Friday, 9 March 2012

Guest Post: Planternal instinct - by Kate Ginty

This post has presented a bit of a challenge for me. 

Reading through the ‘Guest Bed’ posts, it is easy to see why. Our relationship with gardening can be a rollercoaster of emotion, with heady highs of success and shattering lows of disappointment (usually in the form of pest and disease).

Initially I was going to write about gratitude. Since leaving my career and taking up a college place studying horticulture, this has featured predominantly in my psyche. Then again, so too have panic and doubt. Then it came to me as I was having a chat with a classmate about the joys of seed propagation. It was obvious to me I experience an emotional response to this plant process, but I don’t know what it is called. It may have a proper name, but in the meantime it shall be known as planternal instinct. I explain it below.

I recently sowed six varieties of chilli seeds. I popped them in the propagator and placed it on a south-facing windowsill. I gave each of the 18 seeds its own module, thinking some of the seeds might be a bit old and fail to germinate. In the past I put a few seeds in the same pot and was then faced with the decision to either kill off the weaker ones or rescue them all. I opted for the latter and recall spending half an hour staring at these sorry looking, wilted seedlings having detangled them from one another to put them into their own pots. It was touch and go for a while, but all made a good recovery. I wasn’t about to put myself through that again.    

To my delight and surprise, all of the seeds germinated. And which select few will I be potting off? I do not need the wisdom of Solomon to solve this quandary. All of them will be moving on to new containers. I want them all. I don’t care how big, inconvenient and demanding they become. The bond has formed and cannot be broken. These plants will bear the fruits of my seed packets. As far as I’m concerned Thompson & Morgan, Sea Spring Seeds and Unwins have played their brief part, but the responsibility for how these plants mature is down to me. I want them to make me proud and will do all that is in my power to nurture them into successful high yielding plants. I will protect them from the lurking monsters ready to pounce as soon as my back is turned. I will be waiting for you red spider mite and whitefly. Nobody puts baby in the corner. Not unless it has good natural light, with ideal humidity and first-rate ventilation.

I guess simply put, the emotion I am trying to describe is love. It is the hub of our emotional bond with plants, as without it we wouldn’t care so much when things do well or badly. I have been told I will have to become ruthless if I end up propagating professionally. There’s no sentiment to be had in the business of nursery stock production. I have no problem with that. Our decision processes at work are often different to those we employ at home. At home we are more emotionally invested and in my domestic environment, all my seeds will be given a chance.


Kate's post is the latest in the series of guest posts in my ever cosy bed. Kate has taken the bold and brave step of leaving a high flying legal career to find herself in nature through a horticulture course, or in actual fact just ride big machinery all day long. You can read more about her shenanigans on her website

If you want to indulge in the emotional depths of others, then snuggle up with the other gardeners over in the guest bed

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The Hapless Kitchen Gardener

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I only feel hapless because some people make it look easy to grow 10 ft marrows or a banquet of greens whereas my courgettes got nabbed by killer slugs and I only got one raspberry. So tips and stories from people less hapless than I are more than welcome. As a disclaimer though, none of my comments should be taken as expert advice on which you can rely! © Unless stated otherwise, and with the exception of guest content where that guest retains copyright, all photos and posts are the copyright of Tom Carpen and may not be used without permission.