Watering your garden

By Wally Richards
Watering plants and gardens is an art which good gardeners acquire after years of experience.
It is not connecting a hose/sprinkler system to a tap and turning on, though that will work to a point, it can also cause a number of problems.

For instance if you have fertilised your gardens with either man made fertiliser or natural types and you turn on the sprinklers and run the irrigation for a period of time you are going to wash away much of the money and time you spent feeding the gardens.
If instead you went around your gardens with a hand held watering wand and applied sufficient water to moisten the soil nicely then you would have enhanced the food you provided and wasted none.
The first aspect of watering is your water quality.
If your tap water contains chlorine from the local water treatment plant then you are putting into your garden a chemical that will kill the beneficial bacteria in the soil and devastate the earthworms.
If this water is sprayed over the foliage of your plants it will kill the microbes living on the foliage which help to protect the plant from foliage diseases.
No matter how diligently you garden and how many good things you do, you will never achieve great gardens with chlorinated water; instead you will spend all summer fighting problems.
The simple solution is to place a 10 micron carbon bonded filter onto the hose line to remove the chlorine.
If your water comes from a bore, stream, or tank then you have no problem with chlorine.
Another point also is if you have a spa pool or swimming pool which you dose with chlorine make sure if you empty the pool that the chlorine has been dissipated by running the system for a few days before empting into a garden area.
A gardener asked me recently when should you water or not water as they had read an article that said you should not water in sunlight. The person that wrote the article likely has never seen a sun shower.
There is a aspect that if you sprinkle water over the foliage of plants in full sun the water droplets can magnify the sun’s rays and burn that bit of leaf.
But on the other hand if the soil in your gardens or the mix in your containers becomes so dry on a sunny day that the plants go into water stress then that will cause a lot more damage than a few burnt leaves. As a generalization if you do water your gardens and containers on a sunny day you are watering the soil not the plants. Once again done with a hand held wand or by a dripper irrigation system, including good old soak hoses.
One of the good methods in vegetable gardens in days gone by was to grow all the vegetables in rows and have furrows between the rows. These furrows are flooded with water when the garden needs a drink which means the water goes directly to the root system of the plants and the foliage canopy above the furrows tends to reduce the moisture losses from evaporation below.
Manures and other goodies can be sprinkled along the furrows to great advantage.
When is the best time to water? First thing in the morning before the sun gets up or late in the day when the sun gets off the plants?
If you have ample time to water in the morning then that is a great time to  do so.
If on the other hand you are busy in the morning getting off to work etc then the logical time is late in the day. The disadvantage of that is there will be moisture around after it starts to cool down at night which can cause mildews. This is especially so if your plantings are dense with plants susceptible to moisture related diseases.
I water late in the day as it suits my work patterns and as I water with a hand held wand it means that I only give the soil/plants sufficient moisture to get them through the next day till the following evening.
On very sunny hot days I will check my container plants at about 1 to 2 pm and if they are showing signs of water stress then I give the mixes a watering.
If the day has been overcast and still then only a light watering is required that evening. If the day has been overcast and windy, then a moderate watering that evening.
If temperatures have dropped noticeably then likely no watering but plants in containers in the glasshouse may need a small drink still.
As temperatures lower going into autumn or during cold spells then your watering must reduce or stop.
On hot sunny days a very good soaking of the containers is needed.
Hanging baskets should be plunged into a tub of water once a week and watered normally for the rest of the week.
While standing there with the hose wand watering each day gives you a good time to check all the plants for any problems.
You can spot aphids, leaf hoppers, scale, mealy bugs, white fly, psyllids, vegetable bugs etc as you go around the plants.
While the growing medium below is been watered you can squash a number of pest insects with your fingers. Another method which is very effective on established plants and shrubs/trees is to switch from the wand to a fitting that will provide a jet of water and then blast the insect pests off the leaves.
This repeated for a few nights will often mean there is no need to spray. On hot dry times you can adjust your hose to a light jet and shoot the water into the air to fall on established plants.
The plants will, with their foliage, direct the water down to where their feeder roots are as this is what happen when it rains. Besides you are also cleaning the foliage of dust and the plants will absorb a nice amount of water though their leaves.
During dry times I will run a soak hose under my fruit trees for a hour or so to give the area a good watering. This is important to obtain a good crop and needs to be done only once or twice a week dependant on how dry it gets. Mulches placed over the wet soil will reduce the moisture lose.
One thing I have noticed over the last few years is that even after weeks of rain that the soil dries out very quickly within a couple of days of no rain.
Obviously the water tables of past years are no longer there and I can only put this down to too much underground water been drawn off in commercial irrigation systems.
This is a worrying thought that we are going to have bigger water shortages in the future.
The lower water table means more commercial irrigation which means further reduction in underground water supplies.
Gardeners will need to look at water storage and greater conservation of water for their gardens and the sooner the better.
Over watering does more harm than good so it is important to learn how to water your garden effectively.

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