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is a question we often get asked in the context of garden design plans, but watering is not as straightforward as you may think.
A plant that is deprived of moisture can show signs of wilting, dry or yellowing foliage, drooping stems and may drop flowers or fruit in a bid to conserve what moisture it may have. But don’t be fooled into thinking that any plant showing signs of wilting must mean the soil is dry. Some diseases and insects can damage the roots or stems that transport water to the cells and this may be the reason a plant is failing to thrive.
Over-watering, often done with the best intentions, can be just as harmful to the health of plants in your garden design plans, particularly in areas like Cheltenham.
In any well-executed garden design plan, it’s crucial to remember that plants need oxygen as well as water to survive, a fact that holds true whether you’re gardening in the Cotswolds or elsewhere.
In well-drained soil, oxygen is found in air pockets within the soil structure, which plants need access to, to process and absorb nutrients. If the soil is repeatedly saturated, these air pockets fill with water and the plants will suffocate. Over-watering is likely to cause fungal diseases. Plants will appear weak or stunted and weaker plants are more susceptible to pests and diseases.
The most important factor to consider is understanding the plants and their moisture requirements. Some plants prefer a constant level of moisture, whilst others prefer drying out slightly between watering. Drought tolerant plants still require some water especially when they are newly planted and trying to get established. Only aquatic plants can tolerate waterlogged soils, because they are especially adapted to their environment. If you’re planning new garden design plans, especially in the Cotswolds, understanding the topography can be crucial. You might find our article on the importance of topographical surveys in garden design helpful.
In the Cotswolds, the best way to judge whether the plants in your garden design plans are getting enough water is to dig down a few inches around the plant, being careful not to damage the root system. If the soil appears moist several inches down and is cool to the touch, then there should be enough moisture for the plants. If you don’t have time to dig around plants, a good alternative in your garden design plans is to invest in a simple moisture meter.
Watering at the base of a newly planted tree
When watering it should be applied slowly to the base of the plant, not overhead as this will do little to reach the roots and generally evaporates before it has time to soak into the soil. In your garden design plans, a soaker hose is a good option. It’s easy to install and an excellent investment to ensure that your newly planted garden will survive through periods of drought.
A soaker hose at work
Surely when it rains this is ‘overhead watering?’ Well yes it is, but Mother Nature is far more patient than the average hobbyist gardener wafting a hose with a sprinkler attachment about. This will only encourage new plantings to put down shallow roots, which are vulnerable to drying out, or toppling over in strong winds. However, there are several occasions when I would recommend overhead watering.
Remember, wind will dry soils out as well as strong sunshine. Plants grown in pots have limited access to resources and will need more frequent watering as they will transpire moisture far quicker than those plants grown in the ground.