Water Like A Pro

Feb Tomatoes

Amongst summer’s goodness, there’s always a challenge, something that makes us put our thinking caps on. Last year fungus, this year lack of water. That hot hot sun + no rain has been a mean combo. Has it got you wondering how you can capture/ recycle more water? We are! Be as clever or simple as you like: divert downpipe’s into a barrel, capture washing machine water, put up more guttering, plan out swales, compost toilets, greywater recycling…

Helpful too to ponder the way we water, and go next level. So many options here

  • Get a bit more savvy with your setup – incorporate swales, improve wind shelter, increase companion plants ie mulch and compost ingredient, swap the overhead sprinkler system for leaky hose or olla pots.
  • Start the new year with a new practice – test for water needs, mulch, go hard building hummus aka gutsy soil.
  • Learn some new things – key times to water, how to water, which crops need it and which not so much.

Start Well

Gutsy soil is super water retentive. Add a generous layer of mulch and you are using less water/ spending less time watering than you thought possible. With this combo you’ll be amazed at how long you can go between waterings. Freakin’ AMAZED!!

miracles happenTest The Soil

Please. Can I beg here? Check your soil before you get the hose out. Your crops and soil are going to looove you for this – for watering on a needs basis and watering to that 50% (just moist) mark. They perform better, soil life explodes and the reduction in disease is stunning.

Here’s how to do your do-I-need-water test

  • For established crops, the tall and the sprawling – test by pushing your finger in. The tip of your finger tells you whether to water or not. Yes, really! All the way down there. I know gardeners (wise old … with respect Jeremy 🙂 …. souls) who push it out further than this to two fingers deep – go on I dare ya!! (I dare myself!!) If it’s moist at your fingertip let it be. If it’s dry –  water.
  • For newly sown seed, new transplants, shallow rooters and little guys test by squeezing a handful of soil together. Open your hand out giving it a small shake as you do. If the soil mostly holds together and a few crumbs fall away then it’s perfectly moist. If it holds its shape – way too wet. If nothing holds together – way too dry.

hand wateringWater Like A Pro

Here’s a snapshot of different watering needs at different times.

  • Baby phase (direct sown seed/ new transplants/ newly emerged seedlings) Begin on a win with a soak at planting/ sowing. Where the water goes the roots will follow. Roots that go deep bring strength and lasting power. Keep soil moist at this vulnerable stage. Never wet, just moist. Like babies, a bit of nurture here pays off later. A thin layer of mulch is really effective.
  • Teenage phase – make ’em work for it! Create robust/ resilient plants by rolling out a bit of tough love once they can handle it (for most, though please use your common sense here – this means 5/6 leaf). Load on the mulch and push the gaps between watering as far as you dare to force their roots deep. Testing using the tip of your finger as a moisture guide begins here. Liquid feed for strong stems and foliage.
  • Mumma phase – flowering/ fruiting is a key time. Pull back on the tough love – go mother love! A little drying between watering’s is ok, but on the whole keep things moist. Test the soil, if it’s dry soak it at soil level and if its still moist down there leave it.

Exceptions To The Rule

Of course, there are! Different crops have different water needs. Squash and cucumbers, for instance, need more water than tomatoes and potatoes. Beans are best barely moist until germinated, but they need consistent moisture from flowering for best performance. Chillies are hotter with less water, tomatoes tastier.  Avoid funky basil foliage by letting plants dry out before watering again.

My 3 phases are a great place to start. After that all you need to is watch. Trust your eyes. (Perhaps not your memory though – notes are always helpful. )

Best Times To Water

Cloudy, drizzling, morning = best times.

Success comes knocking!! Look about the world – countless people do it on a water budget far tighter than ours.