Watering Wisely

Top tips for saving and using water and getting the best from your produce.

Having good soil is everything. Improve your soil by digging in lots of well-rotted manure or home-made compost every spring. If that sounds like hard work, simply spread a thick layer of compost across your plot in spring (while the ground is moist), and let the worms pull it into the soil for you. Do you have any trees or shrubs on your allotment? These often have large root systems and take away valuable water from your produce so don’t plant to close to them.

Watering techniques

Your plants need less water than you think. Watering little and often does not help, as the water does not penetrate deep into the ground and encourages plants to develop roots near the soil's surface. One good soak every 10 days is better than a daily sprinkle. You can find out if you need to water by digging a hole a spade's depth and examining the soil: only water if the soil feels dry to the touch.

Make sure water gets to where it is needed by soaking around the roots. For thirsty plants such as tomatoes and courgettes, try placing plants in a saucer-shaped dip of soil so the water pools around them. Alternatively, you can bury a plastic bottle, cap removed and opening down, in the earth next to plants. Remove the bottom, fill with water and this will go straight to the roots.

Water in the early morning or late evening, this gives the water a chance to penetrate the soil rather than evaporating. It may take a little longer but watering around the plants gets the water to where it is needed. Spraying the whole plot or using sprinklers simply waters the weeds and the water doesn’t soak into the soil. Soaker hoses and sprinklers should never be needed on an allotment plot.


These are great for stopping the soil drying out in the first place from evaporation by the wind or sun. A mulch is simply a layer of material placed on the surface of the soil that helps to stop weeds from growing, prevents water evaporation and improves the condition of the soil. They can be made from natural materials such as chipped bark, cocoa shells, gravel, grass cuttings, straw and plastic sheeting. Simply just plant the vegetables in slits in the material. Soil that has been mulched will need considerably less water than soil without, the thicker the mulch the more effective it is - a mulch of at least 5-10cm will make a big difference.

Water butts

A water butt or two will help to harvest rainwater from the roof of your shed or greenhouse. A lot of water can be collected from the average shed roof so this is no small contribution to your water supply. Water collected in this way is a valuable resource and 100% better for your produce. Make sure all butts are sited in a safe place and are never left uncovered. Water butts cost anywhere from £20, although some water companies do offer special deals.

It’s all in the timing

  • Sow crops or plants at times when the soil is already moist.
  • Grow seedlings and plug plants to get a quick establishment.
  • Sow early. Early sown crops are usually well established when the drier summer months arrive.
  • Often less can mean more. Over watering can lead to lots of slugs and snails, which will feast on your crops and plants.
  • Too much watering can make a plant lazy! It’ll keep roots short, making it less able to cope with dry weather

It’s a Myth

Don't spray your beans. Insects and bees do the pollinating - not water!!