Beginner's Guide to Watering

If you are a novice gardener it can be easy to become confused about what to water, when and how much. There are many variables that make it difficult to specify: soil conditions, temperatures, type and age of plant etc.. As time goes on you will tend to get a feel for what the needs of the various plants in your garden are, but to begin with, here is a very rough guide to help you get started:

The Basics:

  • Collect and conserve water: Wherever in the UK you happen to live, it is a good idea to collect rainwater in butts connected to your drainpipes for use in the garden. Always use rainwater rather than tap water wherever possible. Mulch to conserve water in the soil over the summer months.
  • Observe and Interact: The only way for you to get really good at watering at the right time and in the right amounts is for you to get to know your plants and your garden, its soil, climate and light levels. Really look at your garden and you will learn to spot when plants are not happy.
  • Watering little and often is not a good idea: When you have established which plants need water and when, try to water less frequently and more deeply as to do otherwise can encourage weak and shallow root systems and make your plants less strong and less productive.
  • Water where water is needed: Wherever possible, try to target water at the base stem of the plant rather than the foliage of the plant, where it can lead to problems.

Watering Vegetables:

If you are growing your own vegetables you should know that since they are such quick growing plants on the whole they tend to need more water than most other plants you may grow in your garden. Providing the right amount of water for your crops and mulching to help retain what moisture there is in the soil will ensure that the plants grow unchecked from seed to harvest and produce a good yield.

It is important to know the differing requirements of different sorts of vegetables and to water when they need the water the most. For example, with legumes like peas and beans, it is vital to water deeply and thoroughly when the plant is in flower to ensure that the pods set. Cabbages and lettuces and other vegetables require constant moisture throughout their life-cycle whereas others, like tomatoes, are best watered heavily only as they flower and while they are in fruit. If you water too frequently while the plants are young they can tend to produce shallower roots and concentrate on leaf production instead of producing flowers and then fruit.

Watering Plants in Containers:

Make sure there is adequate drainage in all your containers so the roots of plants do not become waterlogged but remember also that containers will dry out much faster than the soil in beds so be sure to water well and deeply and pay attention, especially during dry spells.

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