Plants simply cannot grow without water. Newly planted ones are especially vulnerable to drying out at the roots and containers rely on the gardener at all times. Established plants should be allowed to find their own water deep in the soil and should be given additional supplies only in severe droughts.
The watering can, in plastic or metal, is the most basic way of transporting water to plants. It is especially useful where the plants are growing in containers because it can deliver water at a gentle rate rather than in a powerful jet which can wash the compost out of the pot.
The upright 9-litre (2-gallon) watering can is the most common, but for greenhouse work I find that a 4.5-litre (1-gallon) can with a more extended spout is much more maneuverable.
For watering seedlings in pots, trays and nursery rows, a fine sprinkler head or ‘rose’ should be fitted to the can. Tip the can up to expel the water to one side of the seedlings before moving it over them so that the initial dribble or gush does not damage them.
The hosepipe is essential where larger numbers of plants are to be watered and for connecting up to sprinklers. Choose a nylon fibre-reinforced hosepipe, which is less likely to kink than one made of plastic, and store it on a reel if possible to reduce the likelihood of kinking even further and make it easier to extend to its full length.
Many connecting devices are now available for fastening lengths of hose together and for attaching spray guns and sprinklers. Try to standardize the type you use or you’ll be forever exasperated by their failure to lock together.
When watering plants with an open-ended hosepipe, take care not to use too fast a jet of water which may displace the soil around the roots or wash it out of pots and containers.
Outside taps need to be disconnected or lagged in winter to prevent them from freezing up and bursting, or dripping later.
Garden sprinklers are especially useful on the lawn and in the vegetable garden, but remember to leave them running for an hour in any one spot so that sufficient water is given to penetrate the earth.
Oscillating sprinklers, which play back and forth, will water a square or rectangular area; rotating sprinklers water in a circular pattern. A jam jar placed underneath the spray will indicate how much water has been applied to the area.
In Britain you might need a licence and/or a meter for a sprinkler, so contact your local water authority.
Alternatively, you may want to consider contacting your local artificial grass supplier to replace your lawn with synthetic turf: removing the need to ever water the lawn again (or mow it!).
It makes sense to conserve every drop of water that falls from the heavens, and water butts are a great way of doing this. Position them at the foot of downpipes on the house and on outbuildings, and raise them off the ground so that a watering can may be placed underneath a tap at the base to extract the water.
Lime-hating plants, such as rhododendrons and camellias, will appreciate rainwater far more than hard tapwater, which contains lime.
Plastic water butts are more hygienic than those made of timber, and a length of old tights or stocking should be fastened over the end of the downpipe to prevent rubbish from the gutter making its way into the butt. Special connectors are available which bypass the water butt once it is full and divert the supply to the drains. Very large plastic tanks used in the soft drinks industry are often sold off to builders’ merchants and these will hold 1360-1820 litres (300-400 gallons) of water.