The Manscape: A Watery Love Letter
Firstly, thanks for your attempts at caring for me and my fellow plant pals. You really try hard, and I do appreciate it. As the weather warms up, I thought now would be a great time to remind you of my deepest desires when it comes to water – my one true love. You might think I’m fussy, but I promise you I’m not. I just have very particular wants and needs. And really, who doesn’t?
As a plant, there are a bunch of things you can do to keep me happy and producing the goods for you. If you can promise to take good care of me, I’ll promise the fruits of my labours in return. One of the main things I never take for granted (I swear on my thorny stem) is being watered correctly.
Too much water and I feel like I’ve had a huge night out on the town, too little and I feel like I’ve been stumbling through the desert sans camel.
I love a good soaking, but not every day.
I know you think you’re just trying to help and love me as much as you can, but overwatering is smothering and no-one likes a nagging lover. Overwatering makes me feel under the weather and can sometimes lead to my roots rotting, lots of stress, and subsequent pest and disease attacks.
It’s not necessary to water me every day, or even every second day. It’s a waste of your water and time, and a disturbance of my peace. I know I sound fussy, but I love a big, infrequent soaking – once a week is good depending on soil conditions and the weather.
Shallow watering encourages my roots to grow closer to the surface, whereas when you water me deeply it draws my roots back down to cooler soil. Edible plants such as herbs, veg and fruit taste better if they aren’t pumped full of water – think of what happens when you add water to a fruit juice.
Soil is my superpower.
Good soil is like protein powder for us plants. If you give us humus-rich soil we’ll be healthier, happier, stronger and may or may not develop an addiction to toning our branches. Good, nutrient-rich soils will withstand periods without water much better than those that are already on the brink of a break-down, stressed out and tired with a lack of nutrients.
Make sure you keep adding compost and natural manures to our beds and we will keep growing strong. A little seaweed extract mixed with water is like a shot of Kombucha to you humans.
I’m a morning guy, even without coffee.
I know some of you need a good double espresso to get you into action, but me, I’m more of a get up and go kinda guy. I love seeing the sunrise and hearing the birds chirp of a morning, and I also love getting some attention in the morning. Watering me in the cooler hours of the morning (or evening if it works better for your schedule) is best, as it means less water loss to evaporation. No summer lunchtime drinks for me, thanks.
I like being tucked into bed.
Don’t worry, I won’t ask for a bedtime nursery rhyme as well, but I do ask that you tuck me in by adding a layer of mulch to my bed. This helps to prevent evaporation, meaning I can slowly soak up the goodness of your liquid offering long after you’ve left me.
I love it when you mulch thickly with sugar cane mulch or lucerne hay – this light and ‘grassy’ type of mulch is easy to work with in an edible garden and breaks down quickly compared to woody mulches. An added bonus is that these grassy kinds of mulch will also help keep down weeds, and add rich organic matter to our soil – killing a few birds with one stone.
I like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.
Rain is full of nitrates – the most available form of nitrogen for us plants – even if you have indoor plants, get them outside in the rain for some seriously delicious macro nutrients. This drenching will clean leaves and give us plants a real buzz. Rainwater is also slightly acidic (great for edible gardens) unlike tap water, and is free from other treatment chemicals.
I like hanging with my friends.
It’s not that we’re clicky, but we just like hanging out with our own kind. Us plants are best positioned next to our friends – the ones who tend to drink the same amount as us.
C’mon, I don’t want to hang out with someone who’s going to stay sober all day, I want someone who can get the same level water-drunk as me.
Please, plant me next to my pals – the ones who drink a similar amount of water to me. This way it’ll be much easier for you to remember who needs what and how much water suits us all.
Drinking buddies – rosemary, lavender, thyme, oregano.
Drinking buddies – mints, ginger, dill, coriander, chervil, chamomile.
My love language is touch.
I love it when you take the time to check my soil before watering me. All it takes is a little touch – dig just a little below the surface, stick your finger in and see if I’m damp. If I am, then it’s simple – don’t water me. Let me dry out a bit between watering so I get a chance to catch my breath and grow my roots a little more. Remember, when I’m wilted I’m ready!
Finally, overhead watering can be a little wasteful on us plants – especially those of us living down under in the second driest continent on earth, so if you can, please either use drip irrigation, or get the hose down right to the soil level, so the water heads directly where needed most – our roots.
Thanks humans, for your ongoing support and kindness,
Byron Smith is the director of Urban Growers, a Sydney based urban farming company helping people reconnect with their food by growing their own! Urban Growers build, design, and maintain edible gardens all over the city – from small courtyards to city rooftops.
All images supplied by Urban Growers. Header image by Alex Carlyle