Caring for your garden
What is the best way to water your garden? How do you protect it from hot, cold and windy weather? What is green manure, what does it do and how is it grown? Read below to discover how to care for your garden and grow strong healthy plants.
How and when should you water your garden?
Just like humans, plants require water to live. When it is dry, plants lose water through a process called ‘transpiration’. It is necessary to replace the water they lose by watering them, but only when they need it.
There are many ways you can water your garden. You can use a garden hose, sprinklers, slow-release watering devices or watering cans. You can save water by doing the following things:
- Build a 3cm high wall of soil around your garden bed then mulch the area. This soil wall (sometimes called a ‘rimmed bed’) will help retain water even if you are in an area with low rainfall.
- Remember to compost. Humus, which is found in compost, acts as a sponge and holds water near the plant roots so that it does not drain away.
- Replenish your mulch regularly. Mulch breaks down over time, but is very useful in stopping water from evaporating which means that you will not need to water as often.
- Always remember to water your plants directly at the roots during the coolest part of the day. This will mean less water wastage and the cooler temperature means the water is less likely to evaporate before it reaches your plants.
As a guide, feel the soil 5-7cm below the surface. If the soil is dry, it needs water. If the soil feels damp, your plants should be fine. If there is not enough water in the soil, a plant will wilt and die, especially during periods of hot, dry or windy weather.
How can we protect our plants from hot, cold and windy weather?
- Hot weather: The heat of the sun can be too much for certain fruits and vegetables, especially those designed for cooler climates. You can help protect your plants from sunburnt leaves, and from wilting and dying, by setting up a shade cloth to protect plants from the harsh midday and afternoon sun.
- Cold weather: You can use a cold frame or a cloche to protect plants, especially fragile seedlings, from cold weather and frosts.
- Windy weather: Building a windbreak will help protect your plants from strong winds. You will find that a temporary windbreak with some holes (such as a loosely woven cloth) will work better than a solid barrier, as this will reduce the amount of wind blowing through the plants.
What is green manure?
Green manure describes a crop that is grown for a short time before it is cut down and left on top of the soil, or dug into the top layer of the soil. Green manure crops are cereals/grains (such as rye, wheat, oats and barley), legumes (such as chickpea, broad bean, alfalfa and lentils) and grasses (such as wheat grass and rye grass).
Green manure acts like a mulch, nourishing and protecting soil and replacing nutrients. It also holds nutrients in the upper layers of soil, stopping them from being washed away by the rain. Green manure is an important part of crop rotation, as it helps prepare the soil for your next crop.