There have been many discoveries and rediscoveries for me as I make my foray back into the world of plants and soil. To be frank, the foray is becoming more serious and I have even been chitting potatoes on the windowsill in our cool kitchen cubbyhole for several weeks now. The glory of having hands on soil and being able to make something of it is a DELIGHT.
I can accept I have not yet reached the level of dedication my Mother shows to her seedlings. I have been told that their bathroom has provided the ideal warm, slightly humid, and sunny position for the germination of 20 or so tomato plants. Which is wonderful because I can now write that this is certainly the first time my Mother has had voracious Black Russians in her bathroom. I think.
By the way, is it too late to note that in the grand scheme of things – even in the quite small scheme of things – I know very little about plants or words?
So, whilst I can’t compete with my Mum’s gardening devotion, through the growing of seedlings I can start to understand my Father’s appreciation of words. I don’t think I have introduced my Dad on the blog before. Dad is not a gardener though he loves the outside world and grew up chasing streams and running about in woodland out in the sticks in Kent. Dad is practical and quiet and enjoys knowing things. And Dad loves words. Dad would read the latin in church graveyards on family holidays to us (admittedly you don’t need to know a huge variety of latin words for this, most people write the same kind of thing on their gravestones). A game of Boggle would turn into an etymology lesson, and most games of Scrabble were infuriatingly won by Dad using made up words that only he and the Dictionary knew. On the other hand, it took me until my teens to realise that my own versions of spelled words were not sufficient for the world if I actually wanted to be able to communicate. I had to relent and conform.
So now, Dad, I set you a challenge. Where the heck does the word “chit” come from?? I am merrily chitting my potatoes on the windowsill without a care in the world but cannot explain to anyone why this process is called chitting! In fact, every time I write the word “chit” or “chitting” on this post the computer changes the wretched word to “chat” or “chatting”. This is getting more frustrating by the minute!!
Another phrase I have come to love is to “harden off”. At the moment I am hardening off my Sweet Peas outside the greenhouse. This is a phrase that does make sense as it describes a process of standing potted seedlings outside on their way from the warm greenhouse to the cooler earth outside. The roots and whole plant should be well adjusted to day and nighttime temperatures before set into the soil where they can mature. If this doesn’t happen the risk is the plants will suffer shock and not take to the soil well. I am all for healthy plants!
Whilst I am an avid supporter of hardening off, I can’t say I’ve been too keen to do much with the “pricking out” process. This is mainly due to lack of time and insufficient pots/trays in which to prick out into. “Pricking out” is another little used phrase in general life – it is a term used to describe the action of lifting out healthy seedlings from their nursery compost tray where they first germinated and moving them into more spacious pots. This is again a temporary measure as once the seedlings have filled their new pots they are transplanted into the soil outside (once they’ve been hardened off). During the pricking out process you can also cull (or give away) any seedlings that are weak or not needed.
The last word goes to cotyledon. What a lovely word that just in the way it looks seems special and slightly fascinating. These are the first leaves to emerge from the soil when you have planted a seed. The cotyledon are usually a pair of oval blob shaped leaves that bear very little resemblance to the mature leaves of the plant. But they declare life! And successful germination!