One of the jobs I try to sort out now is checking that all my watering equipment is in good order, and if I need any spare parts I order them now.
I find watering by hose far easier than with a watering can but you do need the right type of spray attachment at the end of the hose to ensure that you can water containers, or have a spray head capable of producing a suitable sized droplet to give you the flexibility for all jobs.
Remember the general principles of watering. That it is better to apply a good amount all in one go than to sprinkle water over a bed every night. The reason for this is that unless the water penetrates to depth the roots will stay in the surface layers of the soil and will be more susceptible to drought than deeply rooted plants.
Do not water during the midday period when the day is at its hottest. This helps to reduce evaporation from the soil. I prefer to water first thing in the morning. This allows the foliage to dry and helps prevent fungal diseases taking hold. The vast majority of plant diseases need moisture present on the leaves to allow the spores to grow and develop.
Research has shown that it’s better to use water sensibly than in a free and easy manner and the folowing advice is now commonly followed with good results:-
Brassicas, lettuce, spinach and celery
Generally speaking, most leafy vegetables should receive 11 litres of water per square metre each week during the summer. If you can not do this because your water supply is restricted just water the plants at sowing and at transplanting until they are established and then leave them to fend for themselves until about three to four weeks before you expect to harvest them. Then apply 22 litres per square metre. This will result in an increase in plant growth during the last two weeks of maturing.
Brussels sprouts are the exception in this group: these should be watered after planting and until established but then, because they are widely spaced, they should not be watered again.
Beetroot, parsnips, carrots and radishes
If you apply too much water to root vegetables they will produce lush foliage, with little root growth. Your aim should be to provide a constant supply of water to maintain even growth. During the early stages apply 5 litres to each metre or row, but once they are growing well give 22L/m² once every two weeks if needed. Try to keep the soil moist; if you let it dry out before watering, or if it rains very heavily, the roots may split.
With early potatoes, if you require a high yield, watering throughout the growing period at two week intervals with 22L/m² on each occasion will produce the desired yield.
If earliness is what matters water should not be provided until the tuber is at the marble stage (normally at flowering). Then one application at 22L/m² should be applied.
With maincrop potatoes water should not be applied until the tubers start forming, normally at the start of flowering. Then a single application of 27L/m² of water can produce good results.
Peas and Beans
These crops should be watered at flowering time and when the fruits are swelling. Once germination has taken place and the young plants are through the soil, do not water unless severe wilting takes place or until flowering starts. Watering throughout the plant’s life encourages the growth of lots of stem and leaf at the expense of the crop.
Once flowering occurs, water the plants twice a week with 11L/m² and continue as the pods swell. The water should be directed at the base of the plant. This practice will increase the number of peas or beans which set and will also prevent them getting tough.
Sweet corn, Marrows, tomatoes, cucumbers.
All these subjects should be watered in well to ensure rapid establishment, and then watered as detailed below.
Tomatoes grown outside: Once the plants are established, do not water them until they start to flower. This will encourage the roots to grow strongly down into the soil. When flowering starts water once a week giving 22L/m². If the plants become dry at this stage small fruits will form and you will get a small yield.
Tomatoes grown in growbags or in compost in containers: These will need to be watered throughout their growth because they do not have the area for the roots to explore that plants growing in the soil have. Do not allow the plants to dry out or problems such as split fruit, blossom end rot and poor growth may occur.
Sweet Corn: Once the plants have established do not water them until flower tassels start to form. Water as for outdoor tomatoes.
Marrows and courgettes: Apply water freely throughout the life of the plant to ensure rapid growth and fruit development. Once the fruit starts to develop put on as much water as you can. It is a good idea to direct the water at the base of the plant and not all over the soil surface. This not only saves water (because you are reducing the area over which rapid evaporation will take place) but it also helps prevent the fruits from being splashed with mud.