As most gardeners know, plants need three things to make them happy: sunlight, good soil and plenty of water. With our rainy climate, most English gardeners focus on the first two and only worry about watering when they have young plants. But when, like me, you have a cutting garden full of seedlings and a bit of a thing about pots, watering can become a full-time task.
Surprisingly, considering the long and dull hours I’ve spent each summer with a hose in my hand, I hadn’t ever thought about irrigation. I’d noticed that some of the brilliant cut flower experts that I followed on Instagram used it. And I’d admired their perfect rows of flowers with black drip hoses snaking through them. I thought these systems were for professionals with acres of needy plug plants to water. How wrong I was!
This Spring, all that changed. I was approached by Gardena – whom, I realise now, are to irrigation and garden tools what BMW are to cars – and asked to trial their computerised watering systems. Pick the parts of your garden you want to water well, they said, and we’ll give you what you need. Obviously, I picked my cutting garden (remembering those pros and their hoses) and my labour-intensive pots.
A couple of weeks later, several rather large and exciting boxes arrived full of hoses, tubes, drip heads and a couple of very snazzy computers to attach to my garden taps. Over a couple of weekends, with the help of a patient and practically-minded neighbour, I installed them. Here’s what happened next:
The Cutting Garden
I already knew what irrigation in a cut flower border should look like, so this was very easy to install. My border is about 25 metres long and about 1.5 metres wide, so I have three rows of Micro-Drip Hose running through it.
How do Micro-Drip Hoses work? Every 30 cm there is a little hole that drips water when the system is on. That spacing is crucial as it matches the ideal spacing of plants in a cutting garden. I laid the hose in the morning and – with some help from Bo – planted my baby plants that afternoon. Simple!
Okay, so the hose doesn’t look so pretty at this stage. But, believe me, within a few weeks you won’t be able to see it.
See what I mean?!
And by July, it looks like this…
Why is a Micro-Drip hose perfect for a cutting garden? It’s the best way to get the water just where you need it, which is at the roots rather than the leaves where it can evaporate off – or the flowers, which can be damaged by heavy watering. It also uses up to 40% less water than overhead sprinklers. So, it’s far more eco and better for your utility bills!
Buckets of flowers for the house – this is what a cutting garden is all about
My cutting garden is always prolific, producing buckets of flowers for the house each week. But this year, I’ve noticed the plants are noticeably bigger and stronger looking. Importantly, they’ve lasted far longer into the season than they did when I hand watered. And this, remember, was during the hottest summer in over a century
The only downside to pots is the watering. In summer, they need a good drink at least once a day. And when you have as many pots as I do….watering properly can lose you up to an hour each evening. I used to bribe my smallest daughter to do it, but irrigating them has proved far more efficient and, come to think of it, far less pricey.
Bo’s job was attaching the many drip heads to the irrigation tubes
Okay, so I’ll admit that putting the irrigation system together for my pots did take several hours. But I do have an excessive number of pots. And I did insist that each one needed its own little drip head (my neighbour is a saint!).
My pots! Beautifully irrigated and flourishing despite the hot, dry summer
As it turned out, this was a very smart move. With the summer temperatures hitting up to 30 degrees some days, the pots were drying out completely in the 24 hours between each water.
Hello, rather clever computer
At 7 pm each night, the clever computer system attached to my garden tap turned on the water for 15 minutes. I could have programmed it for any time of day and any amount of time, but I worked out that 15 minutes of dripping was what it took to keep my pots evenly moist (but not soggy).
The watering system saw me from my Spring planting of Violas, Narcissus and Tulips…
…to my Summer planting of Erigeron, Lavender, Petunias, Nicotiana and Geraniums.
Mousling loved watching the irrigation system working
Even Mousling approved! So, all in all, a huge success. The pots needed a little more feeding than usual (I think all that regular water tends to leach the minerals out of the potting compost faster), but otherwise, they thrived. And I had my summer evenings back…which was rather wonderful.
NOTE: This post was written in partnership with Gardena (https://www.gardena.com/uk/). But because I only partner with brands that fit with my lifestyle and standards, the opinions here are all my own.