Greenfingers: The Alan Titchmarsh column

He’s a magnificent broadcaster, gifted gardener, brilliant author and all-round horticultural visionary. This month, Alan Titchmarsh talks about how to water your garden in the Summer…

In a time when the holler of hosepipe bans, sustainability and water conservation is central to a lot of thinking, it can sometimes feel like a tricky balance when it comes to good watering of our gardens.

Certainly, I feel we are more conscious of this fact than before, both from a natural perspective and in terms of potential wastage. Put simply, you need to water your garden, but my advice is to embrace the morning for this, as this matches with the natural rhythm of plant life, coinciding with the rise of the sun and the dawning of their daily cycle of drawing moisture from the earth. This also optimises water usage, and means you are not promoting the nasties that dusk watering might invite – the unwelcome advances of slugs and onset of mildew! Although the cooler evening air may conserve water by reducing evaporation, the mornings offer the most benefit to our plants and their well-being.

Of course the real rules for watering are created by you and your own observations. As far as plants go, be careful to note their growth, the vibrancy of their leaves and the robustness of their blooms. Also allow the soil to approach dryness before watering as this encourages roots to delve deeper, fostering the plant’s resilience, yet look beyond any superficial dryness – probe deeper. Also remember, organic matter will teach the soil to hold liquid more effectively, providing a nurturing environment for roots to thrive.

For those of us with container gardens, or the constrained roots of plants nestled against walls, vigilance must increase as their world is smaller and their resources finite. Rather than scattering water thinly across the surface, a focused, deep watering can revive and sustain plants far more effectively, encouraging deep root growth and the fight against famine. Also think about the choice of water you use. For example, rainwater, with its gentle composition, is the tonic of choice, harmonising with the plants’ prerequisites. In contrast, tap water carries with it the burden of treatment and the potential mismatch of mineral content. Grey water – such as that from washing machines and baths – is a resource too often discarded.

Finally, innovations in garden watering – from reservoir-based containers extending intervals between watering, to drip irrigation systems that deliver with precision – offer us tools to use water with respect and efficiency. Wisely managed, these systems can transform our gardens into models of sustainability and, of course, beauty.

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