Use Water Sensibly

The weather quite recently in Ireland has been tipping the 20 celcius mark. For some, the purchase of some plants from that good looking gardener [ 😉 ] that you intend to plant may not actually take place as the vinyl player speakers are popped out the window and the bottle of wine comes out of the fridge. And rightly so….

It was over this bank holiday weekend, the second one in too short a spell for this gardener, only from a one who does it for a living full time perspective that I have moaned, to myself and very much under my breath. Because you see, the sun has been shining so brightly and of course this is a glorious thing in all of its formats. But that said like the law of diminishing returns, there is also the too much of a good thing with all of the down sides syndrome that may occur.

With the short weeks this has meant that there is of course more time for me to spend in my own garden; but again basing this now on others experiences and also the flurry of emails that pounded my inbox, I realised what had happened with two consecutive long weekends was that the trip to the garden supermarkets and plant purchases from good looking gardeners had been made and the living products still sat outside or very near the back door. Not for all, but for many. Or some. Well at the least the very many who had contacted me. All that time while, myself included, chose to relax in the great outdoors and then returned to work. The plants I’m told [for some bold enough to admit it] may still be there. I am of course excluded from this category entirely.

I did a quick video which I uploaded to youtube and posted to the blog. Nothing too scientific about it as such. Let me side track slightly. A show garden of sorts I had done some time ago involved some wheelie bins and a consaw and what I had been left with was the bottom [half] of one. Sidetracking over, I filled this half a wheelie bin with water obtained from my water butts [which as a by the way one buys with bin tags – which as a by the way you claim back of your tax at the year end…] and submerged the plants below the surface of the water covering the foliage in its entirety.

This has a two fold effect. It is the splash of water on your face after a long sunny days jog and also [analogising plants with humans now complete] it replaces every pocket of air with water. One could call this drowning, if the plant varieties were of a heart beating type. They are not. I then placed all of my plants into the shadiest part of my garden with the lowest amount of air movement.

Let me delve a little further. Water or watering on plant leaves placed in the sun will act like a magnifying glass of sorts and tend to scorch the plants leaves. They, the plants, of course rely upon the green pigment in their leaves for photosynthesis, the process by which all plants make their own food and energy and therefore grow.

If the factors required for the growth of any plant are reduced, not eliminated, but reduced… we therefore reduce plant growth. This conundrum requires water and carbon dioxide [air] for the first part of the photosynthetic equation. And whilst one can’t reduce the amount of air in the planet one can reduce a plants requirement for water. Thus allowing you to enjoy your weekend and logically neglect your plants…. am I good or am I good !

Assuming any plant is growing in soil, it has a suitable temperature, light, air and moisture it should do as it is supposed to, which is grow. But to the the big killer of plants and the reason I put such emphasis on this, is that it is usually done by lack of water. Of course those who had minus Celsius and a few inches of snow a few months ago are of course pardoned with a bonafide horticultural explanation.

But with the greatest logic in the world too much such sun light will use too much water and so on the logic goes. To the more practical. A potential mild trickle or even a day of rain most likely will not penetrate down three or four inches of Irish soil. Unless of course you live on a golden beach of pure sand. And if you have purchased plants this or last weekend and allowed both of them to rest in the garden… but yet you wish to get them grooving and planted as soon as, here is the logic to do them an added bonus favour.

Drown them, as explained above until all water has been expelled from the plants pot. You’ll know when this has happened as the water will stop sending bubbles to the surface. Having your hole dug and your soil ready to firm back in your plant in advance will also help.

I did mention this process last week to a friend of mine who said he followed all of these steps, but planted and then extra watered just after nine o’clock in the evening. He woke up to find the slugs had eaten his plants in their entirety….

Gardening. Don’t you just love it!

Which Compost To Buy

which one...?

Buying compost for some, is possibly a little like me trying to figure which washing powder I am supposed to put in the supermarket trolley. 😉 It wasn’t always like that….

I couldn’t believe it when in the garden centre recently the amount of types variations in labells one could buy. It’s seemed extremely confusing to be quite honest.

I remember still, growing my first seeds with my grandfather and my second batch of seeds with my Dad. I would have been no more than 5 years old. This clap trap never existed. Never. It was a hand full of clay in a pot, possibly sieved and that was the end of it.

Golden rule number one: Do not get confused by what’s on the shelf. Gardening has been around for centuries and 150 years ago you couldn’t buy a bag of compost if you tried. Fact.

Before I go any further I must sidetrack, slightly so stay with me here: the pH scale is a range from 1 -14 which tells us how acidic or alkali [in this case] a soil/ compost is. For the moment/ example car battery acid would be on the lower end of the scale and milk would be on the higher end.

In theory, as it stands, almost all composts are peat [as in peat moss from a bog] based. Although the use of peat and amount of may change in the coming future. What one must appreciate is that peat has a low pH and is the basis for the making of almost all composts.

In basic compost terms there are two main types:

  • The first Ericaceous or acid loving – just two of the names it may come under and are pretty much peat mixed with a [slow release] fertiliser and a wetting agent. It comes with a pH of approximately 4.8.

Wetting agents are used because peat, when it dries tends to [kinda] combine, meet and muster itself together in one big clump. This is particularly visible in pots where it almost leaves a gap between itself and the container. When one tries to water and dampen the peat/ compost mass will simply float like a buoy or the water will just run off and down the sides.

  • The second type is compost. In any variation… from potting to multi purpose they are pretty much all the same. They are peat, mixed with a slow release feed and lime [or a substitute of some format] which will reduce the pH acidity.


The only thing that differs [generally speaking] from the compost used for potting trees versus that used for eg in growing bedding plants is the particle size in the peat and the duration that the feed will last. ie. trees will prefer a chunkier particle and will remain in the compost longer where bedding plants will only last about three months plus and the compost must be almost sugar granule size.

For those not in the nursey trade attempting to grow prize crops… or to put in context when I am at home growing my salads and herbs I simply grab whatever is available and failing that a handful of clay from the garden. The only honest difference between the ‘muck’ in your garden and the bagged compost will be the consistency at which the plant will grow.


As a by the way John Innes is a range of compost mixes. So if this multi purpose compost has added John Innes…. it’s either the man himself in there or [put in very simple terms…] it’s actually compost with added compost.

Technically you can call it something else. In the specialist nursery sector and prize winning plants one could argue…. But tell me I am wrong…?

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