As the weather warms up and the ground dries out, the hoses and watering cans come into their own. But in a hot spell how do you ensure you wring every last drop of goodness out of the water you give to the plants on your vegetable plot? Grown For You, one of the UK’s leading online retailers of fruit and vegetable plants has come up with three simple rules.
Says Nick Coumbe, general manager, “For managers of large commercial nurseries watering well can make thousands of pounds of difference. Over water and it costs you money; under water and it could cost you in lost plants. The scale is obviously different for those with allotments of small vegetable plots, but the basics are the same. So for those who are confused over whether it’s better to water little and often or give and good soak and leave to dry out, we’ve come up with three simple points to act as guidance for any gardener.”
1. Water before the hottest part of the day and again in the evening if necessary
The temperature of the soil around a plant’s roots is vital for good growth. Water stops the temperature rising too quickly, and also cools the plant as it evaporates. So watering early helps keep the roots moist during the hottest part of the day, and watering late ensures they have plenty of at night when they actually use most of their water.
2. Don’t let them get too dry, but don’t saturate them every day
Compost, and to some extent soil, is like a sponge. If it dries out too much it becomes harder to make it wet again without soaking it. If it gets too wet, the excess drains off leaving the ground damp. So the aim is to water efficiently, filling up the top level of soil or compost so it drains down into the lower levels, but not over watering so it simply runs off and is wasted.
3. With pots use 10 per cent of the pot or root-ball volume each time you water.
A simple rule, but effective. A 25 litre pot would need 2.5 litres of water and so on. As with plants in the ground, don’t wait too long to water pots, and do so when they’ve begun to dry slightly, but before the compost starts to shrink back from the edge of the pot.
Nick adds a final word of advice: “There are no simple answers to the question of when to water, but by following these pointers commercially, I’ve been able to save significant sums of money on nursery water bills and reduced the run off from plants to almost zero. That’s good for the environment as well as the wallet. I can’t promise domestic gardeners the same savings, but as they say, every little helps.”
Grown For You was founded in 2008 by Rupert White, owner of Griffin Nurseries, which enjoys a reputation as one of the UK’s best specimen plant producers. Nick Coumbe was appointed as general manager for the online business at the end of 2009.