Water. We all need it. Plants, insects, animals, humans – without water, we would perish very quickly. But have you ever stopped to think about how exactly water plays its part in the growth of green plants?
Water dissolves plant nutrients in the soil. Nearly all of the nutrients necessary for plants to survive and thrive are in a solid form unable to be absorbed by a plant’s roots. When these nutrients become immersed in water, the water molecules surround the nutrient molecules (i.e. dissolution) rendering them more readily able to pass into plant roots to then be transported to every living cell that makes up that plant’s structure
Water plays an important role in plant biological activities. We all know that photosynthesis occurs when light strikes the chloroplasts in plant cells, but water is also necessary for this important chemical process to occur, as shown in the chemical equation below.
6CO2 +6H2O → C6H12O6 + 6O2
Water is also necessary for building and breaking down DNA and various plant proteins.
Water is important as a source of hydrogen. Plants cannot absorb hydrogen from the atmosphere. They can only get the hydrogen they need through the water in the soil.
Water is needed to keep plants cool. Without water, a hot dunny summer day would be the finish of most, if not all plant life on this planet.
In nature, plants get the water they need from rain, snow, surface drainage water, and underground water. In our gardens, we need to supply the majority of the water that plants need, as rain, underground water, and surface drainage water on their own can’t supply enough to meet the plants’ needs. And garden plants don’t grow in snow. So remember this the next time you pour water out of a can or turn the hose on your garden plants. You’re not just giving the plants a drink. You are sustaining the biochemistry that is the very foundation of plant life.
“You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”
-from The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
Mistakes. We all make them. All of us. Every one of us has done something we later wish we hadn’t; not done something we later wish we had; or executed an action that seemed to be right at the time, but later proved to be wrong. And so on and so on. And few places are as wrought with the consequences of wrong action as in our very own gardens.
How do we make mistakes in the garden? Let me count the ways.
- We get overly ambitious and try to plant beyond our degree of experience, and wind up overwhelmed
- We plant something without researching it first, only to find that it fails to grow or grows so well that it crowds out the rest of your vegetables
- We don’t properly prepare our soil before planting
- We fail to protect our crops from marauding critters that eat everything down to the roots
- We plant our garden where there is not enough sunlight
- We plant our crops too close together, which causes mold and fungus to attack our plants and either kill them outright or severely reduce the yield we get from them
I’m sure we’re all familiar with these, and I’m sure some of you are familiar with more of these than you care to admit. Some of us, especially the beginners, are apt to feel disappointed, dejected, or even outright humiliated when our hard work comes to naught. Some of us might feel so awful that we’re ready to throw in the trowel and never garden again. Well, don’t. One mistake, one failure, does not define you as a black-thumb gardener.
A very wise man once said to me, “If you’ve never been fired, it means that you never try anything new.” In a similar vein, if you never fail at anything, it means that you never attempt anything new – never try to stretch beyond your comfort zone. And this also holds true in gardening. If you’ve never had a gardening failure, it means that you never attempt anything innovative in your gardening efforts. So don’t waste time lamenting your so-called failure. Take some time to curl up and lick your wounds, if you must. Then give yourself a hearty pat on the back for attempting something new – whether that’s a brand new garden or a brand new plant in an existing garden. Then, and this is the important part, try to figure out where things went off the rails. There is a solution to every gardening problem, and with enough investigation and soul-searching, you’ll find it. Yes, you made a mistake or two, but you made it for all the right reasons. And you’ll be far more knowledgeable and savvy than the timid one who never fails but never grows beyond the confining dimensions of his or her comfort zone.