After the rain (and gales) we have had this week - we lost our power for 6 hours on Tuesday probably due to a tree falling on an electricity line somewhere - it might seem that a post about watering is not best timed. Ah well you see, it may be soaking wet outside at the moment but if you have a polytunnel or greenhouse you have in effect your own desert where no rain will ever fall and the survival of your plants is entirely dependent on you watering them.
Outside, my plants not be galloping forwards at great speed as they wonder whole stole the May sunshine and warmth but in the polytunnel it's a very different story. My tomato plants have shot up and I am in the process of planting them out, together with a plastic bottle each. Don't worry, I have not gone mad but it is an ingenious way to help with watering.
A question for you first though. Do you think it is better to water plants a little and often or a lot but less often?
|How best to water?|
Have you decided?
The correct answer is a lot but less often*. And this is the reason why. If you water your plants with just a bit of water it will only wet the surface of the soil where in fact in hot weather it will quickly evaporate before the plant can use it. It also encourages plants to have shallow roots near the surface, making them more susceptible to drought. In contrast, if you give your plants a good soaking, but less often, the water will soak down deep to where it is less likely to be lost to evaporation and to where the plants will grow deep, healthy roots. The one big difficulty with this method though, is that you can lose a considerable amount of water to surface run-off and so this is where the bottles comes in.
|Plastic tomato watering bottles|
Water-wise Tomato Watering
Besides each tomato plant I have sunk a plastic bottle which has 4 holes drilled in the base. I can then water directly into the bottle and the water drains out of the bottom some 15cm below the surface. The tomato will send down deep roots to use this water and far less will be wasted. I can also easily add liquid tomato feed this way and it should also have the added advantage of reducing weeds with much less water on the surface that is needed for their seeds to germinate. Anything that reduces waste is good in my book. Most of the year I use "free" well water (although I need electricity to run the pump so not totally free) but in a dry summer the well will dry up and I will have to switch to tap water, which here in France is all metered.
|Tomato plants with their water bottles|
I shall let you know how I get on with this method. It's taken a bit of extra time to set up but I think it should greatly benefit my tomato plants. I also intend doing the same with all similar plants in the polytunnel such as cucumbers, pumpkins etc.
* Exceptions to the Lots and Often watering ruleAs ever there are always a few exceptions to the water rule. Succulents, cacti and very drought tolerant plants will not appreciate a deep soaking every few days and plants in pots will need watering both well and often as they dry out so quickly. Seedlings will also need water little and often.
Do you have any crafty ways to make watering your plants more effective. Please do let me know.
Linking as ever to Annie's How Does Your Garden Grow linky over at Mammasaurus.