Do Our Plants Know That We Love Them
Many of you may regard the notion that we can have a kind of loving relationship with our plants as a bit odd, but in many ways this is a kind of natural idea to think about. We are certainly here with them on the Earth in a kind of symbiotic union. We breathe in oxygen and produce carbon dioxide. Plants breath in carbon dioxide and breath out oxygen. When they grow old we burn our plants and produce carbon dioxide which is then naturally returned to the process of new plant growth. The plants absorb the carbon and release the oxygen. When we cultivate plants in a garden they produce edible parts that we can eat, digest and that too becomes part of the carbon cycle as we derive metabolic energy from the combustion of the edible carbon from the plant and give back the carbon dioxide that is produced so that new plants will use it. We do well when plants do well and the reciprocal of that idea is also true. So maybe it’s natural to feel a kind of relationship with our plants.
Our plants stay in one place and don’t move around very much. We can help them to meet their purposes by caring for them as they grow and age. Certainly in gardens we can get them to effectively produce more and larger edible parts and thrive by the care we give the plant.
I’ve got this wonderful Roma tomato plant which is now nearly eight months old, which is fairly long by tomato plant standards. It keeps giving out new growth and new tomatoes. It’s already produced hundreds and shows few signs of giving up the ghost. It loves a haircut now and then. I trim away the dead or dying branches and it immediately puts out new growth, and new flowers which then turn into big flavorful tomatoes. It does well surrounded by other plants which give off odors that may repel the wrong kinds of insects. African marigolds and rosemary planted in pots and moved nearby seem to be particularly effective. In fact, I know that sprigs of rosemary the ooze oil of rosemary so avidly that you can’t get it off your fingers will send insects scurrying in the opposite direction.
Today I gave my prize Roma tomato plant a nice haircut. It seems better already. The other tomato plants get the same treatment and they are doing quite well also. In the case of pole beans planted so that they move up some kind of trellis, moving the runners back into line seems to help them gain a more orderly existence. While I cannot attribute their later success to some kind of conscious amorous response, it is an interesting thought. Order to these plants is useful in providing maximum contact of the leaves with the sun and thereby more effective photosynthesis. Why wouldn’t the plant feel happy and grateful for it’s human guidance. But perhaps as I sit in the midst of all this wonder in my garden and adjust the vines, provide the water and the care for their orderly growth and existence, it’s all one sided. It’s just something I enjoy, but being human I attribute to it some kind or orderly human-like response from the plants. It’s true they are alive, they have an orderly existence and while it’s fun and a natural thing for me to do attributing and human-like emotional response toward me for the care I give them, perhaps I am reaching just a bit — just a bit.
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Richard A. Hudson is a writer, reader and blogger committed to exercise, proper nutrition and health. He’s interested in politics, economics, alternative energy, gardening and sustainability and has written brief essays on many of these topics on his bloghttp://richlynne.wordpress.com. Despite his generally positive and optimistic views about globalization, he wonders whether we will survive current destructive forces that increasingly promote warfare among political and social classes. He is also beginning to think about the declining influence of the know-it-all baby boomer generation just as the next generation born in the 60s begins to slowly stumble into a dominant position in the U.S.
He received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago (1966) and subsequently spent 42 years in academics, gradually developing all sorts of interests well beyond his basic training. He ended his academic career in 2008, having published about 100 scientific papers, reviews and commentaries. In his last several years in the academy, his role as Dean of the Graduate School afforded him many opportunities to interact with students from all over the world seeking graduate degrees.