Are your plants thirsty, or are they ok for now?

During dry spells like this one, it can be easy to overwater the veg patch (and thus waste precious resources). This article gives some tell tale signs to look out for to help you decide when and how often to water your own plants.

  1. Wilting – this is an obvious one, but if your plants start to wilt then it is a fairly clear sign that they need a bit of water. However, it could simply be that they are too hot so don’t be surprised if some plants, like squashes, wilt during the day while the sun is very hot, and then bounce back in the cool of the evening.
  2. Yellow, papery patches on the leaves – often assumed to be a sign of scorching, when little papery patches of pale yellow or brown appear on leaves, it is often a case of lack of water, meaning that the plant uses water from the leaves rather than drawing water from the roots. At the first signs of this we’d suggest giving the plants a good soaking.
  3. Purple edges on leaves – this is often a sign of nutrient deficiency, mainly phosphorous, but this can often be due to lack of water. If there is not enough water, then plants can’t draw up the nutrients that they need. Catch it early before the whole leaf starts to change colour.
  4. Bolting – Young, leafy plants that bolt/flower early will do so because of heat and lack of water. If you see one or two young lettuces or rocket plants starting to bolt, you can be confident the others will follow suit – a good watering will help prevent this.
  5. Leaves turning yellow – this is a clear sign of water/nutrient deficiency, often seen in beans, squashes and courgettes.
  6. Pests – strangely enough, lots of pests is often a sign of water deficiency. Flea beetle, black fly and other aphids can often be prevented (or at least kept to a minimum) when plants are well watered.

So, how often should you be watering? Well, we would suggest that you don’t water too often. Try to give your plants the benefit of the doubt. Every 2-3 days should suffice in most cases, but keep an eye out for the signs above and increase frequency where needed. Also, check the level of moisture in the soil – use a trowel or your hand to dig a little to see how far down the soil is dry.