In 'Dig This' I look at a specific item of interest in detail. This month it is about watering the vegetables
One of the best pieces of advice I ever had was “don’t water your plants. It will only weaken them and make them reliant on being watered” was the rationale behind the voice of experience. Constant watering encourages the roots to reach upwards towards the source of the moisture instead of where they should be going. I have no idea if the rationale is correct but I have found that the advice was good. Gardening organically fits with this kind of approach, going with nature instead of fighting it.
Broad Beans need a good dousing at flowering time
However, like all rigid rules its weakness is in its inflexibility. For a start seeds need to be able to germinate, so in a dry spell you need to keep them moist. Parsnips are a very good example of this. The books often tell us they are slow to germinate. Mark the rows with radishes, we are told. Good advice if you leave them to it, but not needed if you can water them daily so the seeds remain moist. Could it be that they are reputed to be slow to germinate because they need a continued rainy spell to do so? Certainly the seeds are like blotting paper. Their hygroscopic qualities make them one of the few types of seeds that are difficult to store & use next year, once opened. ( not worth the potential disappointment in my view, they are the only seeds I buy every year, regardless).
Jerusalem artichokes do not need water
When is it necessary?
Also, it is essential to ‘water in’ transplants, especially in relentlessly hot weather. And even established crops sometimes need a supplement. If you don’t water at all a drought will severely weaken many plants and reduce the crop they produce. This will depend on how deep their roots go, how high a water content the plant contains, the moisture retaining quality of your soil and whether or not you use a mulch. So I keep a careful eye on my plants in dry conditions and selectively water those which seem to be most affected by the lack of water. Legumes, and especially French Beans (I prefer the taste of climbing French so I don’t do runners, except when there is a downpour) are especially susceptible, but Onions Courgettes, Corn, in fact most plants like to have some refreshment.
Lettuces will bolt- run to seed- in very dry weather
A Lot and Rarely
When I do water I copy nature as closely as possible. Standing there with a hose for a few minutes spraying water everywhere is a waste of time. It hardly penetrates the surface. I select a small area and give it a good dousing for at least half an hour, trying to reproduce the effect of a short downpour. Otherwise peas will start to die off, their colour paling, onions may split and even the potato crop will be reduced. So I water as little as possible, but when I do, I really ‘go for it’. It is one aspect of tending plants which does not respond to the adage ‘little and often’.