Watering Cans

Providing a drink to a recently planted Azalea

Providing a drink to a recently planted Azalea

In this very dry period, we have tried to reduce the use of water from our well on the display beds and some newly transplanted shrubs. If we notice signs of wilting, we try to give each plant just enough water to get through until the next rain, (not that we’ve had one or truly expect one in the near future, ugh!). What has worked well is to take a large can (a quart at least, or small bucket) and poke a very small hole in the bottom of it near the edge. We then place the can next to the plant with the hole as close to the stem or crown as possible and fill it with water. The water will then slowly drip down to the roots and not run off as it would if just poured on the ground around the plant. All of the water goes to the plant. In our display beds, some plants do not handle the prolonged drought as well as others. This way we can selectively deliver water to them and not have to water the whole bed. It has been very easy to do and has kept many plants from shriveling up without using a large volume of water.

We have not had a good rain in weeks. Here in the northeast, drought is not something we consider common. We are lucky to have a fair range of weather….the right amount of sun, the right amount of overcast, the right amount of rain. Lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers spread across this state of Maine, we are water rich. This year, however, those precious water holes are a bit stressed, water tables are low, the lakes and ponds are well below normal levels. Our well here at the farm is a good one. We are very fortunate to be located above a healthy aquifer, but still, we conserve. Let’s consider water as it should be…. a precious, life-giving, absolutely necessary resource, that everyone needs. Let’s consider water as nine-year-old Gabriel does….

Gabriel and the Water Shortage

When the water shortage comes along
he’s been waiting all his life for it,
all nine years for something to need him as
the water needs him now. He becomes
its protector–he stops washing, till dirt
shines on the bones behind his ears
over his brain, and his hands blaze like
dark blades of love. He will not
flush the toilet, putting the life of the
water first, until the bowl
crusts with gold like the heart’s riches and his
room stinks, and when I sneak in and
flush he almost weeps, holds his
hands a foot apart in the air and
says do I know there is only about
this much water left! He befriends it, he
sits by its bedside as if it is a dying
friend, a small figure of water
gleaming on the sheets. He keeps a tiny
jar to brush his teeth in, till green
bugs bathe in its scum, but talk about
germs and he is willing to sacrifice his health
to put the life of the water first, its
helplessness breaks his heart, the way it
waits at all the faucets in the city for the
cocks to be turned, and then it cannot
help itself, it has to spill

to the last drop. Weeks go by and
Gabriel’s glazed with grime, and every
cell of dirt upon his body is a
molecule of water saved and he
loves those tiny molecules
translucent as his own flesh in the spring, this
thin vivid liquid boy who has
given his heart to water element
so much like a nine-year-old–you can
cut it, channel it, see through it and
watch it, then, a fifty-foot
tidal wave, approaching your house and
picking up speed as it comes.

Sharon Olds

16 comments on “Watering Cans

  1. great idea! I only have a few raised beds, and have positioned the sprinkler to get them all and not much else – but it is no where near as efficient as this method. Hoping for showers today and a rainy weekend. I wonder how all. the little animals survive when there are no puddles to drink from?

    • We are watering beds ( mostly individual plants) that we’ve never had to worry about before…of course, the nursery is taking almost constant attention this way. The ‘watering can’ is most definitely helping with those plants that need a little extra.

  2. My well established perennials can hang in there between showers, but I’m glad I inserted plastic bottles with holes next to my tomatoes so all I do is fill the bottles each day. We sure do need rain up here in our part of this beautiful Country. We have the Cocheco River falls in the center of town that is dry as a bone. We need a gift from Mother Nature. 🙂

    • That gift can come any time, Judy. Rain forecast for today, so let’s hope. Watering the nursery is the biggest challenge for us, plants in pots have absolutely no place to draw water from. We are so blessed with an abundance of water here in the north, this year we are reminded of how lucky we are.

  3. We do the plastic bottles as mentioned above by Judy but the wind makes it hard to keep them in place, even when we slightly bury them. This might be a good idea as we do save the 2.5 kg cans from chopped tomatoes over the winter used to make homemade sauce…I’m thinking they could be weighted down with a stone inside perhaps. Thanks for the idea.

    Hope rain falls for you all soon…lack of rain a greater problem than too much of it me thinks.

    • Yes, I forgot that you have that rascally Atlantic wind to contend with! No doubt almost all types of ‘watering cans’ need to be anchored down there on your island! It feels creepy to be so dry here in the state of Maine, where water is abundant. A good lesson for what a precious and valuable resource it is! Second cut hay will be hard to come by this year if things don’t change! The veg garden and perennials that are well established hold there own, but newly planted or things in pots ( an entire nursery!) need help.Hope you are all well and harvesting a bounty for winter storage! See you in November, perhaps!

      • Are water collection tanks in your future? Not that you get rainy season or anything like that, but I wonder if this is a sign of how things will be from now on? It sure is a changing world… hope showers come your way soon.

        It would be just wonderful to see you in November…I look forward to travelling over and will keep you posted as to the dates.

    • Thank you, Marian…let’s hope rain comes soon, a good steady shower for a day or two! It does keep us all mindful of this resource and how much we depend on it. A global rain dance we all need to preform….rain and water, for all!

  4. This really is an inspired idea! We’ve been nervous, too, about our well. We got a lot of rain yesterday with more due today and tomorrow but I don’t know how a few days worth really has an impact on the well. I love that poem–small boys would embrace an excuse not to bathe!

  5. I presume you’ve heard about Treegtor, a green plastic bag that fits around the trunk of a tree and allows several gallons of water to drip down. I made a baaaad mistake a few years ago and left one on a maple over the winter. It was infested with critters and girdled the tree….lost. I use them still, but I remove them promptly.

    • Hello John,
      Most of the plants we are giving extra water to are smaller shrubs that were planted earlier this spring.The cans work well for this, and we have them on hand. I’m not familiar with the Treegator, we don’t experience weeks without rain here very often, so watering trees and the gardens are not common for us. A few select perennials have needed an extra drink, but mostly the gardens are well established and on their own…good rich soil, lots of organic matter and leaf mulch. The nursery, however, needs watering regularly, and we have industrial sprinklers for this…also we hand water blocks in the nursery that may need it more than others. Lucky to have a good deep well! A bit of rain these last few days…..a bit of a relief!

  6. Hi Denise and Rick I wish to thank you for a lovely afternoon , visiting with both of you and sharing stories. Always a pleasure to visit with you both and share time together in the gardens. We always come home reinvigorated to go at it in the garden (which we did , of course). Enclosed I have some pictures of mom’s many Hosta garden areas as well as her last rug hooking project of the tomten. Hope all of our gardens enjoy some rain soon. Thank you again Sharon Farrington

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