Ensuring your garden gets just the right amount of water can seem like a bit of a guessing game. Ensuring you water effectively without wasting water is another story.
Here are some tips to take the guesswork out of watering AND help you conserve water in the process.
Check with your hands
It seems almost too simple and remarkably too obvious, but really, a simple check using your hands will tell you whether or not your garden is in need of more water. Too often we reach for the watering can without checking first to see if indeed it is necessary.
If the top 5 to 7cm of soil are dry, don’t panic. As long as the soil beneath that is moist, then your plants have adequate moisture.
Best time to water
During the warm months, it’s best to water as early as 6am in the morning so that by the time the hot morning sun beats down on your plants, there are no water droplets on any leaves which can act as a magnifying glass and burn the leaves.
If you don’t manage to water in the morning, you can still water your garden the late afternoon after the intense heat of the day has passed, but remember to give your plants enough time to absorb the water before the sun sets. Wet foliage at night runs a high risk of developing fungal diseases.
How much to water
It’s best to water veggies daily with drip irrigation as this localizes the watering to the roots. In addition, drop irrigation avoids the unnecessary wasting of water that is commonly the case with sprinklers.
Seeds and seedlings need more water than established plants and should always be kept moist – not wet.
You’re doing it wrong if…
Leaves are smaller than normal
Leaves are brown around the edges
Fruit is small or misshapen
Plants droop in the afternoon or late evening
These can all be signs of water stress.
Yellow leaves may be a sign of over watering
Adding organic matter to the soil is a great way to improve the soil’s ability to hold moisture.
Sandy soil will allow the water to pass through too quickly, while soil with a high clay content does not allow for adequate drainage and therefore keeps the roots wet, causing plants to drown with too much water around the roots. By adding in compost, the water has something to cling to and is therefore more available to your thirsty plants.
In addition to fantastic weed prevention, adding a healthy layer of organic mulch to your beds will also lock in moisture and prevent evaporation during the hottest part of the day. Go for shredded leaves, straw, hay, shells, bark chips, shells or grass clippings. If you opt for grass clippings, make sure that you don’t layer it on too thick as this can prevent water from penetrating and reaching the soil. Never use anything but dried grass (avoid green grass) that is seed-free. Remember when adding mulch, to keep the mulch away from stems as wet mulch too close to stems can cause rotting.