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Wise watering: Make the most of your water

July 1st, 2007 by Karsten

While watering your plants, there’s a few things worthwhile to consider, to make your work more effective. Many people tends to go berserk in their watering efforts, and water their plots several times a day, which is totally unnecessary.

Here’s a few tips to help you make the most of your watering efforts:

  • In most cases, it’s better to give your plants a good long soak 1-2 times a week, rather than a bit of water every day. This is particularly true for more established plants and fruit bushes.
  • Use common sense. Newly planted plants and young plants needs more water than established plants, because their root systems has not yet developed enough to be able to soak up as much water.
  • Direct the water to where it’s needed - the roots of your plants! Using a watering can or a jet attachment on your hosepipe is the best options, while sprinklers shouldn’t be used at all. Yes - they make light work of watering - but also they waste a lot of water.
  • If you buy in plants in pots (for example tomatoes), dig in the empty pot next to the plant and put the water in the pot, in order to direct the water to the roots. By watering this way you beat evaporation. Also - cutting out the bottom of plastic bottles - and digging them in next to your plants upside down will do the trick.
  • Focus your watering efforts on the plants that needs it the most - particularly when they are flowering and fruiting.
  • Above all - do your watering early in the morning if you can. I know this is tricky for many working allotmenteers. Alternatively, water in the evening. Never let the sun burn away your water by watering in the mid-day hours.

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Wise watering: Beat the drought

June 30th, 2007 by Karsten

There’s a good few things you can do before a drought sets in, to conserve water on your plot, and make your watering efforts last for longer.

The following 4 tips, 2 of which takes place in the preparation stages, will all help your plants to draw up more water.

Digging

The benefits of digging over you plot has been emphasised frequently here on Allotmenteer.co.uk. It breaks up the hard lumps in the soil, and so allows the roots of your plants to penetrate deeper into the ground. While the top 2 inches of soil gets dry and hot, usually the lower layers will remain cool and moist, so your plants will benefit being able to “tap into” this ressource.

Adding Organic Matter

This is one of the best ways to conserve water. While digging over your plot, adding garden compost, well rotted manure and other degradable organic matter will help to hold on to moisture. As you know I myself have dug in tonnes if manure over the past months - and it shows!

Weeding

Never forget that weeds need both water and nutrients too! Don’t leave them in to steal any available moisture that rightfully belongs to your plants. You should be weeding your crops regularly - always keeping the hoe within reach. You’ll be surprised what 10 minutes of weeding a day can do. I do this while waiting for my water butt to fill up.

Mulching

Mulching around established plants is a very good idea. It helps to contain the water, keep down weeds and add nutrients to the soil. Use garden compost, wormcastings if you’ve got a wormery, leafmould, manure or even woodchippings (this is better round fruit bushes). Never do mulching on dry ground - but wait till after it’s been raining or you’ve finished watering. Mulching dry ground is pointless.

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Recycling water

June 29th, 2007 by Karsten

Recycling water is something I’m quite sure that most allotmenteers do anyway - but for those of you who doesn’t - I decided to include this article anyway. If you’re already recycling water on your allotment plot - keep reading though! You may still learn something :-)

The obvious thing to do - when it comes to recycling water - is to collect rainwater from the roof of your shed(s) and greenhouse(s). If you haven’t got a gutter fitted already - it’s not a big job to do - and in the long run it will save you a lot of time not having to fill your water butts using a hose pipe.

If you have a large area under roof - you may consider linking up a number of water butts - which is easily done by connecting the overflow from your first water butt to the bottom of the next one with a piece of hose pipe. Gravity will do the rest.

Another way of recycling water is to use the much underused ressource of grey water. Grey water is water that has already been used in the home for washing and bathing. It’s easy to reuse this water in your garden or on your allotment plot, as long as you stick to a few simple rules:

  • Never re-use water which has strong chemicals or detergents in it, as it’s too contaminated. Water from baths and showers is fine.
  • Always allow the water to cool off before re-using it
  • Vary where you use it in your garden or on your plot.
  • Never use it on edible crops or leaves

I know the above rules may rule out the use of grey water for a lot of allotmenteers - but for those of you who grow cut flowers etc. - limited use shoud be fine, and the re-use of grey water applies to those of you who has a garden of your own as well as an allotment plot.

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Hosepipe bans

June 28th, 2007 by Karsten

During hot spells in summer, some areas in the UK will be low on water, and the water companies in the affected areas will impose a hosepipe ban. So what is a hosepipe ban then - what does it mean?

The legislation behind hosepipe bans was put in place in 1945, and is directed on domestic users, to stop them from watering their gardens or wash their cars using a hosepipe. The aim is to stop these high useage activities to preserve water supplies and take the pressure of the water companies during peak periods.

So how does this apply to us as allotmenteers? Well - some UK water companies (like Thames Water) - class allotment plots as private gardens, to which the ban applies, while other water companies don’t. Hence allotmenteers in those areas will remain unaffected.

With the law being over 60 years old - some confusion has risen as to what you can or can’t do during a ban. According to the current law….

You’re NOT allowed to:

  • Use a hose to water your lawn or plants
  • Use a hose to water your vegetable plot
  • Use any watering system connected to the mains
  • Use a hose to wash your car or van

What you CAN do is:

  • Use a hose or jet wash to clean a patio area, driveway or your garden furniture
  • Use a watering can
  • Use a bucket to wash your car or van
  • Fill a swimming pool or pond

Double standards? Could be! But until further notice these are the rules that applies.

So how can you check if your area is under a hosepipe ban? The local media will more than likely tell you. Failing that - you can check the website of your local water company - who will also tell you about how the rules apply to you.

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When the going gets hot!

June 27th, 2007 by Karsten

It usually happens at least once every year. Summer comes around - it hots up - and plants in gardens and on allotment plots across the country starts lacking water.

At the same time - in a lot of areas in the UK - water becomes a sparse commodity, and its use is restricted by so called hosepipe bans.

There’s not much we can do about that. After all - come rain or shine - there’s nothing we can do to control the weather! What we can do is prepare for what it may bring, and use the ressources at our disposal as wisely as possible.

So what can you, as an allotmenteer, do to prepare for droughts? There’s a number of things:

  • Make sure you dig in ample amounts of organic material during autumn/winter to ensure that your soil structure improves. This will help to keep a good level of moisture in the ground during dry spells, and make the watering you do last longer.
  • Get as many water butts as you can on your plot - and make sure you collect water from the roof of your shed(s) and greenhouse(s)
  • Plan ahead - and select plants that will tolerate dry spells. Many allotmenteers are now trying their luck with produce usually grown in the mediterranian region - with succes.
  • Take steps to guide your water to where it matters - the roots of you plants! More on this later….

I’m hoping you can see you’re not fighting a loosing battle - as we’ll be looking at more details regarding watering over the next few days.

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Watering your allotment plot

June 26th, 2007 by Karsten

In the next few days we’re going to look at the subject of watering an allotment plot. At the time of writing these articles this could seem like a bit of a joke, since it’s raining quite a bit, and has been on and off for about 2 weeks.

Never the less - things can change quickly - and the months of July and August can turn quite warm and sunny. When they do, it brings to the surface a few issues for gardeners in general, and allotmenteers in particular.

We’re going to be looking at the following issues:

  • Drought and hosepipe bans
  • Recycling water
  • Using water wisely

There’s a lot of things that can be done, now and in coming seasons, to ensure that you can maintain a good plot that will continue to give you lots of pleasure and good yields of crops.

I hope you’ll enjoy the series - find inspiration - and tips on how to make the most of your plot, drought or not.

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