RENEGADE GARDENER

The lone voice of horticultural reason

It’s the Minutia That’ll Kill Ya

7-5-2000 — My wife complains that I never put the hose away; I contend I’ve learned to leave it out. Once your garden gets to a certain size—a couple of sizes smaller than mine—watering during periods of no rain is a daily task. There’s only one way to water perennials, of course: thoroughly, and as I’ve not yet installed an irrigation system to any part of my humble little half-acre, watering everything that requires my presence takes around four hours.

Well, I love watering my garden, but no one wants to water for four hours. So I water for half an hour, perhaps before work, or for fifteen minutes a few times a day. I work my way around my garden during the course of a week, and if it hasn’t rained, I start again at the top.

This is why I leave the hose out. If I put it away each day, I’d just have to take it out again the next day, and that would waste valuable time. It’s also plainly impractical. I don’t put my cash in the bank at the end of every day; I may need some tomorrow, at the start. Why elbow my pickup into my 1940s, three-quarters-scale garage when I arrive home from work, when I’ll be heading back out at ten that night to return videos? When I take my glasses off, I don’t place them in their case, then tuck the case safely into a top drawer, I may need them in fifteen minutes. A very simple principle.

And one my wife doesn’t understand. Of course, she’s the one that got the laser surgery, she has the eyesight of a young horse. I don’t put the hose away, one time she put it away for me and, well, you’ve never seen such a mess. I believe I had portions replaced. You must realize, I’m talking 200 feet of hose. And I’ve only mentioned watering flowers. If I include my trees and shrubs in the mix, the hours necessary balloon upward to around fourteen, but with trees and shrubs I can at least lay the wand at the base of the plant and head up to my office a half-hour at a time, to write this nonsense.

All to explain one of the more esoteric gardening tips you’ll ever read.

If you are accustomed to leaving the hose out, even simply as a matter of principle, always let the hose run for a minute and be sure the water has cooled before watering your garden. Leave the hose out in the sun, turn it on, go water your petunias, and the water in the hose can easily reach temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, particularly if you use professional-quality black hoses, as you should. Even watering with water warmed to seventy or eighty degrees in the hose can severely damage annuals and perennials, and is no picnic for shrubs, either.

I learned this the way one learns best, the hard way. Early in my gardening career—I’ve been leaving my hose out for years—I was just slaughtering this bed of impatiens, it was close to July and they still weren’t doing anything, and I couldn’t figure out why. It was a hot, hot summer, so I was giving them plenty of water and fertilizer, yet they remained stunted, pale, confused. Then at some point I was barefoot heading out to water and I flipped the valve open at the handle to the watering wand, water shot out and brushed across the top of my foot and I thought, damn, that’s hot. And in 200 feet of hose, it stayed hot for a while.

So now, rather than put the hose away, first thing I do in the morning, I wash the truck.

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener