Bee Mean to Me…

Love this post on how plants respond to too much coddling. Might have something there!

Want to be a better gardener?

Be a little mean.

You’ve seen trees growing out of the side of cliffs. Or a ground cover inching itself across bare rock. Or plants causing asphalt to heave and crack.

In much-less-than-perfect conditions, nature finds a way.

That’s something to consider as we prepare to plant seedlings outdoors or think of imaginative things to do with plants.

That’s even something to think about if we just grow plants indoors. More houseplants are killed through kindness (i.e. overwatering or overfertilizing) than through neglect.

In fact, being a little mean to your plants–all of them–can have its rewards.

When you’re overly kind to your plants–in other words, giving them lots of heat, fertilizer and water as soon as they look a little dry–here’s what happens: their growth cells become fat and turgid, their leaves and stems stretch and loll around, they put on a lot of green and forget about flowering and fruiting.

But ignore them, let them dry out until they wilt, put them in a chilly spot at night and–YIKES–you really get their attention. Their cell walls thicken and stiffen, they “hunker down” and become stockier and they turn their attention to reproduction (producing flowers and fruit) because they don’t know how long they’ll survive.

To get my indoor seedlings even readier for the sometimes cruel outdoors, I even train a fan on them for a few hours a day. That causes their leaves to flutter around and sends the message that they’d better brace themselves for tougher times.

If you’re a little mean to your fruiting plants outdoors, you’ll be well rewarded. They’ll taste better. Fruit that has to struggle in lean soil in droughty conditions will have a more concentrated taste. Wine producers know that. That’s why when it rains in November in vineyards, growers do anti-rain dances and scream at the clouds to scram.

The same goes for herbs. Most herbs love to bake in gritty soil under a sweltering sun and will reward you with intense flavors and an aroma that will make your head spin..

A gardener with a “mean” streak often has a better garden!


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