JJ: How often do I water?
Me: that depends
JJ: well I'll put them near a window in my room. It faces North.
Me: (Be still my heart. She knows her directions!) Let me show you the pencil test. It's kind of a touchy-feely thing that you almost have to be present for, which she was, but she was apparently somewhere else. Not that there's anything wrong with that. No! She's a teenager, after all. Incomplete sentences with abbreviated words containing no more than two letters dotted with emoticons and whatnot are flying through her brain when she's asleep, let alone awake. Or maybe she just forgot. Which I can totally relate to. Later on, I did a video of me sticking a freshly-sharpened, new wood-showing pencil down into the soil of a pot full of succulents.
Me: Well, yes. You see how the pencil is dry, no dirt morsels are clinging to it or anything? She looked like she got it.
JJ: How much water should I give it?
Me: (Wow! Another tough one. She's relentless.) Get yourself a bottle of water, you know the environmentally-incorrect 16.9 fl. ounce plastic ones you throw out after using. (Which makes me think of something else she should know.) You shouldn't use water from the tap if it's been softened. The salts aren't at all good for the plants.
My niece looks to her mom, who looks surprised. Her mouth forms the beginning of the "oops" word. I immediately tell her that now that she knows, JJ will be much more successful with her plants and won't have to buy new ones all the time.
My response went like this: Ninety-nine percent of the time, you'll want to gently pour onto the soil, avoiding the plant if possible, a little water at a time until you see water coming out of the bottom of the container. (I didn't want to ask if her containers had drainage holes. That's an entirely new convo.)
JJ: So do you think it will like my north window?
Me: (I felt like I was about to tell a 3 year-old she couldn't ride the pony.) You need to get yourself some lights, I told her, knowing this whole thing had turned complicated. I saw my sister's eyes glaze over. Until then, I'll do some research to see what you might be able to grow in a north-facing window.
I am so enjoying this blossoming plant relationship with my niece. We're texting back and forth, and I love that she's sharing her insights into growing plants, which she says is teaching her patience. Yikes! A teen with patience. Might happen. If she really wants it.
I'm an impatient gardener, so I'm going to try not to drown her with my experiences and stories from the '70s when macrame was discovered. For now, I'm just really happy to have a related enthusiast to talk to about my favorite things.