Are you killing plants with kindness?
Hand watering is fun for gardeners. If you are around to get the job
done. But a wilted plant is a stressed plant and stressed plants get
buggy. I would love to stay home all summer watering my
greenhouse at exactly the right minute but that’s just wishful thinking.
The truth is, life gets in the way and instead of tending my tomatoes
and pacifying my pak choi with hand watering I seem to travel just
when my babies need me.
When the greenhouse heats up and the soil dries out faster than
usual, I need more than a helpful husband or neighbour to get the
watering job done. I need a system. So this year we are researching
and testing irrigation systems for our two greenhouses. We will use
these when we are away so I can still get the thrill of hand watering
when I’m home.
1) Shrubblers: Used more commonly for pots and outside plants
these nozzles work best when you have a row of similar plants
or pots. The shrubblers are on a flexible line poked into a rigid
tube. One nozzle is directed at each plant. The water flow for
each nozzle can be adjusted to allow more flow as the plants
grow or as temperatures rise. A timer can be added to make
sure plants are watered in the morning when it does the most
2) Soaker hose: Made from recycled rubber, these ½” (1 cm)
wide lines are placed along the length of the row. Water seeps
out into the soil and the hose can be looped back and forth to
easily water wide beds. This system works best where you
want even moisture throughout the bed, especially where
planting designs change every year. Remember to set a timer
to water in the early hours and to control the volume.
3) Self watering beds and pots: Permaculture specialists build
entire planting beds, called wicking beds, with sub-irrigated
watering. This keeps the soil evenly moist and watered from a
reservoir below. I use SIPs, a mini-version of wicking beds.
SIPs (Sub Irrigation Pots) are lined up along the wall in my
small 8’ x 12’ greenhouse and the growth so far is fantastic. I
bought CAJA pots (www.TheGrowingConnection.com) for both
inside and outside my greenhouse and saw very similar-sized
pots online at Lee Valley Tools
2,44663,71822). Fertilizer is added to the soil in advance and
every 2-4 days water is added through a raised standpipe. In
bad news temperature affects how often pots need watering, so
it might not be as hands-off as an irrigation system. In good
news, it is easy to get help with watering because it is so
simple. Just add water through the standpipe until moisture
starts to drip out the overflow valve. I would say it is foolproof.
Keeping your plants alive in your greenhouse when the weather
gets hot is the definition of success in the greenhouse and with my
systems in place I am super organized this year! I will never again
kill plants with kindness by overwatering just before I go away or
depriving them when I’m gone. I am expecting record yields this
Quick Tip: Some of the bottom leaves on my cucumbers and
tomatoes are yellowing in my greenhouse and this means the
plants need nitrogen. To fix it, I am sprinkling all my beds and pots
with seed meal this week because seed meal, as well as blood
meal, adds nitrogen quickly. I added a litre of Canola seed meal
per 20 foot long bed (approximately 60’ square).
For more great tips from Donna, visit www.donnabalzer.com.
You can also read Donna’s gardening books: No Guff Vegetable
Gardening with Steven Biggs and her just releasedGardener’s
Gratitude Journal: Part Diary, Part Personal Growing Guide.