There is a running joke in our family: where are the watering cans? I always insist that they are kept in their special place, i.e. where I last left them.
Although not the most efficient method of watering, it is the most enjoyable for me. I hate filling watering cans from the tap because of the enforced wait, so have large, strategically placed water butts for dunking.
These are filled from the hose as required. My ideal vegetable garden would have an automatically topped-up central dunking pool.
Our isolated farmhouse has no mains water, but a supply fed from a spring. For our first 20-odd years the supply was erratic, driven by an antique pump.
I would even empty a hot water bottle and use the contents for plants. One day we discovered and removed the large ash root that had by then blocked the supply pipe and put in a new pump.
We then realised we had enough to supply a small town so I added irrigation to my key ornamental beds.
My topiary box and yew filled out fast and my hydrangeas and roses look far healthier. I have also found that when establishing new hedges a dripper irrigation system will help.
I opted for a dripper system with compensating drip emitters (these deliver a precise amount of water regardless of changes in pressure) in a handful of my key borders.
The parallel pipes are laid on the surface of the soil about 18in (45cm) apart and are hidden by compost, foliage, etc. The downside is I sometimes put a spade through one when planting, but I have spare parts so I can splice a new connection to fix it.
In times of drought
During a hosepipe ban, dripper irrigation (provided it is used with a timer and pressure reducer) is still permitted even when sprinklers are not.
Timer systems are a popular choice, but I prefer to be in control. When I see the first signs of stress, I will turn it on for a good three hours. If the dry weather continues my garden will be watered weekly.
I have different areas on separate systems, which ensures there is enough water pressure if used sequentially.
Don’t be tempted to irrigate too often, healthy plant roots will go deep down to seek out moisture.
If you repeatedly add water to the surface the roots will come to the top and become dependent on frequent applications.
With my veg garden, which I water by hand, this is vital. I water in new plants generously so the plants will be encouraged to grow new roots which will follow the water down. After this I leave most plants alone.
When it comes to watering, pot plants are the most demanding. In my garden many pots have had their bases removed with a small disc cutter and sit on soil. This works well – after the first year they require no irrigation. However, I can only use this technique for permanent plants.
I put in irrigation to (big) pots if their bases cannot be removed (i.e. a roof garden), but I always bring the pipe up through the base so you do not see it.
Claber do a kit (the 90766 Drip starter kit) which includes a versatile Logica timer for around £50. This includes drippers, spikes and connectors and it allows you to put your pots on a system that you can install.
It will do around 20 pots. In my “mini nursery” and greenhouses I find high quality capillary matting gets them through a week. Plug them into a partially filled old plastic bottle and push into the soil. They are suitable for inside or out.
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