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.