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Garden Watering: Tips & Techniques

Dear all, Given how common it is to have inconsistent rainfall in many areas, especially in recent years, I thought it would be useful to have a thread where we can post and discuss any tips or queries we may have on watering our plants, shrubs and trees in the garden.  This can include pots, baskets and other containers.

I'll start by giving a useful tip on how much time you need to keep a hose spray on the ground under a plant, in order to give it a proper drink.  You'll often see folk recommend giving a plant a bucketful of water, twice a week (as an example.)  If you don't want to be lugging buckets around and generally use a hose, then do this:
Fill a bucket using the hose and time how long it takes to fill and remember that (about 75 seconds in my case.)  That is how exactly long you need to keep the hose on something in order to give it a bucketful!  A simple thing to do and you'll be surprised at how long it actually takes! :)
The reason this is important is that if you don't water sufficiently deeply, your plants will grow roots near to the surface and not deeper down, making them permanently reliant on regular watering;  It is a case where 'little and often' is a very bad idea and actually causes harm to your plants.

A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.


  • K67K67 Posts: 2,507
    I use the counting method too, but often get distracted by something, usually  a weed, and lose count!
    Best thing I did was to lay porous hose through my borders but my garden is small
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,531
    I expect everyone knows this:  when planting a tree or shrub, cut the bottom off a plastic bottle and plant it upside down beside the new plant.  This enables you to deliver water directly to the roots, and none is lost by runoff or evaporation from the surface.
  • steephillsteephill Posts: 2,637
    Even simpler, plant the empty pot beside the plant you just removed from it.
  • Butterfly66Butterfly66 Posts: 783
    edited August 2020
    I was told to sing happy birthday twice to each plant when using the hose and then move on. Having said that I don’t water my borders. Anything going in new gets a good soak and then is left to it. I do keep an eye on things and use rainwater or washing up water if anything really needs it. 

    We did use the hose once earlier this year around mid May but only because I had lifted and replanted two huge beds so everything was re-establishing and we had had no rain since replanting. Pleased to say that even in the latest dry period we seem to be ok, it obviously doesn’t look as lush as a regularly watered garden but lots of flower and colour
     If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”—Marcus Tullius Cicero
    East facing, top of a hill clay-loam, cultivated for centuries (7 years by me). Birmingham
  • TheGreenManTheGreenMan Posts: 1,628
    As someone who only has pots, I would stress your point about watering deeply rather than little and often. Water something little and often and then lift the plant out after a few weeks and you'll see dry patches galore. It does, at first, feel like you're giving each pot too much but, as long as you have good drainage, they will be much better for it. I get about 6/7 hours of sun in summer (in my yard) and I water every day if it's been 20 degrees plus. Same if it's been dry but windy (wind dries pots quickly). Lower than 20 and not windy and they are happy with every other day. 

    Remember that rain barely reaches the soil in most pots too. Most of it hits the leaves and bounces off or just drips very slowly.  It feels odd going out to water pots after rain but definitely required. 

    I'd say it's worth lifting/upturning most of your plants out of the pots, just once or twice per summer, to have a look at how damp the soil is. It helped me to see which ones needed and gave me a better feel for it all. 
  • Dirty HarryDirty Harry Posts: 1,022
    I've tried to stop watering anything in the ground, bar any annuals that need a helping hand to get going.

    For pots I absolutely soak them. Usually a couple of times a week for most, bar a few exceptions that get more (hanging baskets) or less (bay trees).
  • has anyone used rain gel granules or mats in containers?
  • Pauline 7Pauline 7 Posts: 2,178
    spreross said:
    has anyone used rain gel granules or mats in containers?
    If you mean water retention crystals,  I use them all the time in my pots. I have never heard of rain gel mats or granules. 
    West Yorkshire
  • Joy*Joy* Posts: 571
    I have a tall strawberry pot with several planting holes. It is used to grow herbs. The first time I planted it, the plants near the bottom died as they didn't get a proper watering. Water tended to run out of the higher holes. Second time it was planted I scrounged an off cut of gas main pipe which is about 2.5 cm diameter, drilled holes along its length making sure that it was the depth of the pot plus a bit extra. I planted it with the new plants. The little bit which protrudes from the soil was quickly covered with parsley. I water the pot by pouring water down the pipe until I can see water in it. I've done the same with trees, using drainpipe. You just have to be careful not to fill the pipe with soil. With trees, the pipe can be cut off at ground level when it is established. It's a sure way of getting water to the plant roots.
  • AstraeusAstraeus Posts: 322
    For a budding gardener such as me, this is a great post. So thank you.

    The difficulty I have with watering is in understanding what is meant by the more oblique terms, which are trotted out often on Gardeners World and in this forum. Things such as:

    "Give it a good soak"
    "Water it in really well"
    "Water it regularly"
    "Doesn't need much watering"

    I'm coping OK (or should that say my plants are coping OK) with my houseplant watering, which tends to be easier to follow using the "finger on the surface/finger below the surface" test. But competent outdoor watering remains an enigma for me.

    What do people generally understand the above to mean? Is there any hope of a measurable quantity to go along with the expression? Or am I bound to have to wait until my experience tells me what works! 😁

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