Let us spray

Don’t rely on the heav­ens open­ing to wa­ter plants and lawns, take ac­tion to keep your gar­den at its best as the weather warms

Rutherglen Reformer - - House & Home - David Domoney

Dur­ing sum­mer, gar­dens can dry out very quickly. And not just pots, containers and hang­ing bas­kets – bor­der plants and the lawn will be­come arid quickly in hot con­di­tions.

When we get a de­cent shower, it’s tempt­ing to think “job done”. But even heavy rain will only pen­e­trate the top few mil­lime­tres of the soil when it’s baked dry.

That’s when we start to get prob­lems. In our minds, the gar­den is wa­tered. In re­al­ity, it’s sim­ply not the case.

Try rub­bing the sur­face of the soil with a bit of gar­den cane or a twig next time it chucks it down. You will be sur­prised by how lit­tle good it has done.

Re­cently planted trees, shrubs and herba­ceous peren­ni­als are es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble and will suf­fer. But even well-es­tab­lished plants left with­out wa­ter for long pe­ri­ods of time will strug­gle. Their growth and flow­ers will be in­hib­ited and they will fall prey to dis­ease.

So flash flood­ing aside, keep­ing the gar­den well-wa­tered on a reg­u­lar ba­sis is an ab­so­lute must once the weather con­tin­ues to warm up into sum­mer.

Hav­ing a plan will make the task of wa­ter­ing more en­joy­able and also more ef­fec­tive.

Some gar­den­ers just swear by a wa­ter­ing can. As well as mean­ing you can use a wa­ter butt, a can al­lows you to keep track of ex­actly how much wa­ter you’ve used.

But for medium-sized gar­dens and up­wards, a de­cent hosepipe is a must or you will spend too much time lug­ging wa­ter­ing cans about and not enough time en­joy­ing the re­sults.

There are sev­eral de­cent brands. Hoze­lock is a Bri­tish firm whose equip­ment is first rate.

For starters, get the right at­tach­ment for your hose. Sim­ply stick­ing your thumb over the end of your hosepipe will not do the job. Gar­den re­tail­ers will sell a va­ri­ety of spray jets for dif­fer­ent jobs.

For gen­eral use, a medium shower spray fit­ting is best suited.

It will put down a grad­ual soak over the sur­face with­out blast­ing soil out of the pots or bor­ders.

To max imise ground pen­e­tra­tion, use the top of a broom han­dle to poke holes in the soil of your bor­ders or pots. Then, when you soak the ground, th­ese holes will fill with wa­ter, which can then seep down to­wards the roots.

Time of day is also cru­cial. If you’re wa­ter­ing dur­ing the mid­day heat, the wa­ter will evap­o­rate away very quickly. And, as it lands on the sur­face of some sen­si­tive plants, it can act as a mini mag­ni­fy­ing glass – fo­cus­ing the sun’s rays to burn their leaves.

Self- wa­ter­ing de­vices are a bril­liant labour-sav­ing in­ven­tion. Essen­tially they are por­ous hoses that you lay around your gar­den and plumb into an out­side tap.

When it’s turned on, they weep wa­ter through small holes, keep­ing plants or containers hy­drated.

The only prob­lem is that if you have a large area to cover, you’ll need a heck of a lot of hose. But they do come with handy tim­ing sys­tems, so you can pro­gramme them in ad­vance to switch on if you’re away on hol­i­day.

Like­wise, mini ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems will work won­ders in a green­house or con­ser­va­tory if you’re strapped for time. Lots of gar­den cen­tres of­fer ad­vice and can even fit them for you.

When you are think­ing of new containers, re­mem­ber size does mat­ter. The more soil, the more mois­ture it will hold and the less fre­quently it will need soak­ing.

Add hy­dra­tion crys­tals to the mix when you’re fill­ing them with com­post. They ex­pand as they soak up mois­ture and re­lease it slowly, mak­ing the soil more ef­fi­cient at hold­ing wa­ter that would oth­er­wise drain away.

Dur­ing es­pe­cially hot weather, move containers or pots into shady spots. Pot wheels – like lit­tle fur­ni­ture cas­tors – will give you the flex­i­bil­ity to move your pots with­out break­ing your back.

To keep your lawn look­ing fresh dur­ing the warm sum­mer months, it is wise to let it grow slightly longer.

I’d heighten the cut­ting blades on your mower by be­tween one and two inches. The more blades of grass, the more mois­ture the lawn can hold.

Any plant that’s in flower or pro­duc­ing fruit will need more wa­ter too. And re­mem­ber, it’s never good to feed plants when they’re dry. Only feed plants that have been well- wa­tered be­fore­hand. The key when us­ing liq­uid feed is to make sure the plant is al­ready hy­drated.

And fi­nally, if you’re plant­ing new shrubs and trees, you will need to do plenty of ex­tra wa­ter­ing un­til they send out their new root sys­tems.

FILL UP

your wa­ter­ing can from a wa­ter butt

With David Domoney

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