Watering – It’s Overrated

As much iberis (candytuft), oenothera (pink primrose) and bathes pink (a great dianthus) as I have around — it seems that I always have places that need some.  They make the borders so colorful in spring. So every year  I try to plant more of each in spots that need it.

My timing is not specific — just whenever I get to it — usually during bloom  — which is when I remember and when I can see where it needs to go.

I don’t pay a lot of attention to them after they’re planted. It’s pretty much stick it in the ground and forget it.

As I walked around the border with a fist full of oenothera root divisions the other day, I was surprised to see that many of those thin wisps of  stems and roots that I had planted last year actually made it.

That got me to thinking about watering. It’s very popular and in my opinion very overrated. I’m about the only gardener I know of that doesn’t water.  Of course, the primary reason that all came about was because I didn’t have any means of watering or buying any kind of system for watering when I started gardening.  So — I never watered — unless you count carrying a bucket or two of water to certain plants now and again. After 34 years — I consider watering just something else to do and I don’t need another task.

It seems to be pretty well understood that it’s bad to over-water seedlings because their roots need to breathe and too much water keeps them from doing that.  But few understand that the same principle can apply to plants in the ground.

It can be a wonderful thing to furnish plants water during a drought.  But with watering being so popular — and considered “the thing you have to do” if you garden  — I think most people over-water and really don’t have a clue as to when plants need water and when they don’t.

Anyone I’ve known who waters, seems to go by the soil surface.  If that’s dry, they think the plants need to be watered. Some at least will stick their finger in the ground an inch or two to see if it’s moist, but most just can’t resist watering the minute the surface seems dry.

Plants and people are a lot alike when it comes to watering.  We all need to be watered, but if we’re not allowed to experience some hard times (no watering) then we don’t put down deep roots.  Deep roots hold us firm and allow us to make it when the going gets tough.

My plants have deep roots and they make it through almost everything without my assistance.


Related Posts

One Reason Plants Wilt and Actions that Help

Ten Reasons to Mulch

Needs One Inch of Rain a Week!  Oh Yeah?

Should You Garden if You Can’t Water? Yes!

How’s Your Garden in This Drought?

Adding Organic Matter – 2nd Key to Soil Improvement


Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient and it’s a lot healthier.


All content including photos is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com.  All Rights Reserved.


  • Guilty! I go into a complete watering frenzy when the surface of my soil looks dry. I even water in Winter! This will be a hard impulse to break. I have a friend who runs soaker hoses every day on a timer during the growing season. Her crops are always bountiful – and she gives credit to the amount of water she gives them. That’s what I’ve always gone by. And yes Theresa, you are the only gardener I know who doesn’t water. And your crops are bountiful too….. hmmmm.

  • Definitely something to think about, Sandra. You really MUST be hooked on watering if you water in the winter too! We’re all so brainwashed by what everyone else is doing that we can tend to go along without thinking. I guess the only reason I know it doesn’t have to be that way is because I couldn’t water, but wanted to eat. So I gardened without watering and have for 34 years and as you said my crops are bountiful!

    Here’s another story. Years ago when we first moved here and put the front borders in, I had a fellow gardener visit in a period of drought. Before she left — she was taking a good look at my front border. She said, “I don’t understand it, Theresa. Everyone I know is watering like crazy and you’re not — and yet your border even though it’s a first year border — looks better than any I’ve seen.” I thought that was interesting.

  • Thanks for this article. My husband is the watering king. He is trying to grow some fruit trees and he thinks more water is better. I keep telling him to give the trees a chance to root. I hope your watering theory applies to trees too.
    I do water my garden in the summer I admit, but it’s usually just the cucumbers that I obsess over. Remember last years cucumber problems I had?

  • Hi Danita,

    In all the years we’ve planted various bushes and trees, I’ve watered them in well after planting and then have pretty much forgotten them. During the drought year before last we had planted some bushes earlier in the spring and I did water a couple of them once after that initial watering

    Bill hauled a couple of buckets of water to 4 blueberry bushes that were new that year. They made it through ok.

    Fruit trees are an investment that you — of course — want to protect, but I just don’t think overkill is necessary. Things find it hard to put down roots when they are constantly receiving water. I think a good rule of thumb to follow even with trees is — moderation in all things. If I had first year plantings of fruit trees and the ability to water my approach would be to water well when planted; not water at all in spring, winter, or fall. And I’d water in the summer only if rain didn’t come for two weeks.

    I think more important than watering is preparing the hole for the tree. If you dig a hole 3 x 3 x 3 and mix in organic matter (which by the way acts like a sponge, with the ability to hold up to 90% of its weight in water) then plant and water in well — you shouldn’t really have to water again unless you’re in the middle of a drought.

    Tell the watering king I said hello!

  • OK, it’s now mid-July, and although it’s been hard during the spell of 90 PLUS weather, I’ve resisted watering. I’ve mulched and yes! things are doing well. I’m a convert. And that’s in raised beds with sides, which as you know Theresa, get much warmer than in-ground raised beds. Seems to rain JUST as I’m starting to get edgy and head for the hose. The only item that probably has not done as well is the basil, but it’s ok.

  • Good for you Sandra! I know it was hard for you — but glad you endured so you could prove it to yourself!
    It’s nice to have the ability to water if it’s really necessary —- but as you found out — most of the time it’s not.

Leave a Comment