Are your plants getting enough water?

For those who are slightly newer to gardening, it can be difficult to know whether you are giving plants enough water or not. In general, we find that most new growers underwater, so if you are unsure, the chances are high that your veggies need a little more than you are giving them. Here are some top tips to help you get the balance right:

Look at the leaves

When you first plant out and veggies are getting underway, patchy yellow-brown leaves like the one pictured above are sure signs that they’re not getting as much water as they need. General discolouration in the leaves is another common indicator of not getting enough water – very yellow leaves, and also leaves taking on a pink/brown colour at the edge suggest a lack of water. Also, look for droopy, wilting leaves.

A plant that is getting enough water will usually produce vibrant green (unless they are plants with purple leaves, like beetroot or red cabbage!) and strong-looking leaves.

Check the moisture levels in the soil

Do this by using a trowel to dig down and pull the soil back – simply having a look at the soil about an inch or two below surface level can tell you a lot about it. If in doubt, use your fingers to crumble a bit of soil and gauge whether it is very dry, or holding some moisture. If it is dry, you can be sure that you’re not watering often enough, if it’s a little moist but not too sticky then you’re pretty spot on, if it’s soggy then you’re overwatering.

Try to keep moisture levels fairly consistent

This is the aim really, to make sure that your plants have access to moisture deeper down in the soil without going through patches of drought – this is why we always bang on about watering thoroughly and deeply less often rather than a shallow sprinkling of water more often – it helps to persuade the plants to put their roots deeper down where there is a more consistent level of moisture and they will be able to access water and nutrients on hot summers days.

As a general rule…

OK, this really is a generalisation, but sometimes a generalisation helps to keep us on the right path until we learn the intricacies of watering. So: In the first 2-3 weeks of planting out, water every other day during dry spells (i.e unless there is a good dose of rainfall). Water thoroughly, and try and do the watering in the morning. Thereafter, you should be able to get away with watering every 3-4 days, as long as there are no signs of wilting/leaf discolouration etc.

If you see plants wilting in the middle of the day…

Loads of gardeners will tell you never to water in the middle of the day because you will ‘scorch’ the plants. This, in our humble opinion, is advice that you can safely ignore should you see plants wilting during the heat of the midday sun in the middle of a heatwave – just get the watering can out and give the plants a drink. You’ll soon see how quickly they recover, but if you hold off watering until the evening or the following morning, it may be too late!

Once you’ve been growing your own veggies for a couple of seasons, you’ll get a feel for how much is right and you’ll start to just know when the plants need more water, or less.