Allotment Watering Tips
It does not take long before a period of hot weather makes an allotmenter become fed up with watering.
Hot weather can force the keen allotmenter to relentlessly, tirelessly, but willingly lug heavy watering cans round their plot several times a week, whilst covered in sweat and getting bitten by the evening midges.
Is there an easier way?
This guide has ten ideas for how to reduce the burden of allotment watering, divided between those that make watering easier, and others that can be roughly termed as ‘smarter watering’.
- Bigger Watering Cans
Perhaps the most basic and obvious solution, but it can be very tiring having to repeatedly walk to and from your water supply. Best suited to the strong and those with a good back, but watering with a pair of 10L watering cans will cut the amount of ‘to and fro’ trips by about half compared to 6.5L cans.
- Drip Irrigation
Wandering around Spanish orange groves is an excellent way of seeing drip irrigation systems in action. Perhaps best suited to ‘permanent’ crops like trees, fruit bushes or the strawberry patch, but also excellent for patios and container gardening, these systems eliminate the need to traipse around the plot at all – albeit after the expense and effort of setting them up. See drip irrigation on Amazon UK.
- Water Butts
Investing in water butts can help reduce the distance you need to walk between your source of water and your crops. By installing water butts on your plot you create a very convenient supply of water. But beware!, it is surprising how quickly you can drain a water butt. See my ‘Water Butt Size Calculator‘ for more information.
- Water Storage – IBC
For seriously large water storage, you may want to consider Intermediate Bulk Containers, or IBCs. Purchased second hand (google search …) these hold a considerable amount of water. Key considerations are: what they previously contained (ideally food related); and where you will be able to place them. IBCs can be very heavy, but ideally you will want to raise them off the ground so that you can put a watering can beneath the tap, or use gravity for your drip irrigation system. The best way of filling IBCs is by capturing spring rain from a shed roof, but you may be able to fill by pump a few times a summer.
- Water Pumps
Whether you are lucky enough to have access to ground or river water (and have permission), or you simply want to pump stored water around your plot, a water pump can give you the required pressure to spray.
- Less But Lots!
The most frequent ‘rookie’ watering mistake is to water often (daily) with a little water. This is sometimes a valid approach for keeping tiny seedlings alive in hot weather, or for big plants in small pots, but in mid-summer it is unlikely to be the most effective strategy at the allotment. Plants need to be encouraged to search deeply for water. A good dousing of water once a week will ensure the water penetrates deeply, and forces the plant to go looking for it.
- Seep Irrigation
As mentioned under easier watering, seep irrigation using buried lengths of hose is highly efficient as water does not ‘run off’ the surface away from your plants, and less will be lost to evaporation.
- Organic Matter
Digging in organic matter has several benefits in regard to watering. The plants should grow more vigorously and develop stronger root systems. The act of digging will help break apart the soil and make it easier for the roots to develop. Best of all, the organic matter itself will hold more water, making the plant less likely to dry out.
Covering with a thick mulch of compost will help retain moisture by providing protection against a hot sun and any drying winds.
This may require a little research, but individual crops have particular watering needs. There are times when it is not advisable to water heavily, for example young pea and bean plants as this can encourage too much leaf growth. However, later in the growing season, these same plants should be watered copiously when flowers have formed. The same is true of potatoes. Leeks require very little water, brussels sprouts the same, whilst cabbage, lettuce and spinach should all be watered frequently.
Here’s looking forward to some hot weather!