Watering - Top Tips

Watering sounds straightforward. And it's true, to a point. But it’s
also weirdly easy to get it wrong, leaving a trail of parched or soggy
plants. June is a month to be extra careful, now that our growing
season is in full swing.

In general, my first rule of thumb is to slow right down – not always
easy in the hurly burly of London. Gardening, they say, is about
tuning in to what plants need. And watering in a rush does more harm
than good. Plants love a long soak, not a quick sprinkle.

Spraying water over their leaves is also pointless. Plants draw up
moisture with their roots, so water to the base of the plant. You want
their roots to sink down in search of water, strengthening and
anchoring the plant in the process.

In terms of timing, that’s the tricky one. Overwatering is just as bad
as neglect. At home, I do a quick circuit around my plants each
morning – touch or dig into the soil with your fingers to check if
it’s drying out. Then water, if needed, at the beginning or end of the
day to keep evaporation to a minimum.

Out in the garden, a hose on full blast can damage delicate plants,
dislodge seedlings and disturb soil structure. A trigger helps to
control the flow and create a spray. In terms of kit, soaker hoses are
a wise investment. You drape them around the plot and they slowly drip
irrigate your plants. If you're flash, you can even buy mini computers
which control the whole watering process.

If you talk to the old school gardeners, they seldom water their plot.
Most established plants don’t need it. Adding organic matter soil
makes the soil more moisture retentive. A two inch layer of mulch on
top such as home compost also does the same job. Use the same strategy
with pots - gravel also works.

Indoors, house plants obviously need much more attention. Get a feel
for how heavy your pots are when well watered. Any outdoor container
will also dry out quickly. Hanging baskets are the worst, needing
daily watering in hot weather.

One tip, if you have a collection of pots, is to group them all
together to reduce the effects of the drying wind. So keep a close eye
on those exposed pots on your window ledge.

For seedlings, be extra vigilant. I’m a big fan of an ingenious
invention – the bottle top waterer. It costs just 50p, and screws on
the top of old mineral water or tonic bottles to create a gentle spray
that's ideal for delicate plants. Buy them from Garden Innovations – a
company that specialises in watering devices.

When sowing seeds, it’s best to use sterile tap water. But rain water
is ideal for established plants. The Camden council website has
information about sustainable gardening and will point you in the
direction of water butts for around fifty pounds, which you tap into
your drainpipes.

Right now, food plants such as courgettes, tomatoes, peas, beans or
soft fruits are often thirsty – imagine the water they need to swell
up the edible bits. Water leafy salads whenever the soil feels dry,
preferable in the morning to deter pesky slugs at night. But
otherwise, to be honest, most veg seldom needs watering attention.