I walked into Eileen's
and they were just sitting on the table.
I asked to take some pictures so I could share them.
It took a few days
but I selected a few to post.
I felt I should have some text.
But. I didn't know what the plants were.
I looked through an old book I have
on indoor plants
and found an image.
-"This Zebra Haworthia grows with ease as a houseplant
and has amazing tolerance for various lights."
When one engages in process, they are moved. They learn.
While I was in a bit of a hurry Claire asked me, "Matt. How do I tell the person helping me water, how to do it?" And as if I queued Caitlin up, she lifted her head from our flower planting and responded "Oh! Watering may be the most complicated thing in gardening." And, perhaps more than anything in the garden, it is an intuitive art. Although I have some general guidelines I offer for instruction, because, well, I think, we live in a time where people need very specific operational guidelines that they can execute step by step - I would like to try and offer some bullet points with more theoretical flavor so you, the irrigator, can develop your own informed intuition.
1. Water moves through a plant, from soil to air. My language here will contradict the traditional teachings of this movement of water since the second I write "evapotranspiration" or "Hydraulic pressure" all will be lost to the reader. Imagine the air as a vacuum force of which its intensity to pull and suck water increases with heat, the drying effects of wind, and the decrease in humidity (or water already in the air). Water is in the soil and the plant is only the straw which the water is sucked though to be disturbed into the air as vapor. This suction pulls and pulls and pulls but when it gets hot and the soil starts to run out of water, you see what we all know as "WILTING." The vacuum pressure sucks the water out of the plant until it begins to collapse on itself. The fullness of the plant we consider normal and healthy is the plant filled with water. We call this state, or relationship of suppleness and full hydration, "turgidity" - or when the plant is full it is said to be "turgid."
2. A plant, as you know, will wilt. If you get water on it soon enough, within a short time the plant will perk back up and be refreshed. However, there is a term - "permanent wilting point." You can figure out for yourself what this means.
This being said, it is 90 degrees out. Don't finish reading this, get outside and water any newly planted flowers or plants before its too late.
3. When watering, one needs to insure the water gets into the soil, to where the roots are. Lightly spraying beds or planting areas with a spray nozzle in a situation like today (high heat) is ineffective as the water doesn't penetrate into the soil. The trick is to find the balance between that spray and a hose running at full flow. A spray distributes a small amount of water over a large area. An unchecked fully flowing hose may concentrate too much water in one place and simply run off without penetrating into the soil. This will also most likely erode your mulch.
Move forward in two directions - turn the water flow down to a point slow enough that it flows gravitationally down into the soil toward the roots of the plant. Secondly, you can increase the flow of water with techniques that distribute water over a small area so it can soak into the soil,
4. Different types of soil and mulches will allow water into them better or worse than others. Some will be more prone to erosion.
5. Don't think small. Think in terms of gallons of water. You need to direct gallons of water into plants and their root systems in order to have the water soak into a 4 to 12 inch depth.
6. Newly planted plants - which today is what I'm really concerned with, have very small and concentrated root masses. If you plant a #3 container shrub, all the roots are directly under the plant 9" either side of the center stem. To water (don't use sprinklers) outside of this space delivers no water to the plant.
7. There is this age old conversation and debate when horticulturists and gardeners want to sound smart and theoretical - "Should I water in the morning or evening." This distinction is totally irrelevant 99% of the time. Today, just water and water heavy.
Much of this debate has to do with managing moisture on the leaves of certain plants - like roses - that are susceptible to fungal development, as, like the tile in your shower, prolonged moisture on foliage can increase the risk of foliar (fungal) diseases. But, for the most part, we know what plants these are and we just try not to plant them because they make us need to debate when the best time to water is.
8. If you water manually with a hose as I have pictured and described, and avoid sprinkler and spray nozzles that cast water on foliage, you will avoid the problem of moisture on foliage.
9. In review, water needs to be in the soil so the warm air can suck it through the plant. If there is no water in the soil, the air sucks the plant dry until it implodes and dies. When you irrigate, get gallons of water deep into the soil.
10. Someday we may talk about how often. But, since I had to run out and water a bunch of wilting perennials and annuals I planted in the last five days, I thought I could share some thoughts on "Watering 911s."
