Sunday, March 21, 2010


Yesterday I got down and my mom's garden and in one of the raised beds in my yard. It was a day of planting, a day of putting in peas, lettuce, spinach and chard. It was a day of anticipation. Great things will come from those seeds.

The work of seeds is simply amazing. The tiny, inconspicuous, sometimes funny-looking bits of matter morph in positively startling ways. Years ago the hippie in many of us got us sprouting alfafa and bean seeds. How intriguing it was to watch the lessons we learned in biology classes unfold right in our kitchens on pieces of paper towel. We were treated to a peepshow of the miracles that occur under the soil's surface.

I thought about those miracles a lot yesterday, about the strength that will be required for a sprout to move aside the soil above it as it reaches for the sun. I thought a lot about the strength needed to push roots downward to set up the plant's foodlines. Made me curious, so I read a bit about roots. The Greeks and Romans figured out that roots provide plants food, alleging that they "eat" soil to get nutrients the plants need. I learned that roots will grow in any direction where there is the correct environment of air, nutrients and water. Roots grow downward, though, because of gravitropism.

Gravitropism is quite the cool concept. It means that roots grow down and stems grow up, because of the earth's gravitational pull. To demonstrate that, you can put a potted plant on its side and the plant will adjust itself so that it is growing "upward." It won't really bend, but just send new growth at a ninety degree angle from previous growth.

Astronauts checked out gravitropism by growing basil in conditions with minimal gravity (microgravity) in 2007. The plants grew correctly but didn't survive long, as their root systems got more moisture than they needed. School kids and teachers are invited to participate, after the fact, in this cool experiment at NASA's website.

Greeks, Romans, and astronauts: that's what yesterday's planting led to. It's fascinating to think about what goes on below the soil's surface and exhilarating to think about the miracles that are on their way, once those seeds sprout and pop through the surface. I'm in a state of glorious anticipation!

Heart-shaped bean leaves spring
brightly from the darkened earth.
Celebrate this birth.

from The Silence of Bright Star

1 comment:

  1. Your blog always makes me feel good and well informed after I read it.