Thursday, April 10, 2008

“Our virtues are most often but our vices disguised” François de la Rochefoucauld (Author, 1613-1680). If you’ve had a job interview or assessment centre in recent times, you will know that it's now fashionable to explain to your prospective employers how your weaknesses are also—rather surprisingly, you might think—your strengths. Impatience is definitely one of my failings but I would, if faced by a stern interviewing panel, plead that this affliction gives me a certain drive, which gets things done. And recently, I’ve been very impatient that seeds I’ve planted haven’t worked!

Our animals have (touch wood) always been a success story: they pretty much get on with it themselves and our duties have been to provide housing, fencing and food and they do the rest themselves. Vegetables have been a different matter altogether. It’s truly a miracle how the tiniest of seeds sprouts and grows, yet how quickly a sturdy courgette seeding is felled by a slug and a vigorous tomato plant wilted by mildew. I’d bought some Siberian Pea Shrub, Bladder Senna and Gorse seeds from the Agroforestry Research Trust, shoved them into some potting compost and impatiently waited for something to happen … which it conspicuously didn’t. Martin Crawford of the ART has been very patient and helpful and recommended Peter Thompson’s Creative Propagation, wherein I learnt that some seeds need a helping hand to get started.

Do you, like me, wonder why a seed needs to be either scarified or stratified before it bursts into life? Does Mother Nature not want her progeny to reproduce? The example that made sense for me were the seeds of plants that would regenerate the landscape after a forest fire: the seeds literally need to undergo a baptism of fire before they wake up.

So, after much impatience, pain and impotence, I read that the seeds of the aforementioned Siberian Pea Shrub, Bladder Senna and Gorse all need scarifying and I am pleased to bring you another episode of Permaculture Vision, as supplied by the “Blind-Leading-the-Blind” production company, ably assisted by the “It’s-the-First-Time-I’ve-Done-This-and-I-Don’t-Really-Know-What-I’m-Doing” editorial team, which will (almost) show you the different methods of scarification. I think that splitting the atom must have been easier than this! (And by the way, sorry for the monotone voice and wooden presentation, I clearly don't have a future in TV!)