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Main Section - Overwatering


Is there such a thing as overwatering?
You'd think anything that grows needs more water in summer. And in
some ways, you'd be right. Moss in the lawn thrives on extra water. So
does clover and all the weeds that compete with your plants, flowers and
vegetables. Overwatering encourages them, whilst discouraging root growth
on everything you're trying to bring on. We need a careful balance. Excess
watering suffocates plant roots because the soil becomes waterlogged and
loses oxygen. If you have added fertilisers to the soil they will be
washed out. On the other hand insufficient watering retards growth and
encourages shallow rooting, leaving plants at risk during longer dry periods.
It's essential to water plants sufficiently to reach plant roots. Using a
watering can is the ideal method.

When to Water?
None of us like losing favourite plants and shrubs because they have
suffered through lack of water. But over watering can be just as bad.
In fact, a thorough water once a week is usually enough for
lawns and garden plants. Vegetables such as parsnips, asparagus and
onions need very little water. Crops like cabbage and lettuce grown for
their edible leaves require more frequent watering, Fruiting vegetables,
like peas and beans, respond best to more frequent watering at and just
after flowering and when the pods are swelling. Tomatoes, cucumbers,
marrows and leeks need watering throughout their growing season.

How Much?
The answer that all the experts agree on is "less than you'd think".
Overwatering is the most common cause of garden problems during hot
weather. In lawns, for instance, it washes soil away from the roots, then
the water evaporates, leaving the sun to burn the grass. At which
point, you're tempted to step up the watering and the
vicious circle is complete.

How To Water Less And Grow More
There are lots of ways to make sure your garden grows well,
without watering so often.
Leaving it to nature - Don't feel obliged
to water just because other people are. Use your own judgement,
but err on the lazy side. Your garden will thank you for it.
Keep down the weeds - Besides choking your
garden, they're growing fat on the water
meant for the plants you want.
Improve your soil with manure or compost -
They increase water retention, as do any mulches like leaves, or
shredded newspaper applied at any time. If you hoe frequently and
shallowly between rows and around plants, you'll
create a helpful dust about 2cm deep. This encourages deeper
rooting and better survival during long dry spells. Don't hoe when
the soil is damp. This will only increase the water loss.
Hanging Baskets and Pot Plants -
These can dry out quickly. There are numerous products on the
market that can be mixed with your compost to help increase
water retention. You can then water more thoroughly
but less frequently.
Look after vegetables -
Harvest crops as soon as they're ready - and save plants from carrying
excess weight. In the normally dewless months of June and July,
a fine overhead spray in the evening - particularly on leaf crops
(cabbage, lettuce, etc.). Use plastic netting as bird protection and
remember, it works as a windbreak too - so drying winds
take away less water.

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