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Summer watering in the garden

 Usually, established plants have deep enough roots to access water deep in the ground and do not need additional watering. However, young and new plants of less than 2 years old (3 or more for trees) may need additional watering in dry spells. In the current hot, dry weather, even some more mature plants are starting to wilt, so regular observation is the key to keeping these plants healthy.

If plants are allowed to weaken they are more susceptible to pests and diseases so it is important to avoid this.

 It is better to water deeply and less often, say once a week depending on conditions, than giving a little water every day. A deep watering will encourage the roots to extend down into the soil and make the plants more tolerant of drought conditions in the future.

It is better to use a rose end on a watering can or shower setting on a hose than jetting water onto plants as you want the water to slowly percolate down into the soil, rather than run away, and this also does not displace the soil around the roots.

 A mulch of organic matter can help to retain moisture in the soil, but this needs to be done when the soil is moist so it is best done in early to mid spring.

Container watering

 Container plants cannot rely on rain and need to be watered regularly. The amount of water required will depend on the plant, location, size of pot/plant, material of the pot.

• For mixed plantings, use plants that have similar water requirements

• Looking at the surface of the soil is not always a good indicator of the water content of the soil – to see if it is damp further in, push your finger into the top of the compost, do the same in the holes in the base of the pot, or if possible, turn the plant out of the pot.

• The weight of the pot (for small pots) can also indicate water levels.

• Water, ideally when the compost is just moist.

Remedial watering

 If a container has been allowed to dry out and the plant is wilting , apply water slowly and allow it to percolate into the soil. Check the soil after a few hours to see if the plant has responded. If it has not it is possible that the soil has dried out so much that it has become hydrophobic, that is, it repels water. If this is the case, immerse the pot in a bucket of water until the soil is saturated, and put it in the shade until the plant has recovered.

 

Holiday time

 It is always a worry when you are going on holiday and leaving your plants to fend for themselves. Most at risk are plants in containers which will dry out quickly, especially those that have been in the same pot for a while and are root-bound, and young seedlings that have small root systems. If you don’t have a friendly neighbour who can water for you there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of losing plants.

• Reducing the temperature will reduce the moisture loss and therefore reduce the need for water, so move your pots to shadier positions if possible.

• Another option is to group plants together and use some shade netting over the top.

• If you have unglazed terracotta pots these can absorb water through their surface so stand them in the border and water the pots and surrounding soil well. They will continue to absorb water from the soil.

• Water well everything that needs it immediately before you leave.

• If budget allows, splash out on an automatic irrigation system. You will need to work out how many drip nozzles you need for each pot. The system is connected to an outdoor tap and the time can be set to water the containers daily or twice daily depending on the likely temperatures when you are away.

 

And remember to enjoy your holiday!

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