Watering your plants is an important element of your garden care. The biggest mistakes we generally make is to under-water in warm weather. Even here in Scotland, the water table can drop quickly in dry weather. Shrubs and trees will be fine generally as they can search deeply for water, but herbaceous plants and anything in containers need daily watering in dry weather and more than you think.
This becomes particularly important if you have a new planting. In order for these plants to establish well, they require regular watering right through their first season. Make sure you give each plant a good soaking each time around the base.
So – how do you judge the amount of water to give? I think it’s very hard to assess. This summer I stood for 5 minutes watering my potatoes only to find when I stuck my hand into to see if any were ready that the soil a couple of inches below the surface was bone dry. What I do now is water until there is water pooling on the surface of the soil which can percolate down slowly. If it is very dry, I will go back and do that again.
Containers dry out very quickly – so do not be fooled into thinking that some rain will be enough to water them. Think of a Buxus Ball in a container for instance. If it fills the container, the only rainwater getting to the roots is that which has managed to run off the dense foliage and drip through to the soil surface. In reality – you need to soak that rootball properly to give the plant the water it needs. With containers, you really need to check them regularly – do not rely on the rain. Larger containers should be free-draining to avoid water- logging but you should aim to ensure the soil is damp throughout the pot.
Small containers, seed trays and small pots in trays can be watered by pouring the water into the tray. The plants will soak up the water and the soil will be damp on top when they have taken up what they require. You can start to learn how much water they need by watching how much water is soaked up.
When the temperatures fall, so do the plants’ expiration rates and this is your prompt to relax a little. Still check your containers by pushing your finger into the soil and checking it is damp.