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Plants. Watering. In Warm Weather

hand made bbq

A lovely image of my home-made barbecue to go with the audio.

Whilst the audio above discusses emergency water inducing measures. That aside and of note, there are some points to watch for. The first, silly as it may sound is compost drying.

compost dry

Compost is in short generally peat based, mixed with lime to raise the pH, a wetting agent and some plant feed. When it gets really dry, its colour changes from a wet black to a light woody brown ~ point of note numero uno.

More than that, the peat based product gels itself together and retracts away from the pot [see above]. You may need to ruffle the top of the growing medium [compost] before you soak it in water, but and as noted in the audio, by capillary action is the most efficient watering method.

donegan gardens

The semi- alternate to this is to be smart with your existing or new planting layout. The image above is from the courtyard garden I created some time ago now at Ché Max, Baggot Street. Plant choice decisions of note here, include the use of taller plants with a thin stem but a large bract/ head to create shading for the younger plants below. This therefore reduces the amount of light getting through to the soils surface and slowing evaporation. More than that it also reduces transpiration from the younger plants below.

glasshouse irrigation system phototropism

On a slight side note, in the last few extreme heat [for us pale and freckly Paddy’s] days I’ve noticed the phototropic effects on my younger plants in particular, that is the turning towards the stronger light just that little bit quicker than usual. Something I should note that might only happen if you left a plant in your north facing pantry.

If you do have window boxes, hanging baskets or the like, the best thing one can do is drop ’em straight into a large container of water and allow ’em to soak up exactly what they need water volume wise. Far, far better I think you’ll find that the water running down your arm and ruining that new frock you just bought. With that in mind, I did these window boxes for the wonderful folks at The Chilli Banana restaurant and I’m wondering how they are managing their watering, especially with customers walking by underneath. 😉

My advice, in a world gone all water conservation conversation, get two or three water butts and use the half wheelie bin approach. Keep an eye out for wilted plants. Super saturate your plants before planting, plant plan smart-er and make life a little less complex by allowing your planters soak it all up from below; all the while of course you being a lot greener. Water usage aside, it also leaves you with far more time to enjoy your space outdoors.

Any thoughts or comments ? Hit me on facebook, leave a comment below or pop me an email and I’ll note it this Friday on the garden radio show. In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine 😉

the sodshow

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!

Biodiversity

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biodiversity n the existance of a wide variety of plant and animal species in their natural environments

source: collins english dictionary [paperback edition]

Wikipedia goes a little more indept. I like the second sentence.

Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is one measure of the health of ecosystems.

To me and you what does it really mean…?

Some I know, have a rough idea that it’s a good green and in fashion buzz word to be aware of. But when quizzed on what, how or even further, what they can do as their little bit…. they honestly didn’t know. Doesn’t surprise me. Even I didn’t realise how biodiverse I already was.

The definitions are above…. but scroll down to the 10 things [below] you can do and you’ll really get a flavour for what it means and moreso what we as individuals can so simply do in any outdoors and in any season to help [y]our ecosystem.

What amazed me from feedback prior to writing this post and in reading up on that information given to me was the amount of Irish sites that either assume everyone understands what this is all about. Here’s the latest email….

Aparently butterfly numbers are up, or down Pete. I can’t remember. But I have no idea how they count them. I’ve less of an idea of what biodiversity is and how butterfly counting helps, or not!!

Sounds silly ? To some, maybe. But I can’t disagree with that. It is the reason I wrote this post and from here – with this as a basic basis post I can try and now delve a little deeper into the bigger picture.

Either or here’s the for starters post. Any questions or thoughts, just leave a comment below.

  • Plant a native tree this year – I did a list of Irelands native trees some time ago. The poll will tell you the most popular.
  • Put up a bird box – You can buy them but I perfer to make my own. How to put up and make your own bird box
  • Harvest rain water – This is really easy and you can buy them from most local councils with your bin tags and claim the tax back. Install a rainwater harvester
  • Water lawns and plants at night time that is, only if you really, really have to. Simple as it sounds. No link needed here. 

  • Allow some of your lawn or garden to grow wild– this is a great excuse for not cutting that part of the garden you don’t want to.
  • Make your own compost binI’m not a great fan of the plastic ones personally and I decided to build mine from some leftover timber.
  • Avoid using chemicals in your garden – once again, it’s a time and a money saver. Brilliant excuse for everything to look au natural
  • Build a log pile – it is as easy as it sounds. I simply stacked some dead branches that I pruned in a pile and forgot about them…. well, y’know what I mean
  • Grow a wildlife hedge – they’ll be back in fashion soon enough. Insects and wildlife can’t live on just vegetables and fruit….
  • Avoid petrol or electrical garden equipment – instead rake the leaves and use the old push mowers. Even better, you conserve your energy and get himself to do it

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Water Conservation

Today I discovered some of plant collection had been, put simply, close on fried. It’s rare for me to complain about the weather…. but here’s my situation.

For gardens that are new, or newly planted [Hi Julie and Terry 😉 ],for best results and knowing that the hose must be used…. try water at night time. It ensures the plant isn’t competing with the sun for water intake and therefore gets the maximum return from the watering and your time in doing so. Also one may find the water, combined with the days sun can act like a magnifying glass of sorts and cook the leaves slightly.

When these water charges do come in – the county councils will most likely up the price of those water butts too. My advice get one what you can sooner.

If however it is newly selected areas of planting, you may find that the water butts are an option to be considered.

As always you can rss the podcasts via iTunes or direct via audioboo or you subscribe to the blog and listen to them right here.

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How To Water Seeds

To some how does one water seeds may seems like a silly question…. but to others it is the very simple things that most often are not explained due to assumption… more so on the horticulturists part. Try find any gardening book with how to water in the title….?

But, for years as a nipper I crushed and broke weak seedlings with large droplets from a watering can…. and it being the start of the growing season this dilemma has resurrected itself.

If you are sowing your seeds in trays that have perforations/ drainage holes on the base then we are in luck.

With your compost in the tray, slightly firmed…. place your seeds as preferred and drop the tray into a large container of water. As you can see here I have made really great use of my green bin that I did not want. You can of course use your brown bin if you wish

Capillary action [as it is called] is the process which will ensure the water is drawn up all by itself. You will see the compost turn from a dry brown to a wet dark black. Be careful here not to let the tray sink to the bottom and lose all your seeds… watched pots and kettles may come to mind but patience is the key. As soon as you see water just appear at seed level… you’re good to go. You can repeat his process as long as is necessary and as long as your seeds need to be in the plug tray.

If however your container does not have perforations… this is were it can get tricky.

These [left] are the ones I sowed for indoors. I don’t want drainage holes on them, because, they’ll leak all over the window ledges. And I can’t steep them… so…

The answer is to water the soil very well before putting my seeds on top. If I chose not to the compost bubbles up over the seeds and the seed sinks somewhere within the pile of mush 🙂

Watering of these is then done very gently. I myself like to used to use a Mr Sheen/ windowleen type misting bottle [you can’t go wrong this way] and wet them as necessary. Or I pour from a very small jug of water into my hands, held over the container and let the water trickle through my tightly gripped fingers.