Friday, November 26, 2010

The University of Don't Do That Again! Lesson One

As a teacher, it may seem that I'm the one who teaches while others learn. However, that is rarely the case. Every day, my students, family, dogs and garden teach me something I either didn't know before or had learned and promptly forgotten. Despite being a science teacher, I am especially skilled at forgetting the basic laws of science as they apply to my garden. This was made absurdly and painfully obvious this summer.

Lesson #1 -  Gravity Does Not Exist
Summer rain in northern Virginia comes in two forms: too much or not at all. Intense thunderstorms occasionally roll in, unleashing torrents of rain that flood streets and basements but run off the slightly sloped areas of my garden, leaving the mulch wet, but not much else. Summer storms are offset by periods of drought that inflate my water bill and turn my garden into a botanical ICU. Despite planting as many drought resistant natives as possible, after a month of high temps and no rain, even the locals are thirsty. To solve this problem, I laid soaker hoses. Incorrectly.

My son works at our local garden center, a job that allowed me, since I feed, clothe, and shelter him, to enjoy a whopping discount. A discount at a garden center is to me what a designer purse is to others. I whooped and hollered for joy, drooled over my savings, and planned my purchases with glee. And then I got to watch him load it all into my car. Ahhh...satisfaction!

By the time he was hired and I had bought miles of soaker hoses, my garden had already woken, its beds filling with clumps of perennials. It wasn't the best time to lay the hoses, but I was undeterred. I was determined to solve the problem of soil robbed of moisture by giant, thirsty trees and unpredictable rainfall. Armed with turf staples, a wheelbarrow full of hoses, and an iron will, I headed toward the back yard. Several weekends later, black hoses snaked through the garden, a serpentine system of moisture delivery guaranteed to conquer drought and dryness. Layers of mulch covered the hoses and the garden grew around them, covering its secret. I smiled to myself and smugly surveyed my domain. "Drought and dryness, cower at my feet!", I thought to myself. "I have soaker hoses!"

Fast forward to the middle of July - hot hot hot and dry dry dry. With the rain barrels empty and dry weather in the forecast, I skipped over to the garden hose and eagerly hooked it up the soaker hoses. I turned the spigot to full blast and smiled, anticipating the relief my wilting, weary garden would soon enjoy. The hoses under my river birch  and near the trumpet creeper sputtered to life but the rest of the garden remained strangely parched. No water. Nothing. Not even a drip. Shocked and frustrated, I dug at the mulch and checked the hoses. Finally, I could take it no longer. "Drip, damnit! Drip!!" I yelled. It didn't work. I threw down my garden gloves and stomped off. Later that evening, I wandered the yard and scanned my garden detemined to figure out where I had gone wrong. Hunched next to the blue mist flowers, my daughter began yelling across the yard, "Mom, these are all kinked up!" "Where does this hose end?" In my eagerness to corral my rapidly expanding garden, I had morphed the sinuous curves of the hoses into sharp corners and angles. Too many hoses had been connected, creating an transgarden super highway that went nowhere and accomplished nothing. I stood back in disbelief. My eyes wandered to the end of the soaker hose, it's origin marked by a cute hose guide. It lay at the front of the bed, snaked through several low spots and then back up again. Speechless, I just stopped and stared. In my haste, I had expected water to flow uphill, around right angles, and with enough force to pulse through 200 feet of hose.


I used dancing frog hose guides to remind me of where I put the beginning of the soaker hoses. I also used hose guides with a decorative ball on top.


As a student of the University of Don't Do That Again! I will never graduate and have no idea what degree I'm working towards. I am forever the student, a proud bearer of a Certificate of Perpetual Enrollment. Weeks spent laying soaker hoses this spring has culminated in weeks spent digging them up and relaying them correctly this fall. This time I'm not smug or victorious, just cautiously hopeful.

14 comments:

  1. Your post makes me laugh. I can relate to the joy you have with regards to the discounts you are getting from a garden center. A designer purse wouldn't mean anything to me. :) So, is your soaker hoses working?

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  2. I'm almost done relaying my hoses and this time they work!!! I made sure they weren't kinked, bent or flowing uphill!! Hooray!!

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  3. Casa Mariposa sounds like an enchanting place. I bet it is a happy one too now that the soaker hoses are on the job. Cute post! :)

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  4. Ah, I, too, have a certificate from the "School of hard knocks". (It's a tough course, but I usually remember what a learn there. LOL) I'll bet you're really looking forward to NEXT year when those hoses work for you. (And we're looking forward to your posting about it!) Hang in there. :-D Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

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  5. What a great warning to the rest of us who might attempt laying hoses next spring! I can almost guarantee I would have made the same mistake.

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  6. This is one of the best posts I read recently! Thank you!I hope those hoses will be more cooperative next year!

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  7. Certainly looks like a struggle. I hope you get them to work next time.
    I like the little dancing frog

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  8. Love your post!!! Our gardens do have a way of keeping us humble, don't they? This is precisely why I am not a fan of soaker hoses, though. (Oh, I can hear the gasps from the gardeners!!) If you aren't checking them all of the time, you can't tell that they aren't working till something is dead down the line. I'd rather see the spraying heads. Problems are readily visible. God sends rain from up above; why can't we have our sprinklers spraying from up above. Just my humble opinion. I can so relate to the designer purse comment!!

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  9. Mrs. S - Thanks for the compliments and for stopping by! Being almost done with the hose project does make for a very happy TS!

    Kris - Ah, the School of Hard Knocks... I've spent many quality hours there, too, and yep, those lessons really stick!

    Marguerite - I'm glad my insanity can serve as a warning to others! "Learn from the mistakes of others since you can't live long enough to make them all yourself." says the daily quote on my calendar :0) Wise calendar!

    Fer - I bought the frogs on sale from Gardeners Supply Co. I'm not sure if they ship to Japan. Struggle is a great word for the hose project! I've mentally filed it under 'Live and Learn'.

    Toni - A sprinkler system would be divine, but since the cost of installing one is less than heavenly, I'll have to go low tech and stick to my hoses. My garden keeps me very humble. Just when I think I'm in charge... WHACK! Who's yer daddy, TS? Who's yer daddy???

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  10. I am taking in all you have said and am filing it away in my head so I may learn from your experience. The very back of my garden get very dry in August and one of these days, hopefully soon, I plan to run a series of hoses out to that dry area get me through the drought. Right now, I have to drag a hose from the front of the house out 150 ft to water the back of the garden. Having proper irrigation would be wonderful! I hope you are having a great holiday! jennifer

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  11. The frog is wonderful! Sounds like quite an ordeal. Garden store discounts sound terrific, lucky you. Your dog is adorable & thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

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  12. That brought a wry smile to my lips. I am enrolled in the same University, and also resigned to never graduating. I try not to repeat the same mistakes, but seem very skilled at inventing new ones to learn from! Hope that next year your soaker hoses perform to perfection and help you beat the weather. I am pinning my hopes on the 3 additional water butts I installed this summer, so that I don't have to choose between running up my water bills or watching plants in pots shrivel up and die.

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  13. That's funny! :) Well I'm right there with you, I don't think I'll ever graduate either.

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  14. Hose guides are a good idea...i just get mad everytime I knock foliage off a plant. Drip systems are the best way to water. I would like to put it in my garden. I see a lot of water wasted with our sprinkler system.
    I bet you get it right this time. Live and learn....that is what I keep telling myself.

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