Top 10 Watering Tips

water butt next to polytunnel
water butt next to polytunnel


It does not take long before a period of hot weather makes an allotment holder become fed up with watering.

Hot weather can force the keen gardener 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? Here are ten tips to reduce the size of the task.

Step By Step Video

YouTube Video

Tip 1 - Bigger Watering Cans

watering can on allotment

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 10 l watering cans will cut the amount of ‘to and fro’ trips by about half compared to 6.5 l cans.

Tip 2 - Drip Irrigation

drip irrigation watering plant

Excellent for greenhouses and polytunnels, as well as for patio plants and container gardening, these systems eliminate the need to carry water at all – albeit after the expense and effort of setting them up.

Tip 3 - Water Butts

water butts linked together for storage

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 water inside a water butt is used up. A gardener also needs a low effort way of filling them up.

Tip 4 - Water Storage IBC

IBC next to shed

For seriously large water storage, you may want to consider Intermediate Bulk Containers, or IBCs. Often purchased second hand, 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.

Tip 5 - Water Pumps

water butt pump

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.

Tip 6 - Seep Irrigation

soaker hose watering

Seep irrigation uses buried lengths of hose and is highly efficient as water does not ‘run off’ the surface away from plants, and less will be lost to evaporation. This is ideal for permanent beds with perennial plants, including watering fruit bushes and small fruit trees.

Tip 7 - Less But Lots!

The most frequent ‘rookie’ watering mistake is to water often (daily) with a little water. This is sometimes the right approach for keeping 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's roots to go looking for it.

Tip 8 - Organic Matter

Digging in organic matter into growing beds 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.

Tip 9 - Mulching

Covering the soil surface with a thick mulch of compost, wood chips, or straw, will help the ground retain moisture by providing protection against a hot sun and any drying winds.

Tip 10 - Timing

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 when pea and bean plants are young, 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!

Quick Links