I love watering by hand. It gives me the chance to contemplate my garden without distraction. In these days of water shortages and hosepipe bans this simple pleasure has, alas, become tinged with guilt. So what can the hard-pressed gardener do to reduce water usage and still keep their garden in tip-top condition? The key to success is to target your watering to meet the needs of the different plants and crops within your garden.
If you have a small garden, it’s tempting to pop out on a sunny day and sprinkle the whole plot with water. Although damping the surface soil can make your garden look refreshed, most of the water will be lost through evaporation and never reach the plants’ roots. Watering little and often may also encourage shallow rooting, making the plants even more susceptible if drought strikes later in the summer. Far better to water thoroughly - soaking the soil right down to the roots and then leaving much longer gaps between applications. Don’t use the surface soil as a guide when deciding whether to get the hosepipe out. Instead, dig a hole with your fingers or a trowel to inspect the soil a few centimetres below the surface. Above all, bear in mind that it is far more efficient to water during the evening or early in the morning, rather than during the day, because this reduces wasteful evaporation.