Every year the water bill is the biggest cost our Society has to budget for, so now when the weather appears to be warming up again is probably a good time to remind every one of the need to use water carefully. The very useful advice below was recently provided by John O’R on P Field – some of you may have already seen it on our Facebook page (Thanks John!)
Allotment Watering Tips
Before you start to water, consider the state of your ground. If it is hard packed around the stems, the water will not penetrate the soil round the plants but will run off. Go down the rows with a hoe; I use a hand held device with 3 sharp tines which rips out weeds and breaks the soil up nicely. Do this regularly and you will notice the difference in days.
Remember the roots spread out in a circular fashion round the plant, so water both sides of the rows and all around large plants like courgettes or tomatoes.
The best time to water is evening, when it is cooler and the loss through transpiration is reduced. If you have to water in the heat of the day, it is better to water the ground and not the leaves in most cases, as wet leaves, especially on beans and cucurbits (marrow family) will scorch in strong sunlight. Wet leaves also encourages blight in tomatoes.
Do not give all the plants on the plot the same quantity of water; their requirements differ.
Start POTATOES in moist soil, then leave them until they show. Too much water may rot the tubers. Earlies require lots of water in their shorter lives. You can begin to dig when the flowers open, or use a trowel to check the size first.
Maincrop should be watered in a drought, but don’t flood them on a regular basis, especially in our normal wet summers.
PEAS & BEANS require lots of water once they are beginning to swell after flowering (sweet peas included). Don’t let peas dry out and give French and Runner beans a soaking about every three days. Broad beans should hardly need watering at all until the pods set, then give them plenty.
CLIMBING PEAS & BEANS are best grown in a trench to facilitate watering, and if you are growing up canes in a ‘teepee’ scoop out the centre to hold the water. If leaves are turning yellow you are probably overdoing it and watering nutrients out of the soil.
Don’t let CARROT & PARSNIP seedlings dry out and shrivel, but once established water only in a drought and sparingly. Overwatering will dilute the flavour, and worse, split the roots longitudinally making them useless.
ONIONS & SHALLOTS do not require much watering. Do not water them in the last 3 weeks before harvesting.
LEEKS are thirstier – water them regularly if it is dry.
CELERY – difficult to overwater this, give it plenty or it will turn leathery.
LETTUCE require regular moderate watering; they may bolt if kept dry. Water the ground, not the leaves.
CELERIAC – water regularly but do not flood like celery.
BRASSICAS vary in their requirements. CAULIFLOWERS need the most water, don’t let them dry right out.
CABBAGE are less thirsty but water regularly. Treat SPRING HEADING BROCCOLI like cabbage, but increase the supply if spring is dry. BRUSSEL SPROUTS need even less water but you can increase the watering when sprouts are forming.
BEETROOT don’t require a lot of water but once a week is necessary or they will be dry and not sweet.
Do not allow OUTDOOR CUCUMBERS to dry right out. COURGETTES, MARROW, PUMPKIN & SQUASH like plenty of water but not wet feet, plant them on a low mound to help drainage; waterlogging will cause fruitlets to shrivel, too little water will encourage powdery mildew on the leaves. You have to get the balance right.
KALE & KHOL RABI– water when young but they will get by on very little water after that.
SWEETCORN needs plenty of water once the male flowers at the top & the silk on the cobs (the female flowers) appear, but not much while they are growing up.
TOMATOES inside & out need regular watering, especially once fruit has formed. Lack of water is one cause of blossom end rot. After a dry spell (no water from you or God)) heavy watering will cause the fruit to split. Seriously avoid watering the leaves of tomatoes plants as latest research suggest the blight spoors develop in the moist leaves then spread blight through out the plant.
Established FRUIT TREES & BUSHES shouldn’t require any watering except in very dry conditions when the fruit is beginning to swell. Standard APPLES have deep roots, PEARS less so. If your trees are on dwarfing stocks they will have shallower roots – the smaller they are the smaller the roots. Newly planted fruit must be watered in dry conditions, even in Winter, for the first year. If you need to water trees, give each at least 5 gallons (22 litres) per week, pausing when puddling occurs.
Remember that too much water can cause as many problems as not enough. If you can get the right balance your crops will be better for it!
Finally, a few general points to remember please:
- Hosepipes: As it says in the Society handbook, only hand-held hoses are allowed, eg. with a spray gun attachment. (No sprinkler systems please, or just letting your hose run unattended. )
- Try to save as much rainwater as possible, e.g with gutters on your shed or greenhouse, and water butts. If you need advice or help with installing a simple rain collecting system please ask a member of the committee.
- Be considerate to your neighbouring plotholders – don’t hog the water tap!