On our site, we are very fortunate to have taps and tanks easily accessible from all plots, and to be able to use hoses, except in a prolonged drought. However, this means that our annual water bills can be high, usually in excess of £14000, but it depends on the amount of rain over the growing season. So, we all need to use water wisely.

Only water if really needed

Check the weather
  • It might seem obvious but how many times have you watered only to have it rain soon after.
Check the needs of individual crops
  • Individual crops have particular watering needs. There are times when it is not advisable to water heavily, for example young pea and bean plants as this can encourage too much leaf growth. However, later in the growing season, these same plants should be watered copiously when flowers have formed. The same is true of potatoes. Leeks require very little water, brussels sprouts the same, whilst cabbage, lettuce and spinach should all be watered frequently. It is worth browsing online to check the needs of your different crops. The RHS has good advice for watering in its vegetables:watering section.

If you really need to water

A few ideas for effective and economical watering of your allotment
  • If possible, water in the early morning or evening, when it’s not too hot.
  • Mulch around your crops to conserve moisture in the soil.
  • Hoses must be hand-held at all times and be in good repair. Avoid spraying around with your hose - most watering should be aimed specifically at the stem bases beneath the foliage canopy, leaving the surrounding soil dry. This helps to limit weed problems and ensures all the water goes where it is needed. It also means that you won’t waste water.
  • Bury wide tubes made from plastic bottles to deliver the water to the roots of your courgettes, squashes etc.
  • A good soak every few days can be more effective than watering little and often, which encourages plants to send out only surface roots which can’t cope if there’s a drought.
Harvest Rainwater

If your plot has a shed or greenhouse, it ought to have a water butt fed by rainwater from guttering and a down pipe. The butt can be any deep watertight container, e.g. a plastic dustbin.