Being wise with water in our gardens
Learning to read the plants in our gardens
The plants in our gardens can tell us so much, if we only know what to look for.
Learning to read our plants is a useful skill to have. Our plants can show us, in their own way, when they’re happy or if there is something not quite right.
Water, water everywhere.
Or is there?
Due to climate change and other pressures on the environment, water is fast becoming a very precious and scarce resource in our gardens.
We need water to grow our plants, but there are some ways that we can be wise with it.
Learning to read
Different plants require different care, and in particular, their watering.
Looking for signs such as wilting leaves, stunted growth of plants or no flowers, or disease such as powdery mildew could all mean that your plants need more water.
Likewise, wilting or yellowing of the foliage could mean your plant is being overwatered.
There are many different variables that can help us when deciding how often to water our plants and in turn, watering more wisely in order to conserve water. Larger plants with many leaves will need more water, plants in containers will need more water than plants in a border and the type of soil and weather conditions also play their part.
Plants take up all their water through the roots. So it is better to water in greater amounts less frequently, rather than small amounts more frequently. Watering less frequently means that the plant roots are encouraged to go down deeper in the soil to find their water, making them a stronger, more established plant in the long-run and able to cope in times of drought.
The best time to water is early in the morning, when plants start to take up water. Never water in the middle of the day, when the temperature is at its hottest and water can be lost to evaporation. Watering in the evening also ensures that water is taken up by plants more effectively and will not evaporate in the heat.
Mulching can also have a positive impact on watering. By adding a layer of mulch and organic matter to our borders can mean having to water less, as the mulch aids water retention in the soil. This is especially important in times of drought, as it can keep the soil at an even moisture, rather than drying out frequently.
A different perspective
With more instances of drought around the world, we can all do our bit to conserve water by choosing our plants more sensibly.
Thinking about our gardens with climate change in mind and by choosing drought-tolerant plants can mean the use of less water. Growing annuals, for example, will require more water than native plants or seeds sown in the autumn, which have produced a better root system.
As gardeners, collecting and using rainwater for our plants should be the first port of call. And many of our garden plants actually prefer rainwater, as it does not contain the minerals that the water from our taps does.
Overall, choosing the right plant for the right place and conditions in our gardens has to be the most effective way in order to conserve the use of water. Planting new plants in the autumn gives them a better chance at putting down their roots in time before the hot summer weather arrives.
So by learning to read our plants and having a better understanding of our gardens in general can mean happier, healthier plants. But it can also mean the conservation of water in the long term, a very valuable, but scarce resource.