Watering In


For Yule, Landscape Guy gave me Jenks Farmer‘s wonderful book, Deep Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners. I finished reading it on my last business trip. I’d recommend the book just for the pictures and for the stories about the great characters/gardeners from whom Jenks has learned over the years. Muriel Rukeyser was right about stories.

In one chapter, Jenks recommends, whenever possible, watering by hand rather than with an automatic irrigation system or with sprinklers. You know, carrying water to the plant in a watering can and standing there making it rain in just the right spot and by just the right amount. Or taking the hose (and, when we do it here in the South, a glass of iced tea or wine, depending on whether it’s a morning or an evening watering) and standing in the garden, watching it, listening to it, watering by observation. At the end of the Watering-In chapter, Jenks says:

Collect and focus the energy of moving water in the soil and air around a plant. You might call it chi, positive energy, lining-up, or paramagnetic force — whatever you call it, it pulls together your own energy with that of moving water, plants, and life in the soil.

Those simple actions and involuntary connections make life rich. One tiny action can set off a chain of scenes in our minds. Sometimes during a watering conversation, I’ll hear in my own voice an inflection, a tiny change of tone when I’m getting excited. I’ll then recall an afternoon, years ago, on a road trip with a friend, looking over a vast desert, my friend fixated, holding my shoulder, imploring me, saying “Now? Now you must be excited! Say it out loud!” Or when I water with a coffee can, I see the smooth twisting of water becoming a muddy stream of cypress pond water, pouring from the bottom of a tiny tin that my father picked up to nurse along a newly planted ocean tree seedling behind a barn that he dreamt of renovating, of making into our house.

Watering-in does all of that for me. It’s so elemental, something that builds unforgettable connections. When you teach someone to water-in, make sure it’s a fun experience, an important moment; it may be a moment they associate with watering for the rest of their life.

It’s such a sensual thing to do, watering plants. The feel of the water, the sight of the plant, and the soil, and the water being sucked into the soil. The smell of wet dirt. The sight and sound and presence of the birds who show up and want to play in the water. And when it’s hot, of course, I water myself a bit, too.

How do you water? Do you have a memory of learning how to do it?

Picture found here.

3 responses to “Watering In

  1. As a kid growing up during the late 30’s and through the 40’s I learned to hand water with a watering can, since we had no garden hose in those days, and I still use a watering can for some plants – usually those that are in containers. But I also use a hose-mounted watering wand with a ‘rain-head’ and an adjustable flow valve for flower beds and such. For the little bit of lawn we have (maintained mostly for aesthetics and for the Grandgirls to romp on during summer visits) I put out a small, old rotary sprinkler during the morning hours of the watering season about once a week. The sprinkler is moved from time to time (while I enjoy a second cup of coffee) according to a timer set for about 10 to 15 minutes or so, depending on the prevailing temperatures at the time. By the way, as an aside, I use a wonderful human-powered mower, acquired for free from a neighbor who ‘upgraded’ to a yard service, to cut the grass – takes about 10 minutes and does a wonderful job while making almost no noise and spewing no noxious fumes.

  2. One day while I was watering in my garden with an adjustable spray nozzle, a hummingbird came and hovered around me. I sprayed a fine shower up into the air and he dived and swooped through it for several minutes. He became my regular watering-buddy for the rest of that summer, showing up for his bath whenever he saw me outside with the hose.

    Thank you, Hecate, for triggering that memory. Sun, earth, air, plants, water – and laughing with the hummingbird.

  3. Yes — another water-by-hose-and-can person here too! We have watering regulations BUT we can hand-water (regular hose and the slow drip hose to water the foundation!) So I am out in the early morning and later afternoons in my hat with old battered gardening gloves nearby (for any of the dreaded weeding) We do keep bird baths and fountains going for the birds … and a late-day martini or white wine for me ….. 🙂 Happiness all around! 🙂

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