More watering

Water and your plants won't whinge, though Australians will probably accuse English plants of doing so anyway.

Watered down...

Australians. Bless. They mean well, even if they have got that talking-through-the-naose (sic) thing going on, and how they make every sentence a question? The most simple statement sounds like a question? You’ve heard it? Very odd. 

In reality, every Australian walking the planet is lucky to be alive, and foreigners are lucky to survive their holidays there. There are just too many rather nasty poisonous things around – I once read that eight out of the ten most deadly creatures choose to live in and around Australia. In the middle of the outback or while you’re having a dip in the sea, you can bet that there’s a nasty animal lurking nearby, waiting to pounce.

By the way, if you do choose to visit the country, don’t be in the least bit surprised if you’re ambling along and someone tries to help themselves your wallet. It’s in their blood, unfortunately; they just can’t help themselves.

And why is it seemingly a requirement for Australian nouns to be adapted so that they end with the letter ‘o’? Afternoon is arvo, a smoke break is a smoko, a bin man is a garbo, a petrol station a servo, and a tramp a derro. Perhaps the daftest of all is that an off licence, or shop selling alcohol, is known as a bottlo. My spell check is working overtime here.

Perhaps the most irritating thing about Australians (and this one isn’t even their fault) is the fact that Americans think that all Brits are from down under – something I’ve never quite understood. We’re rather confused about Australians, too, come to think of it. The feeling is very much mutual; they don’t quite understand us Brits, either.

One thing that Brits are renowned for down under is that we love to whinge. This is no stereotype; I rather think we especially excel in this area. The Aussies call us “whinging poms”. Being British myself, I would obviously attempt to defend my fellow countrymen in all regards, but I think on this one, though I hate to admit it, the Australians have actually got it right for once.

We’re a nation of whingers. Back home, we complain if our winters are too cold, and we have to turn the heating up a bit. In summer, we complain if we’re too hot – exactly the scenario we’ve spent the winter yearning for, and we’re still not happy.

The weather is one of the most frequent topics of conversation in the UK, which seems to have been imported by the Brits now living in Phuket. The hot season, having prompted so much heat-induced whining, was over some time ago. Then the inevitable rain started to appear, prompting my countrymen to then whinge when they got a bit damp on their motorcycles on their way home from the pub. They seemed to ignore the fact that the temperature had dropped by 15 degrees.

For me, one of the benefits of the approach of the rainy season is that I can be a little more lenient with the hosepipe in the garden. This is the perfect time of year for an idle gardener. I’m all for it.

One of the most important factors in ‘proper’ gardening is knowing when and how to water. There are many gardening factors, such as fertilizing and pruning, that have a number of rules to follow. But watering has no ‘rules’ as such, because when to water and how much to water depends on the kinds of plants, type of soil, time of year and the weather conditions.

The bottom line is to water only when plants need watering. That may sound a bit daft, but it’s true. It doesn’t rain every day at the moment, and the temptation is to assume that they already have enough water on the dry days – not necessarily true. The leaves of many plants will begin to curl in the early stages of a water shortage. Later, the leaves will become very limp and will wilt pathetically. Plants should always be watered before they wilt.

Allowing them to reach this stage frequently will inevitably result in the plant dropping its leaves. Also, if plants are allowed to remain wilted for several days, they may never revive. To make things more complicated, some plants may not show symptoms of a water shortage until it is too late; these plants should be watered when the soil around them feels dry and crumbly

Recent plantings will need some special care. When your new plant was in a container in the nursery, it was watered religiously every day. It got rather used to it. Also, during the first few months after being planted in the garden, new plants still have small root systems and can only absorb water from a limited soil area. They still think they’re in a pot.

Watering should ideally be done in the early morning, when winds and temperatures are low. Late morning, mid-day, and afternoon irrigation usually results in loss of water from evaporation. Also strong winds are more likely to blow at these times, resulting in poor distribution of water over the lawn.

When watering, give the soil a thorough soaking. Frequent, light sprinklings waste water and don’t do a great deal to satisfy the water requirements of a plant growing in the hot, dry soil of Phuket. Watering in this way often encourages shallow root systems which increase susceptibility to damage if you fail to water for a few days.

Water should be applied only as fast as the soil will absorb it. Watering with a hose nozzle turned on full force can actually do more damage than good. Fast-flowing water runs off quickly carrying soil with it and may expose plant roots to the sun, which isn’t ideal here. It’s more efficient to use soaker hoses and sprinklers. Soaker hoses do a good job, but they don't cover as large an area as sprinklers.

What you really need to avoid is soggy wet soil, as this really is the kiss of death to most plants. They simply can’t get the oxygen through to their roots, because the water fills every little space in the soil that would have oxygen in it. The roots rot, and the plant dies a slow death.

Over-watering is perhaps the cause of more plant deaths than just about anything else in the garden. The problem is made more difficult because the symptoms of too-wet soil are similar to those of too-dry soil, so the tendency is to panic and keep watering, thinking it needs more, making the problem worse. To check, stick your finger in the soil and water only when the soil is dry down one whole knuckle.

Plants do complain, but only when they have good reason to. They certainly don’t whinge Brit-style – they actually understand that it can get a little warm here. They drink what they need. Australians on the other hand are famous for drinking only one thing. Beer. Lots of it. Per capita, more than anywhere else on the planet, it seems. Based on this fact alone, there’s hope for them yet.



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