It’s that time of year again when the leaves are changing and the garage begins to look like doomsday preppers live here. My husband complains about it and I anticipated his reaction when he came home a few nights ago to find his garage workbench temporarily “altered.” Not only has it been wiped clean and the empty chip bags disposed of, but it now has everything I need to keep my houseplants alive through the winter, namely water. In my experience, especially for a man motivated by food, having a good meal waiting on the day I begin infiltrating his man space is an excellent diversion. I’ve become a pretty good cook.
His basement workshop has been “altered” as well. He’s chosen to accept it in the same way he begrudgingly accepts that he’ll lose a little turf to my garden each year. In addition to the amaryllis hanging out on there before being forced inside for the holidays, the bench is full of water jugs that will be used to carry my growing collection of houseplants through the winter. I can’t use tap water, it’s too hard. So I save all of our drinking water jugs, fill them with water from the rain barrel and store them wherever I can. Which more or less means all the areas my husband considers safe from the infrequent chaos that comes with living with three women and one female dog.
The Hard Truth About Soft Water
To counteract the hardness of our water, we have to soften it. Hard water has a high calcium and magnesium content. Good for plants, but awful for getting your soaps to lather and laundry detergents to clean effectively. Softeners counteract the minerals with sodium. While some plants are more sensitive to it than others, watering with softened water will likely harm or even kill a houseplant. Sodium fools plant roots into thinking they’ve absorbed enough water from the soil when in fact they’re dying of thirst.
How a Rain Barrel Can Help
Before draining it for the winter, I fill as many empty water jugs as I think I’ll need for the winter. This year there are considerably more since I’ve acquired a few more green friends. The outdoor spigots, despite not being connected to the softener system, aren’t an option since we shut the water off sometime around Thanksgiving. Using the rain barrel water is a pretty cost effective solution. It saves me from having to buy gallons of water just for the houseplants for the next six months.
The first year I did it, I forgot to leave enough space at the top of each water jug in case the water froze. Our garage is unheated and gets well below freezing for long stretches. Inevitably that first year, all the jugs froze and exploded. For the first few months, I use the jugs in the garage. By the time January and the really wicked weather rolls in, all that remains are the jugs in the basement.
Now that the rain barrel is empty and turned upside down for the winter, I can focus on moving the tropicals that have been hanging out in the garage for the last week. They too will call my husband’s basement workshop home at least until April, but more likely May. The angels trumpet will barely fit this year. It’ll need a trim before relocation. Banana plants, elephant ear tubers and cannas, as well as Peruvian daffodil bulbs, will ride out winter in crates along the wall. Jugs full of rainwater will occupy the spaces in between.
Among all my chaos, will be a man who’s forgotten how he feels about the squatters as he ponders that smell wafting from the kitchen.