***This being my longest post, it is dedicated to Ferncroft who, attacking my masculinity, claims my blog posts are always to short.
1. Not that sod wasn't done a lot as I grew up, but, to an extent, it was a big deal if someone decided to sod their lawn. It would be a major expense to have an instant lawn. And so I've always shied away from sod thinking it was expensive and that clients were better off in the long run using seed.
However, always (trying to be) engaged in self-critique, I think establishing a lawn with seed is a "higher level" horticultural operation and so seeding always appealed to me. But, in reality, this idea of sod being a large expense comes from a world where lawns are 20,000 and 30,000 square feet. In the city, lawns are 1000 square feet so for a couple hundred dollars one eliminates the work and concern of seed establishment and brings the client to rest and relax with their yard immediately.
2. The biggest challenge with using sod in small quantities is the logistics of getting the material. We did two works in the last week where we used 250 square feet of sod (25 rolls)or less. The sod itself costs (+/-) $50, but the expense of acquisition - driving to Clarance, NY (14032) - to pick it up costs the client $100. Trucks aren't inexpensive. The first of the two jobs, I made the agreement that the client go pick the sod up and have it available for us when needed.
3. I throw a lot of sod in the garbage (well - it gets composted). This has upset some clients in the past year. But here's how it is. It costs too much to run out. If you fall one roll short for some reason you need to drive all the way to Clarence to get one or two rolls. This was a big conversation with Jan who saw me "gift" our extra 15 rolls of sod to a friendly neighbor. She saw the "gifting" of sod as wasteful which she was ideologically opposed to. I saw the "gifting" as a conservation of labor, as to me, I am ideologically opposed to the wasteful expense of life.
Growing up, Friday evenings after work were a special time. Everyone would sit back in a wheelbarrow at the shop an sip back a couple twelve packs with Greg, Kevy, Steph, and the crew.
Now, there aren't shops, Greg, Kevy, Steph.
Almost as if a ritual has been reborn, fifteen years later, I've found myself spending Friday evenings, post-field ops at the Ferncroft Shop, prepping for the next days weddings.
A tulip in its final day or days. I brought it to the caffe Sunday AM as I was distributing some leftover material. The Tulip is dry and crispy. I found it visually exciting but I don't think my iPhone was the tool to share it. None the less - I have been carrying my DSLR with me more often and so I have fewer images in my phone to go to at moments like this when I want to riff on stuff in a blog post.
We have Caitlin working with us now. She came to us last winter - a horticulture student from NCCC with a previous art degree and grew up in the neighborhood being a City Honors graduate - she came to us during the Christmas Tree market and since has been finishing school, working with Ferncroft Floral here and there, and with me organizing a project with the Elmwood Village Association to improve the neighborhood's container and tree pit gardens.
Now she is in her first days in the field and I find myself doing a poor job teaching her and not being sensitive to how much she needs direction.
When I grew up, I learned the most from just watching others do things - be it spread mulch, lay sod or pavers, or rake and grade soil. When I was finally thrown into the heat, I would get a 10 second primer on the major theoretical points one needed to recognize what they were trying to achieve in the task performed. Then, GO! Learn as you work.
But this was under a structure where you worked on a crew that primarily focused on doing the same thing everyday. My very first day in the field at 12 or 13 years old I was put out on the mowing crew. They put me out on a push mower and said go. If someone new started, they may have started on the paver construction crew, learned a couple basic tasks, and could repeat them over and over for an entire summer.
The difficulty with Buffalo Horticulture is we never do the same thing. We do "custom designed" (this needs elaboration another day - Ferncroft) and the opportunity to work on developing a skill happens with large intervals inbetween. So Caitlin, I'm sorry. But on the horizon in the next month we will be doing site work and grading, building a fence, digging and installing a rain garden, installing 4 different types of paving materials, in addition to doing standard garden work. I imagine its emotionally difficult to keep up. But you're doing great and u work hard. I just need to recognize you have a lot to learn and help you get there so you aren't lost without things to hold onto through the day.
Landscape designer and Proprietor of Buffalo Horticulture