellent tool to gauge this, or use your finger!

Established shrubs and trees will have developed a deep root system so will need a thorough watering every five days during summer. The soil surrounding a plant’s roots (the ‘root zone’) serves as a storage tank from which the plant draws moisture and nutrients. Most trees and shrubs shed rain water to the drip line much like an umbrella. The most active water absorption area is at the drip line and beyond, not close to the trunk. This is where you should water as most of the roots spread two to four times as wide as the plant’s canopy.

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