Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The myth of the black thumb

(Note: This was actually written in the spring but it got put off. It's still applicable, though)

I just spent a few hours in my sister's greenhouse. She's still got some tomatoes that she hasn't put out.

The interesting thing there is that the tomatoes were all planted at the same time and in the same way. From the same packages even. But her tomatoes are about three inches tall (or less) and mine are a foot tall and some have blossoms already. Well to be honest, it's the climbing tomato that has blossoms. It's a slow grower so I started it in January--it had better be further along than the others!

I'm not sure what the difference is. Maybe soil, maybe sun. Or that black thumb she keeps complaining about.

Although I'm not certain I really believe in a black thumb. My thumb's black every time I stick it in the dirt.

That was a joke, by the way.

Some people are said to be able to make anything grow, but in reality that's not the case. Some people are just lucky enough to find the group of plants that their particular brand of neglect works for.

Personally I'm in the mid-range. I kill anything that needs a lot of water and care (such as orchids or bamboo) and anything that needs very little water (such as cacti). Oh, and anything that needs to be fertilized regularly. If it can stand being watered once a week and ignored the rest of the time, it grows. I think some people do better with orchids and bamboo because they have the urge to water too much, and others do better with cacti because they forget to water at all.

Then there's the last group, who can't decide. I think this is the group that complains the worst about the black thumb because they'll water every day for a while, then stop, then realize they haven't watered for a month and try to compensate by over-watering and over-fertilizing. Then the watering tapers off (although oh, I forgot, I'll sprinkle some fertilizer, but then forget to water it in) so the plants go through this helpless neglect cycle of drought and plenty and the plants get confused.

There are plants out there that can survive this way, but they're generally not the tropical or semi-tropical greens that we surround ourselves with as indoor plants.

As far as landscape plants, I believe in casual neglect. I plant a lot of different things, and whatever survives I buy more of. Or divide and spread, but again that's a different topic.

I love perenials. :)

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