Gardening: Make that drink a long one


Water is vital to a successful garden. It's needed to produce vegetables, fruit and to maintain garden beds and lawns. Without water very few plants would bloom.

With water restrictions imposed in many areas, all is not lost for gardeners. In fact, it's actually helping to educate people about watering sustainably. A little water every day is one of the worse things you can do for your plants.

Regular light watering encourages roots to stay at the surface of the soil looking for water, which isn't ideal, as these plants often become top heavy and can flop and fall over because they can't anchor themselves deeply enough into the garden.

Moisture is lost through leaves, bark and roots in the soil. Wind is one of the most moisture-sapping elements gardeners must deal with. Symptoms of inadequate watering are poor plant performance, plant death, visible water run-off without penetrating soil and dry spots plus increased pests and diseases.

The two golden rules for watering are

* When and how to water

* Mulch

When and how to water

Do the finger test - if your finger is dry when you pull it out of the soil, water the soil. Signs to watch for are wilting leaves and the soil simply feeling dry.

A garden is best watered in the morning or late afternoon.

Water the soil, not the plant. This goes for pots and containers, too. The roots take up most of the water, the leaves use a little but nothing in comparison to the root system.

Water thoroughly and deeply every few days, two to three times a week is all that is required. Deep watering encourages plant roots to search deeper for water, which firmly anchors the plants to the ground. It is also helpful to ensure your soil retains moisture by including wetting agents. Saturaid is a granular soil wetter that helps prevent soil drying out and can be used in garden beds as well as container plants.

Saturaid draws water down into the root zone where it is needed most, resulting in stronger, healthier plants.

The best way to rehydrate baskets and containers that dry out completely is to place the whole container in a bucket or trough of water and let the water soak up through the soil and root zone. This may take hours, but your plants will love you for it.

Mulch

Mulch is a godsend to the garden. It limits weeds, looks tidy, enables soil to retain moisture and it keeps plant roots cooler. A cooler root zone is less stressful on plants, allowing them to get on with growing, rather than just surviving.

Numerous things can be used as mulch - manure, straw and compost. Garden centres sell a huge range.

Pelletised Pea Straw is about the easiest to use and apply. It forms a protective layer that conserves moisture and conditions soil. Each pellet swells four times its size once watered to give complete mulch cover and great value for money.

Another popular organic option is Tui Mulch & Feed, this bark-based mix is blended with pea straw, blood and bone and powdered sheep manure.

- Hamilton News

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