The Worst Mistake of My Life!

Teenager washing dishes in a sink, why have a dishwasher when you have children
Photo: cottonbro, pexels.com.

Larry Hodgson has published thousands of articles and 65 books over the course of his career, in both French and English. His son, Mathieu, has made it his mission to make his father’s writings available to the public. This text was originally published in Fleurs, plantes et jardins in December 1998.

Years ago, I made a terrible mistake! I let myself be talked into buying a dishwasher.

My wife had been talking about it for several years, but, as usual, I said no. After all, we didn’t need it: we had teenagers to wash the dishes! What’s the point of having children if not to put them to work washing dishes?

My wife had a different opinion. “Anyway,” she reasoned, “the kids are growing up fast and they’ll be out of the house soon.” Oh yes? Why would they leave a house where they’re not only given free food and lodging, but where they”re not even made to wash dishes? On the contrary, if you want your children to ever leave home, this is the worst purchase you can imagine. I myself left my father’s house, where there was no dishwasher, at the age of 18. It seems to me that the connection is obvious. So as far as I was concerned, the debate was over and I had won. But my wife had not said her final word. And so the began the cold war.

Man holding bill in hand with a panicked look
The electricity bill seemed to increase month by month!

The Cold War

When I complained that one or another of our children had run off without doing the dishes, my wife would say, “Ah, you see!” We both knew what she meant. I, on the other hand, frequently held up the electric bill, which seemed to increase month by month, saying, “It’s terrible how much hot water we waste!” An uninitiated person would have thought I meant that we were taking too long showers, but my wife understood. So the months passed.

It suddenly came to me as I sat in the backyard for the third day in a row with a bucket of hot soapy water between my knees, a dirty pot in one hand and a wire brush in the other, scrubbing vigorously to remove the last traces of scale. Beside me, hundreds of pots of all kinds in two separate piles; dirty and recently washed. After all, gardening (especially when you have a lot of houseplants) requires an amazing quantity of clean pots.

Plant pots in soapy water in a sink

A Stroke of Genius

In between brush strokes, I had a brilliant idea. If we had a dishwasher, I could effortlessly wash my pots with it!

Obviously, I couldn’t say a word of this to my wife. “Not in my dishwasher!” she would have shouted.

“Honey,” I said to her between bites at dinner that night, “at WE SELL EVERYTHING they are advertising discounted dishwashers. Would you like to take a ride to see them?” After feigning nonchalance for a few moments, she finally agreed that it was a good idea. So, a week later, the dishwasher was installed in the kitchen and my wife was happy to have won. I was also happy to have won… a new dishwasher.

Plant pots in the dishwasher
Washing pots in a dishwasher seems like a great idea.

Dishwasher One, Pots Zero

I took advantage of my wife’s absence (I wasn’t going to put dirty pots in “her” brand new dishwasher; she would have killed me!), and filled the dishwasher with dirty pots. Then I filled the detergent dispenser, set the timer to maximum power and heat and started the machine, satisfied with my investment.

Soon, however, the smell of burnt plastic reached my nose. With horror, I opened the dishwasher… to find my plastic pots in a total mess, thrown everywhere by the machine’s powerful nozzles. Some of them were melting on the heating element at the bottom of the machine. What a disaster!

Of course, I thoroughly cleaned up the machine, opened all the windows to get rid of the smell and hid any evidence of my crime. Soon, quite frankly, there was no trace of my failed experiment. Besides, if it hadn’t been for a friend who told my wife the story several years later (thank you Raymond), she would never have known.

Now, every time I see the #*$?%$# dishwasher, I curse myself. To have invested so much in an appliance that doesn’t even benefit me is truly the worst mistake of my life!

Pots à plantes dans une laveuse
If you can’t wash your pots in the dishwasher, why not use the washing machine?

Another Way to Wash Pots

Fortunately, I found another way to wash the pots. One day, I discovered that it’s quick and easy to wash plastic pots (but not clay ones, I’ll tell you that story another time) in the washing machine. It’s a real charm! But, for the love of Pete, don’t tell my wife!

Of course, as I predicted, now that we have a dishwasher, the kids don’t show the slightest sign of wanting to leave the house, and yet there are already two in their twenties. When I’m right, I’m right!

(And yes, despite the dishwasher, the three kids eventually left the house. Ed.)

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

13 comments on “The Worst Mistake of My Life!

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  2. marianwhit

    Great story! When I moved from the US to Canada I had hundreds of plastic pots I had paid good money for and used over and over. Not wanting to waste the plastic or the money, I spent days scrubbing every speck of organic debris from them and then soaking them in Clorox, being well aware of the phytosanitary risks of introducing unwanted plants and organisms into a new place. Customs never looked at them, but I knew they were spotless. This wonderful story is testimony to Larry’s inventiveness and humour. Thanks for sharing! 15 years later, I have not bought another pot, and they are still in use for a little inconvenience on my part.

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  5. Oh my!
    You know, I am a career nurseryman, but for what we grow, sanitation is not overly important. We sterilize only the flats for rooting cuttings. After that, everything gets unsterilized and even unwashed cans! I sterilize nothing for my own garden.

  6. Thank you for the wonderful Friday laugh – I will be looking at my dishwasher differently now too!

  7. Love this! For many reasons.

  8. Had a good chuckle over this. I had a similar incident but with a different appliance. A bumper crop of carrots and they needed washing. Some one said use the washing machine. Great idea except I did not adjust the spin function which was on high. Ended up with clean carrots but in assorted chunks. Lesson learned.

  9. I believe soaking the pots in a solution of vinegar and water would have eliminated much of the work of removing the scale! However, we would have missed the simple story which becomes entertaining due to your father’s ability to write a good story. Didn’t have the opportunity to read it in 1998, so happy to hear it now.

  10. Cindy Marks

    So very sorry to hear of Larry’s passing. A life so well led, a wellspring of great info, hopefully the peaceful ending he and family seemed to be working towards. Larry in heaven – I totally agree on the evils of dishwashers. Godspeed into green heavens.

  11. Granny Pat

    I’m so glad Mathieu that you are giving us a chance to learn more about your father’s personality and, in this case his sense of humour. It’s a lovely way to honour his memory and, today, a fun way to start the day.

  12. What a funny story. I’ve had my morning chuckle, which happens a lot with your dad’s posts. Keep them coming.

  13. sheila h bechert

    Love this story. Sorry for the passing of your father. His articles are a delight and I am happy to know that you are continuing in his gentle path.

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