It has been a toasty and dry summer on the East Coast, with nary a drop of rain from the sky to my yard in weeks. Thunderstorms roll through on a regular basis but it seems as if an invisible umbrella extends over my property as they hint of but never deliver water. Unlike last year when the slugs were as thick as garden hoses and my watering can sat lonely and unused, the slugs are hard to even find and my hose is a constant companion. But because we have a well that is only 70 feet deep I need to be judicious in how often, how widely and how deeply I water all my plants. Rather than turn on a sprinkler I water the garden by hand.
This is not a chore but a pleasure as I stand over different parts of my garden thinking and carefully looking at each specimen I water. The rose leaves are chewed up but not badly; no need to spray. A small grape vine has taken hold near the asparagus; it must be pulled. Another hornworm is spotted on top of a tomato plant; remove it.
Most the time, however, I just stand and marvel at how wonderful the garden smells and looks. I think about things that I have not had the opportunity to fully contemplate during the day yet am aware of and seeking surprises in the garden. The gentle swish of the water from the hose is a fine white noise that is a constant companion yet not so loud that I can’t appreciate the coo of a dove or the screech of a hawk. I stand moving the hose back and forth across a collection of plants or hold it stationary so the roots of a thirsty butterfly bush can suck in the needed moisture. A toad jumps, disturbed by the cool sprinkle of water.
Though the ground is dusty, the most plants are holding their own as I try to keep their immediate surroundings moist. I have not cut my lawn in over 6 weeks. It is thick, unruly, lush and green. Without any rain in the forecast I am loathe to cut it, which would stimulate its growth and need for water. My lawn is one of the few things I don’t water. It has to get by on what nature provides it and the errant spray of my daily wonderings. My herbaceous boarders of hostas, astilbes and ferns are in the same boat. They are too many and too thick to water and I must leave them to their fate. Some of the ferns have started to burn up but I have to turn a blind eye as I know they will come back next year.
All the gardening books tell you not to water toward the evening as it can promote fungal growth, but it has always been my quiet time. When I used to work a high-pressure job it was the holding of a watering rather than a beer can that calmed me down and removed a nasty edge from my demeanor.
With the dry weather, there is an urgency to water (especially with the container plants) that can mute some of its pleasure. If you don’t want that lovely fuchsia that sits in the back attracting hummingbirds to wilt and drop its flowers, you need to water it at least every other day; every day when it is hot. But there is only so much time and water so you have to play gardening god and make a choice: What gets water and what stays thirsty? How much time should I spend verses can I spend with the hose? Did I remember to water the Echinacea that we planted in late June?
Such urgencies can turn watering into a job rather than a pleasure and I try to mute these concerns through attentiveness and consistency. If watering is one of my daily pleasures then it is not a chore and these pressures fall to the ground like water from the hose.