If in Doubt, Rain Dance!

wateringPlants are too precious to loose to drought so, as promised, here are even more ways to quench your garden’s insatiable thirst during the long hot months of summer.

Plant thirsty vegetables such as tomatoes and zucchini in depressions so that, at watering time, the moisture pools around the base of the plant rather than running off. This method can be employed with whole rows of vegetables when you sow seed such as carrot and spring onion in shallow furrows.

When you do have an opportunity to water, do so in the very early morning so the plants have time to absorb the water before the heat of the day evaporates the moisture. Avoid watering in the later evening as cooler night time temperatures may mean the leaves stay wet for longer than is good for them – always a concern where fungal diseases are a problem. But in spite of all the dos and don’ts of when to water, if a plant is looking floppy and stressed because it’s just too dry, don’t wait – water it right away.

In hot, dry weather, it’s better to water deeply every 2-3 days than to give plants the ‘once over’ every day. Without deep watering (by which I mean the water penetrates the soil to the depth of half a spade-blade) water won’t reach the roots of plants. And if it penetrates the soil just a centimetre or two, it will soon be dried up by the heat of the sun.

If you’re targeting just one plant at a time, a good way to direct water straight onto roots is to snip off the base of a soda bottle and bury it, screw-top end first, well into the soil beside the plant. Water into the open end of the bottle so that moisture trickles straight down. It’s best to do the bottle burying at the time you plant so that roots aren’t disturbed at a later date.

Plant summer salad greens close together so the spreading leaves touch and form a self mulch that doesn’t allow the rays of the sun to reach the soil. You might think this sort of crowding draws heavily on soil moisture but just reach through the canopy of leaves on a hot day and you will almost certainly find the soil beneath quite damp.

If container planting is your thing and terracotta pots take your fancy, do your plants a favour and waterproof the interior of the pot before planting. Semi-permeable terracotta pots are notorious for wicking moisture away from the soil and carrying it to their exterior wall from where the sun evaporates it within minutes.

If and when it does rain (and even in a drought it’s not uncommon to get a brief and unexpected downpour, especially accompanied by a bout of summer thunder), catch what you can by leaving containers around the garden, especially under the corner of the glasshouse roof). But when you do catch water, use it straight away or cover the containers securely – don’t leave them lying around where small children can fall into them.

Watch those weeds – they are also plants and will compete with your flowers and vegetables for any available water there is. Pull them up as soon as you see them and if the weather is scorching, leave them lying on the surface of the garden as a mulch. Nothing is more satisfying that watching weeds wilt as they protect your plantings!

Last but not least, when the ground is at its driest, never underestimate the fun of a good old rain dance! The kids will love it, you’ll love it, and if the neighbours think you’ve gone bananas, invite them over for a summer G & T to quench the thirst while you wait for the thunder clouds to appear over the horizon!

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