The right way to water throughout the growing season

20 June 2022

Your flower beds and plants need water to thrive. One basic rule is to water abundantly and infrequently rather than little and often. Here are some great tips on what to think about when watering your flowers and vegetables. 

To give your plants the best possible conditions for flowering and bearing fruit, you need to know how to water and feed them before, and during, the growing season. Watering at the right time, making the most of rainwater and using methods to prevent the soil from drying out can also reduce your water consumption, which is particularly important if you live in an area with frequent water use restrictions.

Water abundantly and infrequently

There are some key principles to follow when it comes to watering and feeding your plants. Water abundantly and infrequently. It is important to give the roots a good soaking when watering. You often need to water more than you think. For example, a large pot may need more than five litres of water to get the soil damp all the way through. If you are in doubt about whether the soil is moist enough, a battery-free moisture meter might be a good investment. 

The soil in your pots and pallet collars usually dries out faster than the soil in your garden. How well the soil in your garden holds water depends on whether you have clay soil or sandy soil – clay soil does not need to be watered as often as sandy soil. 

How to avoid fungal infections

The second key principle is to avoid watering in the evening. Firstly, the nocturnal killers – Spanish slugs – love moisture in the evening. And secondly, there is a high risk of splashing particles of fungal spores on flowers and vegetables when you water the soil from above. The spores contain particles that need four hours of moisture to germinate. When the particles germinate, the plants suffer from fungal infections. In the evening, there is a high risk that moisture will remain and the plants will suffer. It’s best to water in the morning or as soon as you get home from work to give the plants time to dry out.

If you water in the middle of the day when it’s sunny outside, a lot of the water evaporates. Water your garden in the morning instead when the sky is a little cloudy to make watering more effective. If you want the soil to retain moisture better, it’s a good idea to cover the soil with e.g. grass clippings or another natural material. Grass clippings and other plant matter also adds nutrients to the soil.

The right way to water in spring and summer

In spring, you don’t need to water as much as in summer. This is partly because there is already basic moisture in the soil, and partly because the plants have not yet developed large foliage. Fewer and smaller leaves mean that rain and other water that falls ends up in the soil. Less moisture also evaporates from the leaves as the leaf surface is smaller and the air temperature is cooler.

In the warmer summer months, plants need plenty of water, especially in greenhouses where it gets really hot. 

A really good tip is to water when it rains. The soil acts like a dishcloth and absorbs water better when it is moist compared to when it is completely dry. If you take advantage of rainwater and wet weather, the extra water you add will soak into the soil properly instead of running off and evaporating when it hits the ground. Your plants also prefer it when the water is at the same temperature as the air. When watering, it’s a good idea to fill a watering can with water and let it stand for a while before watering to avoid using water that’s too warm or too cold.

Add nutrients to your water – little and often

It is a good idea to fertilise the soil in the spring. After that, feel free to add some liquid nutrients to the water when watering in summer.

There is a basic rule for feeding – little and often. The more consistent the supply of nutrients, light and heat, the better the plants will grow.

Want to know more about fertilising your garden? Check out our fertiliser school!

Summary of tips

  1. It’s better to water abundantly and infrequently (than little and often) so that the plant’s roots are thoroughly soaked.
    2.It is best to water in the morning or late afternoon. This allows the plants to absorb the water in the best possible way. Avoid watering in the evening or in the middle of a sunny day.
    3. Water when it rains so you can benefit from the rainwater and the moist soil will absorb the water more easily.
    4. Ideally, water with temperate water.
    5. When watering, add a little liquid nutrient to the water – add a little each time rather than too much too infrequently.

Make the most of rainwater. This is important, especially in times of water shortages. Make sure your rain barrels are drown-resistant.

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With a sprinkler, only a little water ends up in the soil. Most of it has time to evaporate either in the air or when it lands on the leaves of the plants.

Water in the morning rather than in the evening. This allows the plants to dry well during the day and reduces the risk of moisture damage to leaves and roots. Similarly, the risk of slug infestation is less when you water in the morning.