Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gardening: The benefits (for a plant) of being first in line

So, I've often wondered why one plant thrives, and another, perhaps only a few feet away, experiencing the same care and light and soil and fertilizer, languishes or flat-out dies.

Today, a couple of hours spent with lettuce seedlings gave me part of the answer: The plants that I put in first are the ones that are destined to do well.

When I start planting, I do it right. I gently and apologetically loosen the rootbound. I pull away the mulch. I dig good generous holes. I space the plants in nice little triangular patterns. I get the hole depth just right, test-fitting and adding or removing soil. I firm the plant down and pull the mulch back, up to but not quite touching the stem. I water every few new plants in with a soft mist.

As the planting progresses, mulch preservation is abandoned. Holes are less carefully tailored. Correction of the rootbound is less a massage than an attack. Spacing is adjusted to cram in those last few plants.  Watering is delayed and then emphatic.

The shift today was sudden. I lovingly pulled the mulch over the previous perfectly-planted lettuce, dug the hole for the new one, and placed the tiny seedling in the hole. It was half a centimeter too high. I... encouraged it to fit.

That was, of course the moment when I should have stopped planting. I know this. But my enthusiasm for getting all the plants in the ground seems to last longer than my enthusiasm for getting them in right. I finished planting all the lettuce.

So if I'm wondering, in a few weeks, why the Salad Bowl lettuce isn't doing as well as the Speckled Baby Red? Remind me.

Image: By TalkingITGlobal. Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Hi, rambling chicken - thank you for your comment, I answered it at my blog. In your perfume blog I should ask: what do you think of Balenciaga, Paris? I just bought the small flacon, lovely. And surprise: Now my husband suddenly takes to the aforementioned "Ninfeo mio" by Annick Goutal - maybe men's taste differ from the time of the month we put it on? Britta

  2. Howdy, Britta! Thanks for stopping by!

    Sadly, I haven't sniffed Balenciaga Paris, so all I know is that I love the bottle. :) The reviews that I've read sound pretty positive, though. (And the notes sound like something I'd like.)

    And, ooh, Ninfeo mio also sounds really good. Bergamot, galbanum, bitter orange, wood, etc., etc., etc.... yum. Another theory about why he likes it might be the weather? Maybe it's just getting warm enough for a green like that to seem just right.

  3. I have that same problem with my tomatoes...The first ones in the row I planted are huge bushes...full of tomatoes...but the last 2 in the row look sad...I think part of it is my hose will not reach all the way to water them good too.

  4. Hey, Bo! Yep, that sounds about right, too. We broke down and piped irrigation everywhere, because I underwatered _everybody_. But when I've just planted, I do water them in by hand, and anything hard to reach gets cheated.