Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Personalish: Plant Room

Watering the plants outside ceased to be an option when the weather turned cold about a month ago, so since then I've been watering them in the kitchen sink. It's warmer than outside, but has a much smaller capacity, so watering has been taking a long time. (My best guess is that the last round took about twelve hours in all, spread out over four days.)

In progress. It'll eventually be your regular everyday enclosed-on-three-sides shower -- just, you know, on the back porch. I hope we never have to sell this place and move, 'cause I'm not sure how one explains something like this to a potential buyer.

So the logical solution, and in fact the plan all along, is to put a shower/tub in the plant room. It's not going to be the solution for everything. (I'm unsure, for example, whether the really heavy plants, like the Big Damn Screw Pine, or the Murraya paniculata in the thirteen-inch clay pot, are going to be able to sit in the tub when wet without bringing the whole thing down: the heavy plants are very heavy indeed. Out of curiousity, I just tried to weigh my fifteen-inch Cordyline fruticosa on the bathroom scale, the scale says it weighs 46 pounds. Which is not as much as I was expecting, truth be told, but is still plenty awkward to carry up and down the stairs.) But I'm hoping it makes my life either a little easier, or that it will leave my life just as difficult but facilitate the addition of more plants. Whichever.


11 comments:

our friend Ben said...

Cool, Mr. S.! And I can certainly relate to the whole house-sale thing. I can just picture myself trying to explain why there are floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases everywhere, or, say, no dishwasher, one window a/c... sigh.

Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ said...

I don't exactly understand why you don't use a watering can to water your plants. That way you bring the water to them. It would seem a lot easier, especially for heavy ones. Did I miss your explanation of why you water as you do?

mr_subjunctive said...

Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ:

Not necessarily; I don't say it explicitly that often. I take the plants to the water because:

1) With a watering can, I'm still having to walk back and forth to the water a lot to fill up; they only make watering cans just so big.
2) If I use a watering can, any minerals dissolved in the (tap) water I use build up in the soil over time, which affects some plants (Cordyline, Chlorophytum, Dracaena, Rhapis, Chamaedorea) very badly.
3) Also with a watering can, I run the risk of either not putting in enough water and leaving dry pockets in the soil, or putting in too much water and having to take the plant to the sink to dump the saucer anyway.
4) Watering from overhead keeps the plants dusted.
5) When I can use a sprayer (sadly, this doesn't work so well in the kitchen sink), I can also spray the undersides of leaves, which I'm convinced goes a long way toward keeping pests, particularly spider mites, under control.

With a few of the awkward and/or heavy ones (like the 7'3" Cereus peruvianus), I do sometimes use a watering can and water in place, because I know the mineral build-up thing isn't likely to be a problem and it's not that big of a deal if I don't get all of the soil completely saturated with water. But even then, I try to take them out occasionally, for the dusting more than anything else.

Lance said...

A friend of mine who lived in Alaska had a bathtub in the greenhouse. But it wasn't for her plants, it was actually her only shower.

No electricity or running water in the house. I asked about winter showers, she said she just took really quick ones.

Karen715 said...

Mr_Subjunctive: I really understand why you water as you do. It is an excellent cultural practice, and I think you should continue that way for most of your plants.

But for the really large ones, I think you should give yourself a break, and water in situ most of the time. I water all my plants that way all of the time, and I've never had an issue I could trace back to the building up of salts. Admittedly, the first five years in this house, I used R/O filtered water, so no minerals there. (Actually, this is why I think that at least for Chlorophytum, what you water with makes no difference: I had brown tips with R/O water!)In the last year and a half, I've been using our unsoftened tap water, which is very hard, with no problems.

Even if I wanted to water your way, I couldn't. Except for the single cold water tap in the small basement sink, all the water in my house goes through the softener--with all that sodium. I can't leach my plants with that!

Nature Assassin said...

WOW! That is a very cool piece of plant hardware. i can't wait to see it all rigged up. Mostly, I can't wait until I live somewhere where I can make one too!

Diane said...

I hope your plants appreciate all the trouble and expense you've gone to!

I confess to being a watering-can waterer. During the spring-to-fall months I use the water collected by the dehumidifier in the basement. During the cold months, I'm stuck with tap water, and I don't even bother letting it sit out first (I've heard conflicting evidence about the chlorine evaporating away). I'd like to start caching the leftover dehumidifier water but I don't have a big enough container for it. During the summer we can generate a couple of gallons a day, enough to last the winter.

Liza said...

So jealous. I use the hose in the back yard to dust.

Put the heavy plants on wheels! It won't help with stairs, but it'll sure help with rest of moving them around!

susan harris said...

Hey, contact me about getting your (PDF) copy of FLora Mirabilis. The email you have here on your blog bounced. Susan@sustainable-gardening.com

Thomas said...

I take my big plants to the tub as well, to wash foliage and flush soil. My lightgardens are baker racks with plastic underbed trays to catch water, and the big ones are in cache pots with space at the bottom for water to collect. But since lime is added to the water here, mineral build up is inevitable. Having the plant at counter height for bathtime sounds awesome. Maybe for the really big kids you could come up with a floor option, like one of those pans for waterheaters, run a drain line outside?

Have to say, after reading about the man who was arrested for making coffee in his nature suit, I wonder if having a shower on the back porch at window height might give your neighbors pause for thought. Sesame Street turns 40 and these are the people in our neighborhood...

lynn'sgarden said...

Remember that green coil of a hose that attaches to your sink for watering house plants? I thought it was the coolest invention! Until it didn't really work and I still had to hand carry all my pots to the sink...
That tub is a great idea!
12 hours?!?!