This year has been all about planting. When can we get started? When can we get started again? What if I never get done? Remind me again why I look forward to planting?
In the idle days between wind sprints of actual seed placement, my feverish mind dredged up a memory of corn planting from my fifth grade social studies class. With helpful pictures it showed how early American settlers learned from the locals how to grow this miraculously productive crop. Not only did they poke holes in the dirt for the seed corn, they would also bury a fish under the seed. As a landlocked Illinois farm boy, my entire knowledge of fish was Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks, so I remember thinking “good riddance.”
The locals also taught the uptight Puritans another shocking technique: planting two or three crops simultaneously in the same row. As the illustration only showed the process using corn, squash and beans, I tried to imagine unfortunate settler children sent out to harvest the beans, say in midsummer. Not only would they be flailing through tall corn plants, but also tripping over squash vines — all the while trying to pick beans for supper.
Those crops complemented each other and allowed more food to be grown on less ground. And I doubt few adult pioneers gave a hoot about juvenile struggles in the tangled mass of vegetation.
Assuming you’ve finished planting, these combinations could be an option next year:
- Add seeds of hope to any crop. This is not simple but offers huge payback. The seeds are tiny, and to germinate properly must be sown on someone else’s field. Above all, they should be added on the sly, so as to appear to be the product of the neighbor’s own efforts. Often just a brief word of encouragement, and reminder of past triumphs over adversity or an expression of confidence, can act like that pioneer succotash-mix to produce a surprisingly ample harvest.
- Scatter some seeds of inspiration. Unexpectedly large and planted practically on the surface, their appearance varies but all provoke strange thoughts. These seeds of inspiration are found in new environments such as other countries or even communities where inhabitants farm in different ways. They can also be found in books or websites, but it might take several visits to recognize the potential. Germination rates are low, so plant more than you need.
- Sift out the seeds of despair and failure. Usually off-color and rough, words filled with fear and foreboding can overwhelm any crop. Constantly check for them as you plant.
Clearly, value-added production is not entirely a modern invention. Studying historical planting methods could boost our satisfaction yields and diversify our chances of happiness.