Watering the garden is a good time to do some daydreaming – about living on Mars, perhaps.


Solving woes of watering

There’s water all around us. I know that’s a bit obvious, given that we’re on an island, but water really is everywhere.

Apparently there’s water even on Mars. Following its most recent mission to the Red Planet, NASA released color photographs showing where water can be found on the Martian surface.

A NASA scientist explained, “Whenever we’ve seen pictures of Mars before, they’ve always been black and white. It turns out the water’s been there all along, we just couldn’t see it.”

As a result of this momentous news, NASA is now preparing a series of missions to send humans to Mars. As the atmosphere is immensely toxic, big domes will need to be erected to house the first settlers. However, as NASA now knows of the vast water supplies, it will be able to produce inexhaustible amounts of oxygen easily and quickly.

Boeing is said to be in co-operation with NASA to build the first large scale ships to carry first human colonists, settlers and supplies to the red planet.

McDonald’s, which is part-funding the project, is said to be delighted. In a recent statement, McDonald’s said “This is incredible news. We are even bringing out a new ‘McMars range’ to serve to our first customers on the Red Planet. This is a great day in the history of McDonald’s. In fact it’s one small step for the world, one giant leap for McDonald’s.”

NASA has begun a calculation of the estimated time until the first man will set foot on Martian soil. There are rumors that rookie Spanish astronaut Chris Columbus may be asked to take this position, a fact that has caused discontent amongst other astronauts who feel his name gives him an unfair advantage.

The European Space Agency is considering yet another mission to Mars. However, it has yet to find people willing to take up the challenge due to fears over a safe landing.

This story is of course completely fictitious, and I can’t even take any credit for it. Mark Lowton of TheSpoof.com deserves that.

In Phuket, water is much easier to come by and, as the dry season approaches, the need for supplementing normal rainfall in your garden increases. But when to water? That’s not an easy question to answer.

One of the most important factors in successful gardening is knowing when and how to water. Most things you do to your garden, such as fertilizing, pest control and pruning, have easy-to-learn rules. Watering has no specific rules, however, because when and how much to water depends on the kinds of plants, type of soil, time of year and weather conditions.

I suppose the bottom line is to water only when plants need watering. Sometimes they make it easy for you. The leaves of many plants will begin to curl in the early stages of a water shortage. Later, the leaves will become limp; at that stage it’s officially wilted. Ideally, plants should be watered before they wilt. Allowing them to wilt frequently will result in excessive leaf dropand, long-term, the plants may never bounce back.

Some plants may not show symptoms of a water shortage until it is too late, so they should be watered when the soil around them feels dry and crumbly. Recent plantings need a bit of extra TLC. Bear in mind that when plants were in containers in the garden center, water was probably applied every day. Also, during the first few months after being planted in a garden, new plants have only fairly small root systems and can absorb water only from a limited area underground.

Keep a close watch on the lawn, too. If it starts to change color, even a bit, it probably needs water. If the edges of the grass leaves start to curl and take on a dull, bluish-gray color, water the lawn. Those spinning sprinklers are the cheapest, as you can just attach them to the end of a hose and move them to where you want them.

Watering should be done in the early morning or evening, when temperatures are lower.

Water in the heat of the day, and much of what comes out of the hose just disappears through evaporation, which is a bit of a waste of time – and water.

When watering, give the soil a thorough soaking. Frequent, light sprinklings just waste water and do little to satisfy the water requirements of a plant growing in a hot, dry soil.

This style of watering also promotes shallow root systems, which increases susceptibility to damage if you forget to water for a few days.

A much better theory of watering is to make sure that water reaches down to a depth of about 20 centimeters. This type of watering allows roots to readily absorb the water. With pot plants, 3cm of water is sufficient for the sandy soils we have in Phuket. However, because all soils and plants are not alike, don’t rely on this too much – you may need to make some adjustments.

To figure out when a sprinkler has delivered 3 cm of water, place open cans or cartons at intervals in the spray pattern and water until the water level in the cans averages 3 cm. Not exactly rocket science.

Water should be applied only as fast as the soil will absorb it. Watering with a hose nozzle turned on full force can do more damage than good. Fast-flowing water runs off quickly carrying soil with it and exposing plant roots to the sun. More efficient watering can be accomplished with soaker hoses and sprinklers. Soaker hoses do a good job, but they don’t cover as large an area as sprinklers.

I’ve seen Thai gardeners not only soak the ground, but wet the leaves, too. I’m honestly not sure what that does, but they seem to think it’s a good idea, and it obviously works, as Phuket is hardly short of nurtured gardens.

I think it’s safe to say that there’s a lot more water here in Phuket than there is on Mars. I suppose I really should apologize for the water-on-Mars story. Then again, I rather like the idea of a McMars. With a glass of water, obviously.



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