survival gardening

How I found out Gardening without Watering is Possible and Why You Might Care

From the time Bill and I were married we wanted to have a garden.  It took 17 years to have a place to have one.

During those 17 years without one, we knew we were going to garden organically.  And that was long before organic gardening was popular.

Any time our wish to be organic gardeners came up in conversation — we were always told — “it’s impossible to garden organically”. 

We paid no mind to comments like that.

As I’ve explained in many posts – if you want to do anything different from what the majority is doing — you’ll most likely hear that “old line” lots of times. Bill and I heard it about almost everything we’ve ever done.

Had I known then that I would be gardening without the ability to water — that would have really pushed our naysayers over the top.

Starting Our First Garden 43 years Ago

Back then there was no internet to research how to garden.  To learn I subscribed to Organic Gardening magazine which was fantastic in it’s early years.( Not so much at the end of its existence.)

That’s  where I first learned about preparing the soil deeply.   I didn’t realize it then, but this is a critical step in making it through drought without watering. 

AND, it works synergistically with the other 2 keys of adding organic materials to feed the soil (more accurately called the soil life) and keeping the soil covered with organic materials.

If you can’t prepare the soil deeply for one reason or the other, there are ways to work with nature and have her do it for you.  I’ve done both. 

For an example read this post. 

So How Did I Find Out I Didn’t Have to Water?

The weather here was totally different 43 years ago.

For the first 20 years of gardening we had 6 to 8 weeks of drought in July and August every year.  There was hardly a spit of rain.  And during that time the soil under the mulch was bone dry as well.

Even back then watering a garden was widely promoted.  Since it was out of the question for us to get any kind of watering system, I never gave it another thought. We had to grow food to eat!  I’d have to do without all the stuff that was suppose to be necessary and that was that. 

Having to do without things that were promoted as necessary in order to raise food was the most important factor to my learning. And that is how I learned that I could garden without watering even in drought conditions for 6 to 8 weeks.

For more tips on how to survive drought this post might be helpful.

Cucumbers wilt every day but recover overnight. I’ve never seen tomatoes wilt in drought after all these years. (This picture was taken during a severe drought more than a decade ago. In the post linked to above this picture you’ll see the cukes wilted from a day in heat.)

Are you one who needs statistics?

By chance, while nature was teaching me all the secrets that I pass along to you, there was someone else on the other side of the country that was learning the same things.  AND he was documenting all his findings. 

To many people his figures (data) will be much more convincing than my stories of what I experience.  Some of his impressive statistics are in this post

Are there times that not watering even in a “properly” prepared garden won’t work?

Yes. I can think of two.


Mr. Jeavons the fellow I wrote about in the post linked to above documented that he found for  “the best yields in the world” one needs only 20 inches of rain per year and the goal of holding one-half in the soil for crops to use. (This is assuming of course you garden in a manner that will hold water in the soil — as he and I recommend.)

So if your area has less than 20 inches of rain fall or you live in a desert area you’ll need to supplement water.


Plants that get off to a good start in the spring when there is adequate rainfall and sunshine will have put down their roots into your deeply prepared soil and will be sustained by the water held by organic matter in your soil.

If drought comes before you finish transplanting all your seedlings you’ll have to “tend them” until they grow enough to put down deep roots.

This happened to me this spring.  I had a few cabbage seedlings, a few extra tomatoes, extra cucumbers, and melons that I not only had to water in after planting, but also am having to check on them every day or every other day to make sure all is well. 

Even with tending – you may lose the weakest of those seedlings.

Let’s say you’re already are set up to water.  Then why might this information become important to you?

If you’re fortunate enough to have chosen the right sources for truthful news, you know that events indicate we are headed for hard times that have not been experienced by folks in this country for a long time.

Just as an example – take our outdated grid. It’s been known for years that the probability of it going down is high. When it does and you have no way to water your garden, wouldn’t it be nice to know that you can still grow food. 

And of course, if you’ve been keeping up with what’s happening you know there’s much more in store for us if things don’t change.

Final thoughts

Water and food are critical for the survival of you and your family. (I’m still working on solving the problem of how to get enough water when reserves run out during an emergency.)

How we use the days we have now will make a difference in how we might survive our future.



If you’ve not already explored the home page here,I hope you’ll take a few minutes to do so.  There are many ways to search for information you might need.  The magnifying glass symbol at the top right of the page is one. You’ll see many topics you can click on as you scroll down the page.  And on the right hand side at the bottom you can search categories and archives.

If you still don’t find what you’re looking for — write to me.


All content including photos is copyright by All Rights Reserved.


  • Excellent as always! My area averages 12 to 15 inches per year! I have to supplement for sure. Collecting what little precious rainfall we get in the summer is very beneficial.

  • Rob, having only 12 to 15 inches of rain per year sounds like a real challenge!! I’d love to hear more about how you manage. To me — you’re a garden hero!!
    Thanks for commenting Rob.
    May this year bring you enough rain to make it easier!

  • I greatly appreciate your important reminders and good information! Thank you for all you do!

  • It’s my pleasure to be able to help Rebecca. And I appreciate
    your sharing your thoughts very much!
    Whenever you have time – I’d love to hear how you’re doing.

  • We do not water except maybe a few things like bell peppers or herbs because it takes alot of hose to reach our garden area, tiring pulling hoses around & it is expensive. We do mulch with straw on tomatoes & eggplnts & a few others; We usually have tomatoes galore to can & to share and also plenty okra & green beans. Last year we had so much rain our beans & limas were flooded & did do much. I love gardening & canning so this year I hope with the price of vegetables in the store & scarcity we have a surplus to can & share with older neighbors who are not able to garden. I have read your columns for years & so glad to enjoy them again this year. Best wishes, Betty

  • Hi Betty,
    Sure nice to hear from you! It’s been a long time.

    Those neighbors will sure be lucky to have such a loving person close to them when food is scarce.

    I don’t qualify yet for being an older person whose not able to garden.
    I’m only 81. Hope to still be gardening at 100. (Hope this gave you a smile.)

    So glad you are enjoying the posts.

  • Thank you Theresa for all this information! I really appreciate how in your recent posts you’re summarising big topics you have been writing about for years on TMG, gathering the most useful links in one place for us (and reminding us on how to find even more information, with the search function and the most popular categories on the homepage).
    I find these posts particularly useful tools – perfect to share with friends too!

    It’s another rainy winter here… We had a dry spell this week and I used it to transplant some shrub seedlings in a border I have prepared last spring (double dug and mulched). I was afraid that after the rain we had, the soil would have been too wet for this operation, but when I moved the mulch, the soil was just moist, dark and ‘crumbly’. Not at all muddy and bogged with water like our soggy lawn..! Amazing! I thought of you and of what you wrote about your first garden, how it was in a low area that tended to flood, but how in early spring you were able to start gardening before all of your neighbours because your double dug beds were not bogged with water like theirs.
    Thank you for sharing with us your experience!

  • Giulia, I love it that you always pickup on such important points as the one you remembered: “you wrote about your first garden, how it was in a low area that tended to flood, but how in early spring you were able to start gardening before all of your neighbours because your double dug beds were not bogged with water like theirs.”

    It’s another amazing benefit of preparing the soil as I recommend.

    Glad you were able to see first hand the benefits of that.


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