Confessions of a helicopter gardener

There’s a lot of talk about helicopter parenting.

Apparently, modern kids lack resilience and self-motivation because of parents who micro-manage their lives and cushion them against failure.

With my own kids, I reckon I’m pretty good. We’re all about embracing mistakes and failure. I routinely tell them boredom is a gift that leads to inspiration and is certainly not my problem. And I have been known to call the “waaaambulance” if anyone’s turning on the sooks.

But I recently realised that while I’m building resilience in my kids, I’m guilty of helicopter gardening.

How did this happen? I think it started with lettuce.

Apart from one summer a few years ago, I’ve been unable to grow lettuce from seed. Along with radishes, lettuce is surely among the Gardening 101 book of sure things. But no. Time after time I find myself back at the nursery buying seedling punnets.

punnetsDeciding this was a ridiculous situation, I started sowing the seeds in punnets instead of directly into the garden. And it worked!

So I tried it with carrots, which are a definite punnet non-no, and they kind of worked – in so much as a gnarly, stunted carrot is better than no carrot.

Next it was onions. But when they stopped growing after transplant, I simply kept the next batch in their punnet an extra month. I’ve yet to see how they transplant, but they look so cosy where they are. Kind of like a 30-year-old who won’t leave home.

The punnet strategy has also been applied with mixed success to the Bloomsdale Spinach, although I can not for the life of me coax a lemon balm seed out of it’s shell.

So, am I doing the right thing or am I depriving these little beings the chance to really take root and grow? Should I be exposing them to the dangers of the open garden beds sooner?weak-pea

Broadbeans and peas seem to be the only things to grow happily from directly planted seeds, although even the peas seem to suffer from spindly, unsupportive stems. They remind me of catwalk models; apparently lovely from a distance, but not much holding them up when you look a little closer. A strong gust of wind and over they go.
Fennel has also proven a pleasant surprise. According to my tome on companion planting, fennel is the garden loner. So I tried out a few seeds in individual pots and up they’ve come. High five!

high-five-fennelThe other place where directly planted seeds do what they should has been in my 6-year-old son’s raised garden bed (pictured above). He’s harvested radish, carrots and lettuce so far. Even the peas and broadbeans are looking good.

So it has me thinking that perhaps there are some subterranean terrorists stealing from my garden beds. Some investigation is in order, followed up by a determination to toughen up and foster more independence in my baby plants. Time to stop hiding behind the shortsighted reassurance of punnets and properly face the challenges of gardening. Build resilience from the ground up, so to speak.

Taking the first steps into my new tough love approach, I tilledΒ a section of garden bed, fed the soil with Dynamic Lifter and cow manure and, with a sprinkling of seed raiser, have sown beetroot, carrot and radishes.

And a few carrot seeds in punnets, too. Just as a back up.

“A garden requires patient labour and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.”

-Liberty Hyde Bailey


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