I was doing some weeding yesterday and noticed that one of my plants was covered with a dusting of white powder. The white powder is a fungus, aptly named powdery mildew and it’s associated with very dry conditions. Last year, my climbing rose was also covered in powdery mildew, so with this in mind, I gave it a really good water.
It is actually quite rare for me to water an established plant, as I expect my plants to be able to cope! This may seem a bit harsh, but if you use plants that are adapted to deal with the conditions on offer, and look after them well in the period following planting, then there really is no need to be out there with a hosepipe every time we have a period of temporary drought.
Unless you have a water butt (mine is currently empty) water is not free. It costs us to use it, and there is an environmental cost to produce it. As gardeners, we should be mindful of this.
So, when should we water our plants?
There are situations where we really must water our plants!
- Newly planted plants will need regular watering until they become established, especially trees and shrubs.
- Plants in pots may need watering twice a day, in the peak of summer
- Seedlings and cuttings will die if they dry out
- Newly turfed or seeded lawns
How to water our plants
It is important to water our plants correctly and it is a common mistake to water little and often. In the absence of rain, newly planted border plants need a really good soak once a week, as this encourages the roots to grow down in search of water. A pithy, evening spray with a hose pipe does more harm than good, as it discourages the growth of deeper roots and causes germination of weed seeds! Always water first thing in the morning, or last thing in the evening, to prevent loss from evaporation.
- Newly planted shrubs and trees: Assuming there has been no significant rain, then once a week, completely soak the area under the canopy of the plant. If the ground is very dry, you may need to do this in stages, as water tends to “run off” on dry ground, rather than soak in. With a large shrub or tree, you may need to continue to water in this way, for up to two years.
- Non-woody plants: Once a week until the plant looks like it is coping (not showing signs of wilt) Use a rose head on the can, so you don’t end up washing the plant away!
- Pots and hanging baskets: Apply water until water starts seeping through the pot.
- New lawns: For hours on end with a sprinkling device.
- Seedlings: either water from below by placing the plants into a tray of water and leaving for 20 minutes, or from above with a fine rose head.
Of course, we do need to apply our own discretion. If there has been little rain, but the ground is still nice and damp, we don’t have to rigorously follow the once a week rule. If our plants are showing signs of wilt at midday, then don’t wait until the evening, give the poor thing some water!
Applying a good mulch of compost to our borders will also help retain soil moisture levels. Always mulch following a decent period of rain. Mulching dry ground will simply lock in a layer of dryness.
Pots too can be mulched with pretty stones or a layer of gravel. This really slows water loss through evaporation, and also gives a nice, professional finish to your pots.
No doubt, having written this blog, it will now absolutely pour with rain for the duration of the Easter Holidays! In the meantime, I’m off to water my pots!