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On Watering

Over-watering is one of the most common gardening errors.  Not only is it unnecessary to pour large doses of water on in-ground plants, but it also hurts the environment to water in-ground plants frequently.  Survival of the fittest plants produce the most useful produce.   Therefore, if you have a plant or two requiring lots of time and attention, it is okay (and good in fact!) to let it go.  Yank that whiny, pesky plant up out of the ground and toss it into the compost pile, where it will be put to good use.  I have had several tomatoes (I started late but they are starting to come up), but I am not yet harvesting the seeds because these tomatoes are not totally satisfactory.  Some have had a bit of blight (nothing serious), or they were not pickably ripe for very long.  Since I do not want these traits next year, I’m not bothering to save the seeds of those particular plants this year.  If I have learned anything so far this season, it is that I can save seeds and expect something to grow from them, and that I do not need to save every seed.   I may soon be overrun with tomatoes.  My problems could be worse.  I don’t mind the burden of abundance.  However, any of my plants that can’t stand the heat will have to be allowed to transition to the other side.  I am not a primping, preening, prompting gardener.  I admittedly want to put in as little effort as possible for the greatest harvest, and simply enjoy sinking my hands in the dirt to see what comes back up.

On the question of watering, remember that even house plants and potted plants are easily over-watered.  Use a gentle touch with them.  Do not doused or drown them.  Keep in mind that drowning is what happens when you give your plants too much water: you seal off the root ends which need to be open to receive nutrients from the soil.  Think of all the trouble you went to putting broken pieces of clay pots and other spacers for the roots to “breathe.”  Filling the root ends full of water defeats the purpose of creating pathways for the plant’s lifelines.  There is great variation in the amount of water plants need.  Fortunately for us, however, some of the signs they’re getting too much water are often the same plant to plant.  The following are a few such indicators.


1. drooping leaves all around and general wilted appearance

2. browning of young leaves

3. existing leaves turn yellow (or a shade lighter than their natural color), and wilt

4. the plant stops growing new leaves

5. the soil itself may have a greenish hue (this may be algae)

If your plants are showing these signs, take a break from watering for a few days, and see how they respond.  When you do water, as a general rule, it’s a good idea to check moisture at least an inch or two beneath the surface of the soil, since looks can be deceiving.  Some soil gets dry quickly on top but is masking saturated soil beneath.

QUESTION: do you remember the first time you watered a plant?  picked a flower?  became aware of the interdependence of people and plants?  Go ahead … gimme the dirt.

One response to “On Watering

  1. Ralph ⋅

    I know I’ve drowned quite a few plants in the past, and no doubt a few yet to come. Until I started to learn a little about plants it seemed water was the fix for everything. For a couple years now I’ve had a small clear glass planter on the window sill for scallions and/ or basil. There’s a layer of gravel at the bottom. It’s actually a pretty interesting thing to try. As the seeds or plants grow you can see the roots develop and spread. When watering you can see it filter through the soil, and if there is excess water it will pool in the gravel. Some plants like basil develop a large mass of roots that fill the container, while scallions seem content to send their roots mostly down, presumably toward the moisture.

    I didn’t realize the interdependence of plants and people until fairly recently. That’s one of many things which I have learned by listening to various podcasts and then following them up with some online research. Even with that, there’s still a whole level of ‘magic’, for lack of a better term. Two tomato seeds from the same source, growing side by side in different containers, watered together. One is a cute little tomato plant, the other now a small tree by comparison. Different soil in the containers or different seed genetics. Who knows, but if possible I’ll be saving lots of seeds from the larger plant and see what happens next year. Basically from what I have seen, no plants will lead in a fairly short time to no humans on planet Earth. Basically, it’s that simple. Constantly destroying plants and forests without replacing them will just delay the inevitable as there are less and less plants to produce oxygen from CO2 and sunlight. We don’t need carbon taxes which will never fix the CO2 problem, we need more plants.

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