10 smart watering tips

How to protect your precious garden over summer.

Summer is the season most of us who love gardening wait all year for. For me it’s collecting baskets full of basil and sweet cherry tomatoes, my kids racing each other to the strawberry patch every day after school, and slicing cucumbers, still warm from the sun, into our salads. I love looking out our kitchen window at the vibrant tangle of colour from the wildflowers dotted between our veggies and seeing the bees and butterflies reveling in the pollen and nectar. It’s the time of year when we see the fruits of our hard work and are rewarded with an abundance of grown food.

During this season our gardens need some extra care and attention. With the long hot days and lower rainfall, plants require a lot more water. With water restrictions often in place this can prove tricky. Another challenge is that many of us head away on family holidays at this time of year, and we’re not at home to water and take care of our gardens. However, with a little planning and some water-wise strategies, you can keep them thriving throughout summer, and return home to a healthy and productive veggie garden.

Water conservation tips for summer

Install a drip irrigation system:

Drip irrigation is one of the most efficient ways to deliver water directly to your plants’ roots. It minimises evaporation and water waste compared to traditional sprinklers. If possible, try to set up a system with a timer to ensure your garden gets consistent watering, even when you’re not at home.

Mulch your garden beds:

Mulching not only helps conserve soil moisture but also suppresses weed growth, which can compete for water with your vegetables. Try applying a layer, or even better different layers of organic mulch like pea straw or wood chips around your plants to keep the soil cool and moist. Other handy materials are wetted cardboard or paper, placed under the straw layer.

Choose the right watering time:

Water your garden during the cooler parts of the day; either the early morning or late evening are best. This reduces water loss due to evaporation, and your plants can absorb the moisture more effectively.

Collect rainwater:

Set up rain barrels or other rainwater collection systems to capture and store rainwater for your garden. This eco-friendly approach provides a free and reliable source of water if and when restrictions are in place.

Group your plants according to their water needs:

Plot your vegetables based on their water requirements. This way, you can target your watering efforts more efficiently. For instance, have water-thirsty plants like tomatoes and cucumbers together, and more drought-tolerant plants in a separate area.

Garden Care While on Holiday

Recruit a garden sitter:

Ask a trusted friend, neighbour, or family member to look after your garden while you’re away. I’m sure they will be more than happy to trade some of their time for fresh bounty from your garden. Picking the produce as it’s ready will also benefit your plants, helping them to put energy into new fruit, and stopping them from going to seed so quickly.

Self-watering containers:

If you have potted vegetables, invest in self-watering containers. These have built-in reservoirs that slowly release water to the plants as needed, reducing the frequency of watering.

Install a soaker hose:

A soaker hose is a porous hose that allows water to seep out slowly along its length. Lay it around your garden beds and connect it with a timer to a water source. This ensures consistent, deep watering in your absence.

Harvest before you go:

Harvest any ripe vegetables before you leave for your holiday. Overripe fruits can attract pests and may also hinder the plant’s overall growth. You can store harvested produce in a cool, dark place until you return. Or try bottling, pickling or freezing excess yield.

Shade your garden:

Install temporary shade cloths or use outdoor umbrellas to protect your garden from the intense summer sun. This helps reduce water loss through evaporation and keeps your plants from wilting.

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