How to water plants in the landscape

The important thing is not so much the way you water but why you water.

If you are growing plants in the ground then the roots need water and a little bit of air. Whether you rely on rainfall or add water depends on your plant selection, soil type and good maintenance.

Whichever way you travel if you want your plants to do well in this part of Australia it pays to have a Green Thumb and a Blue Thumb.

Growing plants north of the divide in the sun drenched Goulburn Valley simply on rainfall can be more than a challenge in a climate that has an annual evaporation figure that is three times the annual rainfall. That is right, if you stood in a swimming pool of water chin high or better at 1.5 metres deep in spring then by the end of summer your feet would be dry. What is more if you stood in an empty pool in Autumn it is likely to only fill up to your knees with rainfall meaning that when summer turns up your feet are dry in no time and you are standing in the scorching sun desperate for a cold glass of water. A lot of plants must feel the same way so there is no surprise that watering a garden is often critical. If you have chosen plants that are dormant in winter and only like to grow in summer than things are even worse.

After several droughts in Australia we have got a lot better at choosing plants well and reducing water use by good design and it is possible to have a garden just using rainfall once established but for the bulk of green gardens watering is still the number one key.


It seems as though people with Green Thumbs just seem to have a knack to get things to grow but in reality it is often because they understand or have experience of what plants want to do and when they like to do it. Sowing seeds or taking cuttings is all about timing; follow what they want to do and you can just go along for the ride. Good pruning asks the plant to do what it wants to do whilst doing what you want it to do. As an example if you trim a plant all over it responds by making more shoots and wants to become bushy so if you want a bushy plant then trim it all over.

We need the same approach to watering. The way you water, whether it is with automated sprinklers, pressure compensated drippers, overhead sprays, sub-surface emitters, hose or watering can is often not the important thing. Yes it has to be practical, timely and avoid the hot times of day, work with the quality of your available water and get water to where you want it but the important thing is not the way you water but why you water.


How to train your plants.

  1. Water the roots, without that the plant can’t make energy and grow
  2. Water most when your plants are wanting to grow. Some plants grow seasonally so watering lots when they are dormant is pointless. Missing out on water when they have a chance to grow is almost cruel!
  3. Water where you want the roots to go in the future. You can encourage roots to expand and catch more natural rainfall of their own by giving them something to chase. If you have plants that can grow deeper roots then encouraging this is almost always a good thing then. To get roots deeper water for longer or if your soil won’t let the water in quickly enough then water several times leaving a time gap between enough to let the water soak in. If you don’t have access to lots of water then water after rain to push the water deeper into the ground. Your neighbour’s might think you are crazy but I’ll know you are a Blue Thumb gardener.

Happy Watering