A long and winding post about planting, seeking and growing, for which I make no apology!

On the upside, there are pictures.

Popular psychology related to goal setting often mentions that for something to come into being, one has to visualise it.

That is only half the story. What you really have to do is visualise something and then wait.

Waiting is crucial to the outcome. This means that you have to exercise patience. While waiting, you do other things, to allow space for what you have visualised to grow.

Last week, I bought a butternut squash at the local market. If you want to laugh for seven minutes, watch this video on how to prepare butternut. Needless to say, I used none of these methods. I bought the biggest butternut at the stall because I wanted the seeds. I washed the seeds, and soaked them in a jar of water for a couple of days, and removed the seeds that floated to the top, since those ones will not germinate. Once dry, they were ready to plant. And this is where the visualisation comes into play.

I wanted to plant the seeds in plastic flowerpots about 8cm high. No whim, but a decision after I had to plant out root-bound spaghetti squash a little earlier than common sense told me. This year, I have considerably increased the space to cultivate vegetables in my own garden, and have also started a co-operative project at another plot. This meant that during the spring rush, I soon ran out of suitable things in which to plant seeds for seedlings. Hence squashing the spaghetti squash in an unsuitable seedling tray. For those of you who don’t know, root-bound plants stop growing, and eventually die.

So you think, having visualised the 8cm flowerpots, that the simple solution is to buy them. Well, I live in a village, and such things are not available here (or were not when I looked), and I don’t plan to go to the nearest town merely in search of flowerpots! Every time I passed the butternut seeds laid out on the second kitchen table masquerading as a greenhouse, however, my mind’s eye saw them (or at least some of them) in a whole lot of little pots.

So there I was on Friday afternoon earnestly digging away at the other plot, preparing a very much bigger Hügelkultur (5x2mx30-40cm) than the one in my own garden, when I saw a pile of old plastic pots hidden in the overgrowth nearby. At the end of my vigorous bout of digging, I removed all the pots from the bushes, and sorted through them to extract all the little ones. Since I have taken several days to write this blog, I now have a picture featuring the shallow pit and the pile of flowerpots. The truncated version of what passes for thought when I am gardening was “See, they came to me”, which is rather ironic, given the mammoth task of digging I had set myself:

Pile of disused flowerpots in foreground of shallow pit for the Hügelkultur bed. They have soil in them, which I shall throw into the mix of vegetative matter in the pit.

Perhaps I should unpack that “See, they came to me”. We are familiar with “seek and ye shall find”, which has an established place in secular speech. I have suddenly remembered that my mother said this to me once when I was about eight or nine, as I attempted to look up a word in the dictionary, but that is a slightly different matter, which involves spelling. True seeking does not involve spelling. I have observed a common misconception that to seek for something, one needs to physically look for it. My experience tells me otherwise.

And, many years ago, so did my favourite aunt, who described herself as a “truth-seeker”, which is as mystical as it sounds. I was seeking some sort of balm for my tormented teenage soul, and she interjected, “Yes, but have you asked for it?”, thus introducing me to the wonders of point-counterpoint, and dualities in wider existence. Not bad for someone who the rest of the family saw as a rather odd vegetarian, who received no more than the usual amount of schooling common in her day.

“Look it up”, she said. And there in Matthew 7:7-8, we see that “seek and ye shall find” has other essential components, which apart from being biblical, are considered pretty much universal truths — or truths of the universe — by those who know so much more than I.

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Matthew 7:7-8 King James Version (KJV)

There is also an order to this whole seeking business, and this was what my aunt was on about: you need to ask, then seek, and then nudge with a knock, as if knocking on a door. Then, all things being well, you gain access to finding and receiving. It really is such a pity that most of us are such slow learners, but again, that is an entirely different subject to the one of this blog.

So, now that I had those flowerpots in my grubby hands (and yes, touching the flowerpots made my hands grubby), I had to do something with them: plant the butternut seeds.

I might well earn the title in time of being the mad pumpkin woman, but I will let you into a little secret: pumpkin seeds of all types like to be planted in pairs. This has less to do with hedging one’s bets, and more to do with the preference of pumpkins. You can laugh, if you like.

So the eighteen flowerpots below contain thirty-six seeds. The substrate contains a mixture of purchased eco-friendly potting soil, someone else’s natural compost, a bit of my own, and coffee grounds. This method would fall into the category of intuitive gardening, more closely aligned with wacky theories of what happens in the cosmos than any scientific, biological principles, but, hey, it works for me.

Neat little rows ignoring the chaos behind the photographer

Up till now, this post has been all about the butternuts. To get them into the mini-greenhouse I constructed for tomato seedlings a while ago, I had to pot the tomato plants, for they had all taken in their communal fruit crate, and now needed space as individual plants to grow. Two constraints presented themselves: I had a finite amount of suitable potting soil, and no more pots. I mentioned it in a previous blog, but reiterate here, that making seedling cups out of newspaper works very well, and urge all gardeners to overcome their boredom while making them, and simply get on with the job. Newspaper ink in the EU contains no noxious chemicals, by the way. Explanatory video here.

So, I set about making seedling pots. Slightly more than half the ones you can see on the table in the image below were made and filled and planted in the course of one day. It was a tiring business, so I interrupted the activity, and put my leftover butternut and barley soup on the boil, and sustained myself throughout.

Newspaper pots for 62 tomato, 12 repotted chillii, 6 roma tomato, some couregette and pumpkin and three precocious, second-wave bean seedlings. In the foreground, little sweet-potato vines. More wicking trays required.

Some earlier tomato transplants are doing well, and now begins the visualisation of where—in my home garden and at the plot — all these beauties will go.

The newspaper acts as wicking, and keeps the potting soil suitably moist

I took a break at some point during the day to weed a bit of vegetable bed outside where chilli plants had failed to materialise, and planted seven tomato plants under movable cover, and mulched them well with strands of old basket weave. I also made encouraging noises to my little row of carrots.

Young tomato plants under cover; purposely unthinned carrots still alive. I weed when I can, or when I must.

I bet you have forgotten about the butternut seeds in their pots. Well, I had not. Once the last viable tomato seeding had been potted in a newspaper cup and, coincidentally, I had finished all available potting soil, I set about cleaning the crate (and here cleaning is a relative concept), inserted the pots and secured the plastic around my already-fashioned structure to create a mini polytunnel.

Butternut polytunnel with a view of grass I need to slash.

My earlier bout of vigorous weeding brought to mind my dad’s old gardener, who used a large old screwdriver with soil-coloured rags wrapped around what used to be the handle for weeding. He used the same implement for years. While I cannot sit on my haunches for hours as he could, I decided I needed something similar to occupy myself during my breaks, so made a handle for a bit of thin rebar. I do not have a drill, so boring a hole into which to bang the rebar was suitably slow.

I bored a hole 4cm deep into the handle. It seemed enough, since I have used the tool since, and it has not fallen apart.

The boring bit was mopping the kitchen floor and tidying up afterwards. Part of the process, I guess.

Yesterday, the woman at the café offered me a large bag of coffee grounds. She remarked that she was looking forward to receiving a few pumpkins. I assured her that she was already on my list of recipients, but that she would have to wait a few months. Now, a whole new process of visualisation starts to help those abundant pumpkins into being.

As I left the café, I noticed that a box of old drinking glasses had been placed near the rubbish bin. Ooh! V-necked beer glasses perfect for growing sweet-potato vines in! Luckily my waistcoat has plenty of capacious pockets. You see, I had been wondering what to do about that, and the answer came to me in physical form. Just like that. Seek, and ye shall find it quite close to where you are.

– ©2019 Allison Wright —

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