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Hi-tech and low-tech irrigation advice from Weston garden centre

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In his weekly Out in the Garden column, Mark Cox of Baytree Garden Centre in Weston talks irrigation...

The early summer temperatures here at Shawshank have encouraged the large muscular men who normally pump iron in the gym to now exercise in the courtyard. I have to confess they are an intimidating sight. Most are tattooed from head to toe and all of them have the power to eclipse the sun.

Mad Dog, who is the leader and largest of these walking mountains, summoned me over on Wednesday for a chat... now most people whom Mad Dog needs a chat with invariably return soaking wet from being used as a toilet brush.

Mad Dog (57309990)
Mad Dog (57309990)

With my entire life now flashing before me I puffed my chest out, dropped one shoulder and walked over to him like John Wayne.

I stood there for what seemed like an eternity with my heart beating out of my chest when Mad Dog turned around and told his crew to leave. When they’d all left he walked slowly over and said...

“I needs you elp.” “Okay,” I said, “anything for you Mr Mad Dog.”

“My Auntie Rose is going to The Costa Del Sol in a few weeks’ time to drop off some presents and I promised her that whilst she’s away her garden will be looked after.”

“Are you asking me to escape again to look after your aunty’s garden Mr Dog”?

“No,” he said. “Little Jamie will do the looking after when he can, the problem is little Jamie knows nothing about gardening, though he is good at driving very quickly.”

“Okay,” I told him. “With a little planning and investment it could be done.

The key to the whole thing is irrigation, which is the process of applying water to the soil which allows plants to absorb nutrients from the ground and grow into healthy plants. Without water, the plant becomes dehydrated, wilts and dies.

A simple solution to irrigating your aunty’s plants whilst she is away is to simply ask a next door neighbour to water her garden for you.

However, with Special Branch watching your aunty’s every move from the neighbouring houses in the hope of locating the proceeds of your last job, I guess that’s not a good idea.

In recent years the cost of automatic irrigation systems has tumbled in price, and the biggest advantage of an automated system is that it requires no human intervention. Meaning Little Jamie wouldn’t need to be there all the time.

In my garden I know that there are two main areas that are pretty much in full sun all day long. They are my main lawn and the patio area where I grow flowers and herbs in small containers.

These two zones need the most help from drying out. I use a Gardena Flex system which is available from all good garden centres and is a little under £50.

It consists of an electronic timer which connects to my outside tap into which my hosepipe connects. On the other end of the hosepipe I have attached a sprinkler which oscillates from side to side, covering the lawn with an even coverage of water.

A great benefit of using one with a timer is I can program the system to water at night when risk of evaporation is greatly reduced.

My solution for irrigating my herbs and container plants is decidedly low tech. For the price of a couple of sandwiches you can invest in a pack of water spikes. They have a thread on one end and a small hole in the other. You simply take an empty plastic bottle, fill it with water, screw the water spike on top and plunge it into the soil in your containers.

The hole in the spike then gently releases the water into the soil over a number of days.

“Cox,” bellowed Mr McKay, and with that my meeting with Mad Dog was over.

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