Posts Tagged ‘Bridport Community Allotment’

Keeping it watered – what works for us

Congratulations, you have a poly tunnel, and can raise your own seedlings. You sow the seed. Seed grows. Little plant starts to look  like it might be able to make it on it’s own then – disaster! miss a couple of days watering, and it all goes horribly wrong. After a few of these incidents, I made a thorough search of the local garden centre for irrigation options that would work for us on the Community Allotment, the conditions being: attention guaranteed only once a week; no mains water via hose;  no electricity supply; limited budget.

These are some options that are currently being tested (and approved) by us:

chillies growing on capillary matting


Capillary matting and inverted water bottle. (cost £10-12)  We are using this for our chillies and peppers, which are in pots in the polytunnel, and so are very vulnerable to drying out. This is a simple bit of kit that I bought, and soon figured I could duplicate at home. In the box was a length of capillary matting, and a large, square  water bottle with a screw top with a hole drilled in it. Water your pots and sit them on the capillary matting. Fill the large bottle with water and put lid on tight. Invert bottle onto capillary matting, where it will slowly release the water over the course of a few days. As long as the plants are watered before putting on the matting, this works very well.


watering spike - not yet stuck into the ground

Watering spike. (cost ranges between £4.29 for 6 to about the same price for 1). Take a careful look at the available options for this, as the cost per spike varies a lot between the different brands. I eventually settled on a pack with 6 spikes in, which cost the same as a single slightly fancier one. It’s a plastic spike that you’ll stick in a pot – it doesn’t need to be fancy! The spikes screw on to most types and sizes of plastic drinks bottles – fill bottle, screw on to spike, stick spike in the soil. Again, it’s best if the plants are watered first. We are using these on outdoor tomatoes in pots; they’d be good for plants in the ground too, if you wanted to be sure they didn’t dry out. Ours were cheap as chips, and still had a little device to allow you to control the water flow. Very useful.


Drip watering system. One especially for greenhouses or polytunnels, as the water is dispensed from a black rubber bladder, like a fat hot water bottle, which must be hung up. Review to follow soon…

Carolyn B 
Community Gardener

Keeping stuff watered – mulch

Keeping stuff watered.

Another dry spring followed by summer rain has led us to plan for this being the norm.

Every drop is precious!

Although everything is growing well now, there are lots of gaps where early sowings failed to thrive, or failed to sprout at all. As ours is a community allotment where we garden as a group only once a week, watering can be a problem;  people do pop along to water during the week when they can, but another issue for us is that no hosepipes are allowed on our site,  so all the water we use has to be carried some distance in a watering can. On our plot,  keeping the high raised beds watered is a problem due to water loss through evaporation, and on the new plot the soil is the problem; a clayey loam, it bakes so hard in the dry weather that we can’t get the fork in to dig it, and the amount of watering we can do by hand makes little difference to the soil condition. We needed a cleverer solution.

Several members of our group were interested in no-dig gardening, and we thought this would be worth a punt, especially as most of the group find heavy digging difficult. so, working on the new plot, the no-dig allotment is evolving thus:

  •  As we get ready to plant up a bed we cut down any tall weeds, and dig them out if we can.
  • Then we cover the whole area in opened-out corrugated cardboard boxes. This works best if the soil is moist, so we’ll be doing more of the allotment this autumn.
  • Then we damp down the boxes
  • Then we cover all the cardboard up with compost from the bin.
  • We plant up by clearing a bit of the compost, cutting a hole through the cardboard, digging a little hole, popping in the plant , then watering into the planting area, and re-covering the cardboard with the compost.
Using compost from the bin is great, because you get a gratifyingly tidy-looking plot, plus the compost keeps the cardboard cool and moist, and the worms will eventually do the digging for you, and integrate the cardboard and the compost into the soil. If you want to try this, but don’t have enough compost yet, you could use the cardboard under mulch material, grass clippings, or straw- the cardboard will help to suppress the weeds and keep the soil cool and moist, plus the worms will get much more active in the upper layers of the soil.