Science Cant Explain Everything!
You will know that if you have spent at least some time reflecting on the world around you, some things cannot be explained in purely scientific terms. Armies of scientists and researchers swarm in labs around the world trying to take the mystery out of every bit of wonder we witness.
What is it that attracts us to a future partner? Scientists will say...tiny, odour sensors in our noses!
What causes shimmering lights in the night sky? Scientists say...sun spots affecting the earth's electromagnetic field.
It is true (I guess) that those things come about due to some sort of cause and effect from physical laws we have devised.
But it takes so much of the magic and mystery out of our lives.
Maybe it's a sunspot...but can I see a sunspot and predict the result? No I can't...All I can see is the mystery and beauty of the results. Can't I just spend some time enjoying the wonder of it?
If I managed to see my future partner across a crowded room and feel an instant 'twinge' does it make it any less magic? Is it worth reflecting on how, despite being born at opposite ends of the earth, we found ourselves in the same place and time at a random event that saw two worlds collide? I think it is. Because no event is a result of just one other event. It is always a combination of physical law and mysterious circumstance.
So is it so surprising that we can divine mysterious things in our gardens?
Take the case of companion planting, particularly in a vegetable garden. Companion planting is when the health and yields of particular plants can be improved by planting specific other plants near them. For instance, peas love being near beans, corn, carrots and cucumbers, but really hate being near onions. Potatoes enjoy the company of beans, peas and cabbage but are unhappy near tomatoes.
Any number of botanists will tell you that there are 'reasons' for this. Some attract the sort of bugs another needs, some have a scent that disturbs the progress of others. But wait a second...doesn't this sound just a little bit like personality?
Is it not possible that some plants just generally get along better with others because... what? They get what they need from them? They enjoy their company? Sound like another species you might be familiar with??
Companion planting is not considered 'scientific' because the results are not consistent and not always provable. Companion guidelines are based on observation and anecdote. Some combinations work better in the northern hemisphere than the southern hemisphere (True! Well, at least, anecdotally it's true). Some plants react contrary to expectations. But could that be due to something else??
The difference between male, female and neutral plants can be startling. You will know yourself that sometimes, two plants started at the same time or from the same magnificent parent plant will turn out completely differently. So now, not only do we have to contend with personality, we have to contend with the sex of a plant.
I know what you're thinking. Well, I think I know what you're thinking...how do you tell the sex of a plant? It's very unscientific, but so far, pretty reliable in its results. Hold a pendulum over the plant. This can be a needle on a thread, a seashell on fishing tackle, a necklace, whatever. The pendulum will move of it's own accord to indicate the sex of the plant.
Try it. The really healthy plants will be female (positive). They will make the pendulum move in a clockwise circle over the top of it. The male (negative) plant will make the pendulum move from side to side. If the pendulum doesn't move at all, the plant is neutral or the soil is lifeless. Forget it. Nothing is going to come out of that.
It's called dowsing and is the same method that has people finding water using a Y shaped pointed stick. Scientific? Nope. Does that mean it doesn't work? Not at all.
So here we are with two startling propositions. That your vegetable plants have both a sex and a personality that will determine at least in part, how they turn out despite your input. Geez, that's starting to sound a lot like my kids! (who will turn out very different from me, despite the magnificent parenting stock!!)
What does it mean for you as a gardener? The same thing it means for you as a parent.
Nurture your plants. Give them everything you think they will need to succeed.
Read advice books as required, but understand that observation will be your best guide.
Do not despair. Do not give up. It's about the journey, not the destination.
Understand that not all things can be understood. Sometimes, it's just the wonder of nature.
Judy Williams (www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com">http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com) splits her time between being a big time media executive and alternative lifestyle earth mother. This accurately reflects her split 'Gemini' nature. She refuses to give up on the notion she can have it all.