Ask the gardening expert

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I have heard of plants being “drought tolerant.” Does this mean I never have to water them?

Plants that are “drought-tolerant” do well once they have been in the landscape for about two years, but before that, they need water to get roots well down into the ground. Many plants, such as mature rhododendrons, have adapted to dry summers and don’t need extra watering.

The recurrent message from all advisers on Northwest gardens is: Don’t neglect putting mulch on the garden. Organic material mulches, spread 2 to 3 inches deep around shrubs and trees, provide great summer garden support. If the mulch is applied now to damp ground, it will help retain moisture already in the soil. It’s not too late to mulch now to retain the moisture of the June rain.

I like to water my plants with a garden hose, but my neighbor told me I shouldn’t do that. Why?

It’s delightful to stand with a hose in hand, sprinkling plants, but this is the least efficient way to use limited water resources. Plants will develop surface roots rather than deep roots if they are sprinkled lightly and often.

Celeste Lindsay is a WSU master gardener. Send questions to mslindsay8@gmail.com.