Water smart gardening

  • 17 December 2010
  • Home Energy Centre

Smart watering is smart gardening.

The way you water your garden can affect your plants’ growth, health and hardiness; it also determines how much water is used effectively and how much is wasted.

Efficient watering ensures that the water you use has maximum benefits for your garden.

It’s also possible to collect rainwater in tanks or barrels for when your garden needs it.

What is the most effective way of watering the garden?

Slow watering, close to the ground, is the best way to water because your plants need time to take up moisture through their tender roots. Less frequent, deep soakings encourage plant roots to grow feeder roots deep into the ground in search of water. This helps plants to better survive short term drought.

In comparison short, more frequent sprinklings encourage shallow root growth and plants will find it harder to survive short term drought. This method also encourages weed growth.

When is the most effective time to water?

Calm and cooler days are the best for watering. Watering either early in the morning or at dusk reduces the risk of loss through wind and evaporation.

How do I know when my garden needs watering?

Check the moisture of your soil. If the soil is moist 10 centimetres below the surface it should be fine, if it is dry at this level it needs to be watered. In hot weather you may want to check the moisture every four to seven days.

How do I check the moisture of my soil 10 centimetres deep?

A moisture meter is a good way to find out whether you need to water your plants. A moisture meter has a probe (a length of metal) with a sensor at the tip that is pushed into the ground. It measures the moisture of the soil from this tip 10 centimetres deep and the moisture is displayed on a gauge at the top of the probe. A moisture meter can also help you avoid the risk of over-watering your plants.

Is there any risk to the health of my plants through over-watering?

Yes, over-watering can damage the health of your plants by producing an environment that is damp. This makes your plants vulnerable to diseases like root rot, blackspot and mildew.

What methods are best for watering the garden?

Watering by hand or with a good irrigation system gives you the best control of how much water you use. A trigger nozzle on your hose or using a watering can for your potted plants provides good control of the flow of water and helps you to direct it to the areas where it is most needed.

Irrigation systems and soak hoses (see below) allow you to water the garden slowly, optimising soak time. They can be positioned to direct water to the roots of the plants that require the most moisture and can be set on a timer to regulate the amount of water used.

Sprinklers are the least effective way to water your garden because a lot of water is lost through wind, evaporation and misdirection (falling on a garden path/fence).

What is a soak hose?

Seep and soaker hoses have lots of tiny holes along one side of them. As water runs into the hose the pressure inside the hose increases and expands the hose walls, this opens the tiny holes along the hose and releases water one drop at a time. Soak hoses may be placed with the holes facing down so that water gently seeps out to soak the surrounding soil. These hoses deliver water to plants slowly, evenly and efficiently. Soak hoses save water from being lost to evaporation and runoff and can even be buried 10-15 centimetres below the surface as a permanent irrigation system.

Note: If you have a high pressure hose you may need to install a pressure regulator to prevent uneven leaking and bursting.

Can I plant my garden in a way that is more efficient on water?

Yes, by clustering similar varieties of plants together when you plant you automatically set up your garden to have plants with the same watering needs together. This makes it much easier to ensure that plants get the water they need. Having plants with different water needs growing together increases the risk that one may be over-watered or under-watered. You can also save water by planting plants which suit your local environment, soil type and climate, and using mulch.

Top Tip on Hose Care:

Turn the hose off at the tap after using to reduce the risk of it developing a leak.

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