Rain, irrigation and seeds

It’s really easy to get convinced, with spring showers, that there’s enough water. But just in case you’re a water optimist, here’s a great picture to show why we need to check water, not just make assumptions, especially with tender plants and seedlings.

This is one of our espaliered apple trees. Under it, this winter, we planted garlic. Garlic doesn’t like to be overly wet, so I knew that the trees would shield the plants from a lot of the winter rain, but wouldn’t keep the frost off them. They like a good month of zero or sub-zero nights, do garlic. In spring, we put in a couple of rows of shallots - also plants that don't like too much water.

In the trees, through the winter, we put hanging baskets filled with winter pansies etc. They don’t make a huge show, but they do give a bit of winter colour and at this time of year, they keep the birds off the broad beans etc – for some reason birds love to tear at tender foliage in spring, and I’d rather let them have the pansies than tangle them in netting that can tear off their toes. We do put metal mesh over our shallots and garlic until they are well established.

The picture shows a perfect rain shadow, the size of the bottom of a hanging basket, hung in a leafless tree. If I’d planted seeds in that area, they would still be completely arid and unable to germinate, even though the soil either side is nicely moist.

For seeds, soil moisture matters at the depth they are planted. For plants it is anything from ten to forty centimetres below ground, depending on their root system. Checking the surface of the soil is useless in either case, you need to asses the soil at the depth the plant is growing.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Thursday, April 12, 2012


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