How to Water Your Plants During a Heatwave, or Not

Ciaran O’Byrne

Ciaran Byrne is a guerilla gardener from Rialto.


While you’re trying to save water – scrimping on showers, making sure the washing machine is full before you hit go, or even putting a sealed bottle of water into the toilet cistern – you might still be wondering how to look after those wilting flowers in your garden or windowsill.

A quick place to find water? Save your dirty water after doing the dishes. Let it cool and you can pour it on your flowers. I wouldn’t bother with watering grass at all. Yes, it’s stressed but it’ll recover. It always does, it always will.

Think of the countries where they have many months of snow cover: Russia, Canada, Germany. The grass survives the lack of direct sunlight. Even in Canada and the United States, where they have scorching hot and dry weather and the grass fades to a brown, it always comes back after a spell of rain.

North American visitors are sometimes amazed by the greenness of our fields and parks. We do get a lot of rain, and regularly.

Johnny Cash wrote his big hit of “Forty Shades of Green” while on tour in Ireland in 1959 and released it as a B-side single in 1961 with “The Rebel-Johnny Yuma”.

Speaking of shorter showers, I have long been tempted to save the water used in my shower by standing in a bucket. I have never thought I’d get the approval. My time might have come and it could be an opportune moment to suggest it.

An interesting fact about water is that chemically, it’s unusual. It goes into a dog as H2O and comes out as K9P.

Photo by Ciaran O’Byrne

Some houseplants don’t appreciate chemicals in their water. Among them: the carnivorous Venus flytrap. The fluoride and chlorine in tap water is bad for it. So, I usually set mine up to its neck in rainwater.

Of course, I’ve run out of rainwater at the moment. So I had to make an emergency dash to the canal. Fingers-crossed it survives. And thanks also to the local chipper for the new tray.

A stretch of Rialto, where I’m from and live, got a recent upgrade by Dublin City Council. That meant reducing the South Circular Road to one lane, putting in some parking, and a painted cycle lane.

The most pleasing thing for me was the 15 ginkgo biloba trees, also know as the Maidenhair tree. It’s the best-known example of a living fossil. The leaves of the plant today exactly resemble fossilised leaves that are 270 million years old.

The trees planted in the commercial part of the village’s centre are young. You might call them saplings still.

It’s been dry these past three weeks, and I’ve been worried about them drying out. Normally, their roots would get some rain as it runs down from the road to drain away. But there’s been none of that.

Photo by Ciaran O’Byrne

Thus, the value of skip scavenging. I rescued two water-cooler bottles recently and put them to good use ferrying water from the canal nearby. The nearest access point is between Suir Bridge and Ann Devlin Bridge at the junction of the Grand Canal and the Circular Line.

I filled each bottle with two watering cans worth of water. Then I filled my eight-litre watering can too, and drenched the five trees in about eight litres of water each. I even had a bit left over.

It’s a start. Hopefully, my perseverance will pay off.

Slightly further afield, but still in Rialto, the council planted 15 new trees on Dolphin Road on the roundabout. Although they were put in earlier in the year, they look stressed. One may already have died. It has telltale brown leaves.

So, armed with my trowel, watering can, and water-cooler bottle, I set off and carved out circular channels around the bases of the trees. Once again, I refilled the large plastic bottle with the watering can from the canal across the road.

Thanks must go to Waterways Ireland for the fishing spots they put in more than a decade ago. It’s easier to get to the water’s edge.

Fortunately, the ground around the root ball is not as compacted as the nearby playing surface of Rialto FC. The water seeped in easily.

Photo by Ciaran O’Byrne

Even further afield, in Galtymore Park, which you might know as Brennan’s Field, another three young ginkgo biloba trees had been planted in February this year. I only realised their identity when I saw their leaves.

So I traipsed across the Good Counsel GAA pitch from the 1st Lock and back, carving a channel, waiting for the water to seep in and get down to the roots. I do hope they survive.

They are a magnificent tree and held in high regard in Japan. So much so that the manhole covers in Tokyo and Yokohama are adorned with the leaf of the ginkgo. I’ve seen them there too, while friends and family.

I’m not alone in my love of ginkgos. A Dutch lady, Cor Kwant has a website dedicated to the ginkgo biloba. If you think of yourself as a tree-hugger, you could do worse than check it out.

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Ciaran O’Byrne: Ciaran Byrne is a guerilla gardener from Rialto.

Reader responses

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Jed
at 14 July 2018 at 21:04

Wow, this is excellent information

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