Watering is the most important job in the garden at this time of year. If plants dry out they will not perform at their best and may even end up dying. Often people will do this daily by just having a quick “splash and dash” but this often causes more harm than good. If you just wet the surface soil you will encourage weeds to surface root. It is much better to water thoroughly once a week.
In garden borders as a general rule you need around 25 litres of water to a square metre surface area of soil per week. This will vary depending on the type of soil you have. Sandy soils need more frequent watering than clay soils as they do not retain as much water within their structure. Plants are often great at letting you know if they need water too. Signs of too little water can be leaves that are drooping and shrivelling, brown leaves around the tips and edges and leaf drop. If too wet plants will often have yellowing leaves and mildew issues.
You may need to water plants in pots more frequently as they have less soil for their roots to find water in. As a general rule if the top two inches of the soil are damp then watering is not required. In addition, if you water newly planted plants daily then they often become very lazy and their roots will not spread looking for water and nutrients of their own. This makes them weaker and far more susceptible to problems and diseases.
In all cases water should be aimed below the plants lowest canopy of leaves. This means the water gets to the plants roots and does not stay on the plants leaves where it can cause fungal issues.
There are as ever with plants exceptions to the rules:
- Established trees and shrubs often require no watering as their root development is so good that they become drought tolerant.
- Edible crops in fruit production such as tomatoes often need watering more often than once a week.
- Newly laid turf will need daily watering to bed it in and get the roots to develop into the soil below.
- Any plant being planted will need watering at the time of transplanting too.
If potted plants have dried out then submerge them in water for an hour and then leave then somewhere shady. They will often recover.