My indoor houseplants can survive for two weeks in a pinch without watering (although they prefer to be watered once a week), so as long as I stagger my usual watering days, they don’t seem to notice if Spouse and I take trips for a week or less. My plants on the balcony, however, are a different story. When we got them originally, I tried watering them once a week, which quickly became twice a week. Then it became every two days, and sometimes every single day.
I’m home most days, and I like having a reason to interact them (rather than just sitting and watching them), but needing to water them (potentially) every single day is a significant obligation, and it’s not one that I meant to sign up for.
Last week, Spouse and I took a week’s vacation. There’s no way my balcony plants could survive a week without watering. Yet my options seemed rather limited.
I contacted a friend who works from home and lives only 10 miles away. I was hoping she could come in to water them twice while we were gone. But she was also going to be on vacation that week.
I contacted another friend who lives 25 miles away. She was willing to do it, but she could only make the trip once, after four days. I thought it was likely that she would show up on that day, and all the plants would be dead. But if that was the best plan I could come up with, I felt I had to do it. I was going to give her my house keys; Spouse suggested we get an extra set made. Which we did, but the new keys were kind of tricky to use, so we decided to lend my friend one of our sets, and have us use the tricky set. Two days before our trip, we drove down to her place to drop off the keys. We got lost, causing us to arrive 30 minutes late. We didn’t see a house number or a doorbell. I knocked, but heard no one inside. We called her phone and no one answered; I left a message. Then we drove back home. Spouse suggested we go to a plant nursery and see what solutions they might have. We found a bunch of stuff — but it all assumed we had a house, yard, and most importantly, an outside faucet and hose. Spouse had ideas how we could jury-rig something together, running it from our kitchen faucet. But that would require us leaving our balcony door open the entire time we were gone. Also, the kit was $66. Spouse then suggested we ask our neighbors across the hall — we have had short conversations with them (although neither Spouse nor I can remember their names). They wouldn’t need the outside door key; it wouldn’t be a long drive; they could easily water the plants twice while we were gone. That reminded me of something — I told Spouse that I had seen some kind of apparatus that hooks into a plant’s pot and rations out water somehow. As we were still at the plant nursery, we looked for something like that. And we found something like it — water in gel form. Each packet is $6, so initially it seemed way cheaper than the $66 kit that wasn’t going to work very well. Until I started mentally adding up how many individual pots I had. We have two windowboxes, each with three plants. I also have a hanging basket of geraniums. A big pot that’s supposed to be brown eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), but so far is only leaves. And eight other smaller plants in square containers. That’s 12 packets, and $72, more than the kit that wasn’t going to work. Spouse suggested I repot a bunch of the small ones into larger trays (like windowboxes, but without brackets for hanging). We would have to buy the larger trays. I wasn’t sure I already had enough potting soil to fill them sufficiently.
So no matter what option we chose (unless we approached our neighbors), there was going to be an outlay of $60-$80. And a not-insignificant amount of hassle. All of which would have to occur on the day before we left, when there were actually other things to take care of that were just as important.
And yet, deciding not to do anything meant condemning all of them to certain death. I couldn’t choose that.
Off we went to the plant nursery first thing Monday morning. We got two trays, six water gel packets, and another bag of potting soil; total cost: $104.86.
Transferring 10 plants into our two new trays took two sweaty dirty hours. I don’t know how plants feel about being repotted, but I absolutely hate doing it. It was so unpleasant, I spent the rest of the day recovering, even though I should’ve been packing. Spouse was the one who figured out how the gel packets worked, and inserted them. Later, I dragged all the plants into the shade, as Spouse had read something online suggesting that outside plants would survive an absence better if they were put inside one’s house or garage.
Our vacation deserves its own post(s).
But I found myself occasionally wondering how my balcony plants were doing, hoping they were still alive. I couldn’t do anything either way, so I did not obsess.
Upon returning home, I rushed over to the balcony. My plants were thriving! There were more blossoms on the geraniums, Portulaca, and Calibrachoa than I had ever seen before we left!
(Only one plant had died, a marigold, but it had been almost-dead before we left.)
Spouse is a perfectionist in ways I am not. But I do obsess over relationships, especially those where I feel responsible in some fashion for another’s well-being. This was the very first time that I had ‘pets’ in my charge who needed more care in our absence than I could get arranged. They surprised me by flourishing anyway. It seems clear I was right to not obsessively worry over them.
I’m learning how to let go of my expectations, at a different level than before.
I have several relationships with human beings in which we’ve gotten into a rut. It’s my fault as much as theirs! I’ve known them so long that unconsciously I felt they couldn’t significantly surprise me. And then they did. (In a good way.) As I reevaluated how and why I could be so gobsmacked, I realized expectations that made sense a long time ago (or seemed to, anyway) had hardened into concrete. But people change. Or maybe just our understanding of them deepens — if we allow it happen!
I was so sure that our relationships were kind of unsatisfying because the other people involved were limited in ways I didn’t think applied to me. Now I see that that entire line of reasoning is faulty and counterproductive.
I need to let go of who I think people are, or who I think they have been. I need to meet them where they’re at, today. And doing that frees me to be who I am, today, rather than who I was five years ago, 25 years ago, or seven days ago.
If I could talk to my plants, I really don’t have any idea what they would tell me.
How can I be sure that isn’t just as true of anyone else I know?