Monday, 29 June 2009

Water priorities

We've not had any rain for a while now and the heat is currently over 30 degrees. The lawn has turned brown and the garden is suffering. So what should we water as a priority?

First of all, forget about the lawn. So it's brown; so what? That means it doesn't need mowing and as soon as there's a decent fall of rain the green will come back.

Brown lawns don't matter but the pear trees are kept well watered and the plants in the beds benefit.

Priority should be given to fruit trees, the vegetable patch and the greenhouse (if there's anything still in it). When you water do it properly. It's best to water in the evening so that it doesn't evaporate so much and the plants will have a chance to use it. They also won't suffer from leaf scorch if their leaves are splashed.

A lot of my vegetables are planted through a plastic fibre and I put the hosepipe underneath this so that, again, the water goes into the soil and doesn't have a chance to evaporate. If evening watering is impossible then this can be done during the day although it's not ideal.

Holding the hosepipe over the plant (be it vegetable or flower) for a couple of seconds is not going to do much good. Think about it: if you are thirsty you drink an entire glass of water - or two even; a plant is the same. The soil around it needs to be well soaked, not splashed. (Bear in mind too that if the soil is dry it takes longer to soak in.)

Lavender thrives in dry weather.

We tend to give the fruit trees a dustbin of water each once or twice a week. The roots are further down and they suffer less - but don't be fooled; if they don't get water they will start to show signs of stress, not this year but next year or the year after.

Flower beds - well, this is a matter of personal opinion. Personally I only water these if absolutely necessary as I give priority to food and if the moat dries up again then these will have to take their chances. However, flower beds represent an investment of both time and money and also provide food for insects as well as hideaways for birds; it would be a pity to lose them. Again, if you water your flower beds do it thoroughly and either early in the morning or in the evening. We use a spray system and each bed gets approximately half an hour once a week. They all get thoroughly mulched each autumn and this helps to maintain moisture during the summer. We also have a lot of plants that flower in May and June so by July they don't need much watering. Again, if they die back now it doesn't matter.

This flower bed is watered twice a week for 30 minutes. The grass benefits too!

The most important thing is to think about your watering and make sure that every drop counts. The rivers around us have dropped very low again and I get infuriated when I see the farmers watering throughout the day - at least 30 per cent of the water evaporates and with a bit of forethought and, yes, extra effort they could set the system to water during the night. Once again the level of the moat has dropped dramatically in the past week and although I don't think it will dry out again this year it does make us think a bit.