Watering is, of course, one of the most important garden jobs. This is also the area where new gardeners can most frequently go wrong. If you experience problems in your garden, or your plants fail to thrive, it is a good idea to ask yourself what you might be doing wrong when watering your garden. Often, solving issues related to water could enable you to yield better results.
When thinking about watering, it is important to consider where the water comes from in the first place. Water conservation is also key. You need to ask yourself whether you have the right systems in place, and whether you understand the needs of the specific plants you are growing, and the techniques required to meet their needs.
Not Making the Most of Natural Rainfall
The first and most important thing to think about when watering is where the water you use comes from. Using mains tap water to irrigate or water your garden is not, ultimately, the most sustainable of eco-friendly approach. It is important to think about how you can harness the rainfall which falls on your property.
Most obviously, this involves taking steps to catch the rain which falls on your roof, and on any other structures such as sheds, greenhouses, or polytunnels on your property.
It also involves thinking carefully about plants and soil, and how you can potentially alter the topography of your space to catch water in the landscape and keep it around.
You also need to consider how the rainwater you harvest is directed, and how best to utilise it throughout your garden.
Not Planting and Gardening For Good Water Management
Good water management in a garden does not end with harvesting rainfall. You also need to give some careful thought to how water is used. Especially in lower rainfall areas, it is crucial to think about water conservation.
Water conservation is not just about how you water and when. It begins with careful design, and an understanding of ecology. Choosing climate resilient plants is one of the first steps. And plants should always be positioned carefully – in relation to one another, and the sectors like water, wind and sunlight acting on the site.
Gardening for good water management also involves thinking about the soil. A healthy soil will be able to hold more water, keeping it more effectively within the landscape. Taking a no dig or no till approach can help protect and enhance the soil ecosystem. Avoiding excessive areas of bare soil, and mulching with plenty of organic matter, will help reduce water use in your garden.
Watering By Hose or Watering Can When There Are Better Options
The method you choose to water your garden might also lead to less than optimal results. Many new gardeners do not think far beyond watering with a hose or watering cans. But often, there are better, more water wise and sustainable options to consider. Other options for irrigation may reduce water use, and increase the yield you are able to obtain from your space.
Drip irrigation, for example, might be a far better solution. And even in small space gardens, you could think about implementing ideas like watering globes or clay pot irrigation. These systems deliver water to exactly where it is needed, and can reduce water waste.
Watering Too Much
Of course, where you are responsible for meeting the water needs of plants, you need to understand the specific water requirements of the plants you are trying to grow. It is important to remember that water needs will differ between plants. They vary depending on different growing situations and environmental conditions. And will also vary over the course of each year. Learning how much water certain plants and areas of your garden require will take some time. This is something that you can hone over the years as you learn through trial and error and develop your gardening skills.
One area where you could be going wrong as a gardener is watering too much. You may be providing excessive water. And in extremis, this can drown plant roots and lead to waterlogging and compaction.
Watering too much might also be about watering too frequently. This can be just as damaging as watering too heavily. Many plants may be weakened by frequent, shallow watering. Deep, less frequent watering can often lead to stronger, deeper, healthier root systems and better plant yields.
Watering Too Little
Of course, watering too little can also be a problem. If your plants do not get sufficient water, they can become stressed, and of course their health will suffer. This can bring a range of knock-on problems even if the plants are not killed outright.
One important thing to remember is that if you have a container garden, your plants will need to be watered more frequently than plants grown in the ground.
If you find that you are pushed for time, or that you often fail to water in your garden as much or as often as you should, you should consider implementing automated irrigation systems, to make sure the water supply for your plants is more reliable over time.
Not Watering Where Water is Actually Required
Even when you are providing plants with the quantity of water they require, you might not have perfected your watering technique. If you are watering by hand, it is important to make sure that the water actually goes where it is needed. Novice gardeners will often simply take a watering can or hose and water plants from above.
Watering from above is not usually the best policy. Plants, or course, usually need to take up water through their roots. This means that you should water at or below soil level, to make sure that the water is actually where it needs to be. One thing many people do wrong when watering their gardens is failing to target the water flow correctly. Watering from above can often result in excessive water use. And switching to more directed watering can make a big difference.
Increasing the Risk of Damage and Disease
Watering from above and leaving plants with wet foliage can also commonly cause a range of problems with damage and disease.
Leaving plants with wet leaves can often lead to sun scalding, as the sunlight is focussed through water droplets on hot, bright days. Another common issue is that wet foliage can increase the risk of a fungal plant infection taking hold. Issues such as late blight on potatoes or tomatoes, for example, can be more likely to take hold and spread when the plants have wet leaves. And mildews on squash, courgettes etc. can be more common.
Do you have any tips to share about watering? Feel free to share them in the comments below.
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.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.