There is an old nursery rhyme that begins: "Jerry, Jerry, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?"
According to my wife (not Mary, who was wise enough to take up another hobby, but Sue, which is what she may do to me if I don't stop killing her plants), my garden doesn't grow at all, mainly because I don't know how to water it.
Watering the garden is so difficult for someone of my limited agricultural ability that if left to my own devices, which include a hose, a watering can and a life preserver, I would destroy all the plant life on our property, either by drowning or dehydration. So I had to ask my wife, who has a green thumb and really ought to see a doctor, to show me how to do it right.
The lesson became necessary after she saw me commit a botanical blunder: I was watering her tomato plants vertically.
"What are you doing?" my wife shrieked as I stood over them with a watering can, which I cleverly tilted at an angle so that water, which I had used to fill the can, otherwise it wouldn't be called a watering can, poured from the spout directly onto the plants.
"I'm wetting my tootsies," I replied dryly.
"That's not how you're supposed to do it," she said, grabbing my can.
"Suppose you show me how," I said.
For the next half hour, she did.
We started in the vegetable garden. In the calm but direct tone of a schoolteacher, which she is, my wife said, "Never water plants from above. You have to water them from underneath."
"You mean," I said incredulously, "I have to dig a tunnel?"
My wife, who resisted what must have been a great temptation to pour the contents of the watering can into my shorts, simply ignored the remark and said, "You water at the root." Then, bending over to get close to the ground, which isn't so far considering she is only 5-foot-1, my wife began saturating the soil.
Considering I am almost a foot taller and have much farther to bend over, which means I would probably throw my back out and have to go to Home Depot for physical therapy, this raised an important question: "What do you think happens when it rains?"
"What do you mean?" my wife said distractedly as she kept on watering.
"When it rains," I pointed out, "the plants get watered from above."
My wife stood up, looked at me like I had tomatoes growing out of my ears (actually, they're potatoes) and said, "That's different."
"How is it different?" I wanted to know.
"It just is," my wife insisted.
"How do the plants know?"
"Why don't you ask them?"
"I don't talk to plants," I said.
As we made the rounds of the back, side and front yards, stopping to quench the thirst of dahlias, rhododendrons, begonias, a rose bush, a lilac bush and plenty of other blooming idiots, an exercise designed to correct my irritating irrigating, my wife whispered weighty words of watering wisdom:
"You want to saturate the ground, not the leaves," "You have to make the roots wet so the rest of the plant stays healthy" and, perhaps most important, "Stop pouring water on me!"
This last comment was uttered after I had taken the watering can back and was practicing my technique while hunched over like Quasimodo. That a few harmless drops got on my wife was purely accidental.
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