How to water your plants during the hot summer months

Watering can feel like a chore for busy people, a mystery to new plant owners, or just downright frustrating if you find your plant babies sad and wilting even when you think you’ve been giving them water, but it comes with the territory of owning plants. We’ve put together some tips to help make life easier when watering.

 
1. Different strokes for different folks
How long a plant can survive in dry compost depends on what type it is. Annuals – those plants that live for one season only that we buy to adorn our hanging baskets, pots and window boxes – have soft growth and will soon expire in hot, dry and windy weather without a daily or even twice daily watering.  Shrubs and trees, especially more mature specimens in larger pots that have put their roots down, and are more established and can survive weeks and sometimes months with little water, depending on the plant. Perennials (plants that come back every year) and bulbs will simply lie dormant and wake up again once they get some moisture. Keeping your plants happy and healthy means knowing when they need a drink rather than taking them to the limits of their endurance.
If you are planting any new plant in the ground then you will need to water it until it is established, especially if the weather is extremely hot, dry, or windy. Once it has rooted out, it shouldn’t need manual watering. As a golden rule think ‘right plant, right place’ so if you have a dry, stony area, consider drought-tolerant plants, and if you have heavy, clay soil choose plants that love that situation.
 
2. To water or not to water...
Hands-up if you’ve ever watered a plant religiously only to find it still wilted on you? Overwatering as with underwatering can also cause your plant to wilt. A good test to tell whether a container plant needs watering is to push your fingers into the soil to see how dry it is. If wet soil sticks to your fingers, you know that there is some moisture in the pot. You can also combine this test with another to help judge moisture at the bottom. Lift the pot: if it feels heavy, there is moisture. If it’s light, it needs watering.
 
3. Make it a therapeutic routine
A good way to enjoy watering so it doesn’t feel like a chore is to build it into your early morning or early evening routine. Grab a cup of coffee first thing and take a potter around your pots. Watering first or last thing in the day is best for plants so they have time to absorb the water properly.  It’s also a lovely, mindful way to start or end your day.
 
4. Don’t rely on the rain and let your plants drain
Summer rain showers alone won’t sufficiently water your pots. Hand watering or watering with a slow running hose directed at the base of the plant is the best way to do it. Rain either hits the foliage or flower parts of the plant, runs off and seldom makes it all the way down to the thirsty roots. Saturate the compost and wait for the water to start draining out of the bottom then you’ll know your work is done for now.
Remember too that soggy bottoms are a no-no – plants left in excessively wet conditions with poor drainage will rot off at the roots. Ensure your pot has holes in the bottom, or put broken pots or stones at the bottom of large pots to stop soil clogging the hole. Stand big pots on feet to allow better drainage.  Planting in a good compost with added grit for containers is a good idea too.
 
5. Don’t rely on the rain and let your plants drain
Summer rain showers alone won’t sufficiently water your pots. Hand watering or watering with a slow running hose directed at the base of the plant is the best way to do it. Rain either hits the foliage or flower parts of the plant, runs off, and seldom makes it all the way down to the thirsty roots. Saturate the compost and wait for the water to start draining out of the bottom then you’ll know your work is done for now.
Remember too that soggy bottoms are a no-no – plants left in excessively wet conditions with poor drainage will rot off at the roots. Ensure your pot has holes in the bottom, or put broken pots or stones at the bottom of large pots to stop soil clogging the hole. Stand big pots on feet to allow better drainage.  Planting in a good compost with added grit for containers is a good idea too.
 
6. Eco-watering
Collect rainwater in cans or if you have space a water butt.  You can even reuse bath or sink water if you don’t use harsh detergents. If you’re feeling ambitious, for larger areas of containers, and particularly garden borders, you might like to also consider a drip irrigation system which drips the water slowly and can be set on a timer when you aren’t there.