An Introduction to Successful Irrigation

While some may find watering the garden to be a relaxing activity, others might consider it something of a chore, especially during a heatwave or if you have a sizeable plot. With an expected increase in hot, dry summers in the years to come, it is worth installing irrigation systems to ease your need to keep watering regularly, and help your plants establish well.

Watering regularly

Array of automatic watering timers and switches, with hoses leading to the garden - De Tuinen van Appeltern, Holland - © GAP Photos/Michael King

Array of automatic watering timers and switches, with hoses leading to the garden – De Tuinen van Appeltern, Holland – © GAP Photos/Michael King

If you don’t have time to water at the rate your garden requires, do think about investing in automatic timers, which when connected to drip systems and sprinklers, can be very affective. It may take a little time to set up and consider where you need the irrigation and how often However when you have decided on it, this system will take the edge off maintaining a summer garden, leaving you more time to enjoy your garden in the evening, rather than lugging the hosepipe around.

Irrigation pipes

Irrigation pipe for watering recently planted rows of young lettuce, beetroot and onion - © GAP Photos/Nicola Stocken

Irrigation pipe for watering recently planted rows of young lettuce, beetroot and onion – © GAP Photos/Nicola Stocken

When planting, especially in hot dry weather, keeping your plants in consistently moist compost is a good way to help them establish and stay healthy. Irrigation pipes may be more affective and conserve water in comparison to a hose, which when used tend to blast the leaves of plants with water, which then just evaporates off. Meanwhile irrigation pipes, which have little holes along their bottom, weave quietly under the leaves of your plants and deliver the water right where it is needed, by the roots.

Drip Systems

Irrigation drip system installed in rustic pots - © GAP Photos

Irrigation drip system installed in rustic pots – © GAP Photos

Watering pots is very important, especially in the summer. Potted plants are solely reliant on water and nutrients provided externally to the pot they are in, as their roots cannot reach out to seek moisture elsewhere. Keep pots in check with drip systems, which consistently feed water into the soil as and when it is needed, and do so right to the roots of the plant. Keeping pots well-watered from top to bottom during hot weather also protects the plants roots and encourages them to grow down, rather than rising to the soil surface and then getting fried in the sun.

Homemade watering devices

Watering plants on steep slope using a watering can and plastic bottles pushed into the roots - © GAP Photos/Andrea Jones

Watering plants on steep slope using a watering can and plastic bottles pushed into the roots – © GAP Photos/Andrea Jones

During particularly dry spells, especially if there is a hosepipe ban in place, it is quicker and resourceful to direct a little less water into the ground and directly to the roots of plants, than to spend ages watering the surface of your borders with a hose, for the water to just evaporate before it gets to the roots of the plants. When you plant, position a cut-in half plastic bottle by your new addition. Make sure the upper rim extends out of the soil and then directly add the water into the bottle so you know it is going straight down to the plant’s roots, providing a much more localised and affective watering method.

Natural irrigation systems

Step by Step - planting quince tree - watering within irrigation ridge created with soil - © GAP Photos/Elke Borkowski

Step by Step – planting quince tree – watering within irrigation ridge created with soil – © GAP Photos/Elke Borkowski

Trees and shrubs can take a while to establish themselves, and should be considered something of an investment. They will require a lot of watering to really settle into their new locations, especially if they are already quite large when planted. Ideally, plant in the autumn or early spring, so they have plenty of time to build up their root network before the summer arrives. If the soil you are planting in is dry, give your plant a better chance of establishing itself by creating a ridge on the surface of the soil. Then aim water within the ridge so that it has nowhere to go but down to the roots of the plant.