This summer has largely been a very warm and dry one here in the UK. Polytunnel gardeners may have found it a struggle to keep on top of the watering needs in their polytunnel and elsewhere in their gardens. It is crucial in a well run polytunnel to conserve water and use it wisely. Collecting rainwater is the first and most important step – but how do you make sure that you conserve the water you collect as you maintain your polytunnel? Here are five practices which will help you to use water wisely in your polytunnel garden:
Direct Water To Where It Is Really Needed
Whether you have installed an irrigation system, are considering installing one, or simply water by hand, it is important to think about where the water is going. Watering from above can lead to water simply running off the soil surface, or failing to penetrate top soil to a deep enough level to allow it to be successfully taken up by plant roots. Consider perforated pipes run in growing areas to take water directly to where it is needed, and/or water into pots sunken into the soil next to plants, so the water will reach roots where it is required.
Improve The Humus Content of the Soil
Making sure that the quality of your top soil in your growing areas is good is essential to the creation of a water-wise garden. The number one way to improve and maintain good soil health is to make sure that you add plenty of humus/ organic matter to the soil surface. In a ‘no dig’ system, humus is added to the surface, and taken through the top soil for the benefit of plants by the natural soil organisms. A healthy, complex soil web is essential to transporting water and nutrients below the soil surface, and can make it easier to use less water in your polytunnel. Humus will also help to trap and store water and nutrients, reducing leaching and run off.
Mulch Around Plants To Reduce Moisture Loss
Organic mulches are sometimes used to enhance the soil, and keep the soil ecosystem safe, but mulches will also have the added benefit of reducing water loss from the soil. Adding a thick, organic mulch around polytunnel plants in the summer months can significantly reduce the amount of watering you will have to do.
Shade Plants With Companion Plants or Other Solutions
Providing shade for thirsty plants in the hottest months can help to reduce their water needs. Shade can be provided by means of taller companion plants, but you could also consider using other solutions such as shade netting.
Use Ground Cover Plants To Keep Conserve Water in the Soil
Ground covering companion plants will also help to reduce water needs by keeping moisture in the soil. Bare soil will lose water a lot faster than an area covered in green vegetation. So try to avoid having too many areas of bare soil for too long in your polytunnel.
How do you conserve water in your polytunnel? Let us know in the comments below.
Originally posted 2018-08-14 07:45:37.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.