Some plants will grow, whatever you do to them. They have long tap roots, or winding ones, that reach long or wide under the ground. Even when you try to dig them up, they have a tendency to come back. Gardeners refer to most of these plants as ‘weeds’. They are the bane of my allotment life, because if I don’t deal with them they will take over from the flowers, vegetables and fruit that I want to grow. They will eat up all the nutrients from the soil, and shade out my plants.
Other plants are tough, but you have to treat them a bit more sensitively to get the best out of them. Potatoes are a case in point. You could just stick your seed potatoes in the ground and they would probably grow. But you’re better to chit them first, add plenty of compost or manure to the soil, and then earth them up as they grow to stop the potatoes going green. If they go green, they are poisonous and inedible. Did you know that potato is a member of the Solanaceae family, which also includes tomatoes and deadly nightshade? (If you look at the flowers of a tomato or a potato plant, this gives you a great clue.)
Yet other plants are much more sensitive. They have tiny weeny seeds, or they get attacked by pests very easily. You have to take an awful lot of care if you want them to grow well, or even at all. I have found this to be the case with carrots. They’re not exactly hard to grow, but they sure do benefit from lots of extra attention. The seeds are tiny, so it’s difficult to sow them thinly. If you thin them out, the carrot fly smells what you are doing, and comes to lay its eggs on the soil. When the larvae hatch, they burrow down into your carrots and ‘hey presto!’ your entire crop is ruined. So, I know from experience that I will need to cover my carrots with fleece once they germinate, to keep the carrot flies off. And even before that, I have had to surround them with netting, to stop the chickens from scratching the soil and spreading them around.
Now, I could look at my carrots and shout there are no excuses for failure! I could insist that they attain a growth mindset or develop grit and resilience. But hey, that’s pretty pointless with a seed as sensitive as this one. Just like children, seeds come in all shapes and sizes. Yes, I have a fixed end result in mind – I want great vegetables to eat. But I must be flexible in the way that I get my different seeds to grow. This is categorically not about me being inconsistent. It is about me reacting to different needs with different approaches. And it is me as a gardener (just as I do when I’m a teacher) sowing my seeds with love.