Wednesday, 18 April 2012 1:25 PM
By Old Geezer
All the prophecies of droughts and hosepipe bans have been fulfilled. That makes this a fine time for a discussion on watering and how best to go about it.
Most of us aren't allowed to use a hosepipe, but even if you're one of the lucky ones, there are still a lot of ways you can go wrong.
Standing there with your finger over the front of a hosepipe won't always help matters. Often this practice is a waste of time and at the moment it is a waste of precious water.
The same applies to sprinklers, although I do concede that on freshly laid turf or a newly seeded lawn there is little choice if you want the grass to grow.
However, watering by spraying has two very bad side effects. On bare soil it causes 'capping'. The effect of this is that when we have a downpour the rain cannot penetrate the soil easily. Much of the rain will either run off or evaporate, neither of which helps the plants.
The other detrimental side effect is on the plants themselves, constant 'sprinkling' means only the surface is wet and this encourages plants to grow their roots there. Having roots near the surface is a bad thing as it makes the plants even more vulnerable to the effects of a prolonged drought.
It also results in serious damage to those roots when you are hoeing, further reducing the plants' ability to take up water. It should be remembered that all the nutrients a plant requires are taken in via water, so getting the right amount to a plant is hugely important.
So, how do you deal with this problem, particularly with the carrots, parsnips and beetroot which I imagine many of you are looking to grow as the weather warms up.
The trick to ensure good germination is (as usual) pretty simple. Use your line and the corner of your hoe to take out a 'drill'. If your soil is dry make the drill a little bit bigger than you really need and water before sowing the seed. You can then cover the seed with the back of your rake, gently tapping the soil down with the head of the rake, holding the handle vertical.
Don't forget your marker sticks at the end of the rows before you cover the seed though else you might forget where you have planted it!
An important point, make sure you are watering the drill gently. Let the water dribble out of spout of the watering can, or if you must use a hose then ensure it is running gently. Better still tie a small piece of sacking over the end of the hose.
Too much pressure will wash loose soil everywhere and the aim is to get the water to soak in where it is needed, not have it running all over the place.
Another tip, if you are going to water your plot, always hoe the ground before you water, this will allow the water to soak in.
Enjoy your gardening in this weather, it won't last!
All the best, Old Geezer.