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Watering

I thought this extract from ‘Mr Middleton Talks About Gardening’ seems quite timely advice for a lot of people at the moment:

I expect some of you will wonder what on earth l am going to talk about. “Watering” may seem a strange subject, but it is a very important one, and one which is not very well understood by garden lovers. I venture to say that more mistakes are made in a garden with the watering can and the hose pipe than with anything else.Indeed, l would go a step further, and say that more than half the laborious watering that is done does a good deal more harm than good. Let us consider it in detail for a few minutes.

In the first place, l am convinced that in a well-cultivated garden very little outdoor watering is ever really necessary, even in the driest weather. During a hot, dry spell last year l took a party round a famous Surrey garden, and it was very noticeable that although the natural soil there is almost pure sand, and the surface appeared to be as dry as dust, the various flowers and plants were standing up fresh and well, and appeared to be suffering no ill effects from the dry weather. Someone remarked on the amount of watering that must be necessary on such a soil, and was surprised when the Head Gardener remarked that no watering at all had been done.

Mr Middleton goes on to explain how the ground was dug deeply in the winter leaving the soil in just the right condition for drawing up water below by what is known as capillary attraction, using a cube of sugar with just a corner dipped in a cup of tea to demonstrate how the tea is absorbed.

In solid, unbroken soil, cracks appear and allow the water to evaporate quickly, but a deeply dug and well-cultivated soil not only lifts sufficient water from below but holds it in the surface layers where it is most wanted. Moreover, in such a soil the roots of plants can descend much easier to the lower regions in search of more abundant supplies.

He talks about the virtues of mulching as a means of conserving water explaining that this is done not only to feed the roots but to keep them cool and moist in hot, dry weather. he states not to do this too early in the year and suggests using manure, hay, straw, leaves or lawn mowings.

I think i should be quite safe in saying that there are far more casualties among greenhouse plants through over-watering than from any other cause. It need not be so, because after all, watering is really a question of judgement and common sense.

My deep-beds

For many years now l have grown my vegetables using deep-beds.These are 4ft wide beds, dug deeply with lots of compost. The idea is that you never walk on them hence the soil is not compacted. The plants can be spaced closer together and develop a good root system and you can see exactly what needs mulching, watering, feeding etc. I don’t think l would ever go back to the conventional method of preparing my plot ie. digging the whole lot and then treading all over it!

So, with the watering l have moved on with technology, and last year l invested in a micro-irrigation system connected to a timer. Mr Middleton would have loved this! I place the piping around the beds, in particular, the beans and peas, salad beds, courgettes, squash and pumpkins. The rest have to take their chance. I still like to use the watering can, however. There is something very ‘hands on’ using a can and you can be more selective. What system of watering do you use?

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in May, Mr Middleton, The garden

 

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Please rain……

Mr Middleton says: Thin out surplus seedlings early, before the roots get tangled, or you may injure those left behind.

MAY- 3rd WEEK

1. Thinning and Planting.- There will be much thinning out in May from sowings made in April. This operation is most important and should be done before the young plants get too crowded with their roots tangled together, and by their competition with each other weaken those which are left. Plant out crops from the seed bed and frames as necessary. If frost for the year seems to be over, some of the more tender crops, such as runner beans raised in frames, can be set out.

2. How is your plan working?- The garden should be getting nice and full, but there should still be room for a few later crops. To speak of the necessity for planting and sowing at different times is to emphasise the need for a plan. When no plan is being used it is fatally easy to put in a few extra rows of cabbage, cauliflowers, turnips, or whatever it is, and to leave no room for other essential crops.

3. Plant Out Lettuce.- Cos lettuce raised under glass may now be planted out. Allow 12 in. from plant to plant. Never allow lettuce seedlings to become crowded, as they grow soft and decay early. Some people like to use the thinnings as salads, but in so doing they rarely thin out the rows in good time and consequently those left fail to make good hearts.

4. Sow Maincrop Carrots and Beet.

5. More Sowing of Spinach.

6. Fertilize and Hoe.- A light sprinkling of general fertilizer may be given to crops now well established, particularly the earlier onions. Hoe frequently amongst the crops to work in the fertilizer and to keep down weeds which begin to grow apace at this time of the year. It is most important to destroy them as their competition is felt keenly by other plants. In the later stages they do not matter quite so much, provided they are not allowed to flower and produce seed.

7. Sow peas.

8. Attend to Fruit.

I was working in the garden until gone 10.00 this evening and in a short sleeved shirt! Amazing, no wind, warm sunshine and with the birds singing it was bliss!

More bad news l am afraid. I let my girls out when l got back from work at lunchtime only for the fox to wait until my back was turned. This time is was Bridgit, a beautiful black Maran type and a good layer so now we are down to 3 girls. So, this evening, l started to build an Ark, a covered run and house which can be moved around the garden. I think its the best solution. I am on the lookout for a couple of Buff Orpington’s. We used to have these back in the UK. They are lovely hens. Either that or a couple more black Marans which are very good layers.

No real significant rain in months is making this a very difficult year for growing anything in the garden. Today the temperature is nudging 30c and the ground is baked dry. It will take about 24 hours of good rain to get the ground back to normal. Our water is metered and is expensive so l am installing a micro irrigation system in the veg plot. My potatoes were wilting and l realised they were dry as a bone under the plastic membrane. A good dousing soon got them looking healthy again.

In the greenhouse things are really going. I have a small confession to make…the cucumbers are not strictly my own…l bought them in as young plants. But look at them now!

Young cucumber

First tomato

So, l am off to do a rain dance and hope that, this time, its more than a passing shower! How is the weather affecting your gardens?



 
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Posted by on May 24, 2010 in May, The garden

 

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