First of all – when you water, does it all sink in, or run off? After many years of mulch and green manure, our soil finally drinks in whatever we or the sky pours on it. If the water pours off, mulch or at least water with the gentlest spray possible or, even better, with that one small drip every few seconds, so the soil slowly becomes less water resistant.
Or cheat. Buy water spikes, small doovers where you pour water in and they slowly let it out deep in the soil. You can make your own, with plastic bottles with their ends cut off but with tops in place, minus their lids, or with their lids on and some tiny holes poked into them, half buried in the soil. Fill them with water every few days and let it seep out.
If you’re planting trees in a drought, consider buying a good big length of polypipe and burying it vertically next to the new tree and about half a metre deeper than you’re planting the roots. Once a week, or twice, fill the pipe with water, and it will go down not to root level, but below it, where you want the roots to grow.
Now get yourself an empty jar, with a wide mouth lid, or an ice cream container – exact measurements don’t matter, as this is scarcely an exact science.
If you’re watering lawns, keep going until the water in the container is about as deep as your thumb. For veg or flowers, go half full. For small trees, the water in the container should be running over. And for big trees, water as long as you can, even if it’s just a dribble, preferably on the uphill side if there’s a slope. You also need to water wider than the ‘drip line’ – the place where drips fall from the leaves – and deeper than the roots, so they keep going down.
Beware of any trees grown in lawn or a garden bed that is regularly shallow watered – the roots may have grown smugly outwards and the tree may fall down when severe wind arrives or the leaves are wet and the tree is suddenly top heavy.
I love watering. Anyone who has lived through droughts loves water, the abundance of it coming from a hose or sprinkler or even a drip system. Or, even better, falling from the sky.