It appears my thumbs are looking greener these days.
I was gifted with the perfect south-facing patio space for a container garden this spring, and realized I could save some money by growing my own veggies. Or at least encourage myself to eat more of them! So I have given it a shot. So far I have only harvested one (1!) strawberry- a rather small and slightly mishapen one at that- and several green onions and scallions. I’m still figuring out how to use my peppermint more in my cooking (FYI- NEVER did I ever think I would end up enjoying cooking…), but it is flourishing as any other mint with good sunlight does.
I expected to learn A LOT about germination, pollination, setting fruit, fertilizer, soil pH, mulch, and different plant varieties grown here in the South. But that was kind of obvious, don’t you think?
What I didn’t expect were the broader, more universal lessons I would learn simply by taking a seed and turning into a plant:
- There Are No Absolutes in Life: You know those instructions on the back of the “guaranteed to grow” seed packets? The ones I started out very, shall we say, “anal” about? They are a guide-NOT an instruction manual for installing new software! Each and every plant that is growing out on my patio, or germinating on my windowsill, required much additional research. And what I quickly found was a wealth of information on each plant, but 90% of the time different sources disagreed (often greatly!) over how to raise the exact same plant! While some things were important to know before planting (such as amount of sunlight, watering needs…), other things came from simply working hard and being attentive. I know how I start my seedlings. I know how I keep my tomato plant from drying out. I know how to keep the birds off of my strawberry plant. But I DO NOT know if these tricks would work or even be helpful to you. Plants are living things- they can’t be 100% predictable. That is part of their beauty.
- Where does my food come from?: This has less to do with the physical location of the plants and more to do with how they are grown. I have personally decided to go the organic route- I have good access to free worm castings from my dad’s vermicomposting, and I can’t really afford Miracle Grow. As near as I can tell, the worm castings work better anyways. But as I picked my first (and probably only, since it is a new plant) strawberry to eat, I was surprised how reassuring it was to know that it was watered using only captured rainwater and fed using only natural compost. I never really worried about the chemicals in my food before I began gardening, with the exception of hormones in milk or poor tasting tomatoes. Now I see a fruit or veggie in the store and I wonder how much junk is in that thing that is NOT supposed to go in my body???? On some level, of course, I always knew that most fruits and veggies have a high water content, but I never fully made the connection between the water in the fruit, and the water the plant uses to create that fruit. Grocery store foods are probably mostly safe- I am not claiming otherwise. It just finally occurred to me that everything that the plant grows in has the potential to end up in the produce.
- Life is Amazing: Just watching a seed turn into a seedling is enough to open your eyes to how cool life on this planet really is. I looked at a packet of 10 year old expired snow pea seeds and decided I would plant them anyways, just to see what would happen. I didn’t think they would grow- I was still going by the supposed “absolute” rules that stated the seeds would NEVER sprout after sitting around so long. Indeed, I waited several weeks and saw no sprouts. I decided I needed to use the pot they were in for something that actually would grow, so the next day I went out to recycle the soil. I stopped short; what I saw were four 1″ tall seedlings that had sprouted overnight! Not only did they actually sprout, they were strikingly healthy and grew rapidly. They were all transplanted to a bigger box with some bamboo for a trellis, with the expectation that out of the four, only one or two would actually make it. All four seedlings are now one foot tall, and rapidly climbing happily up their new trellis. Religion is not the lesson I am necessarily trying to get across here- it is more about an appreciation for living things, their resilience, and the importance of having faith even when something is supposed to go wrong.
- Change is Necessary For Growth: A seed starts out as a little round, hard dot. In order to become a plant it must change form; it must put out roots and a set of leaves to gather nutrition. For that seedling to grow into a full-fledged plant, that cute little pair of leaves must be replaced with bigger, better leaves, a stronger stem, deeper roots. By the time the plant is a plant, it has changed in so many ways it is unbelievable. It has occurred to me that we are that way too. How can you grow into someone better if you don’t change? Change is necessary: by definition, something that has grown, whether physically or intellectually or spiritually, has changed. You can’t keep doing the same thing day after day and expect to grow as a person- you have to change something.
- I am More of a Tree-Huger Than I Ever Realized: By this I mean not just that I care more for the environment because I have a greater appreciation for the growth of plants, but also that I have learned things about myself through the process of learning. There are more sides to me than even I realized, and trying something new and challenging helped me discover new facets of my own personality.
I suppose the moral of this story is try something new. Preferably something that will help out the environment a little in the process!
and HAPPY (belated) EARTH DAY!!!