You will know that if you have spent at least some time reflecting on the world around you, it might seem as if some things cannot be explained in purely scientific terms.
Armies of scientists and researchers swarm in labs around the world trying to take the mystery out of every bit of wonder we witness.
What is it that attracts us to a future partner? Scientists will say...tiny, odour sensors in our noses! What causes shimmering lights in the night sky? Scientists say...sun spots affecting the earth's electromagnetic field.
So we take it as true that those things come about due to some sort of cause and effect from physical laws we have devised.
So is there no such thing as magic and mystery in our lives?
If I managed to see my future partner across a crowded room and feel an instant 'twinge' does it make it any less magic?
Is it worth reflecting on how, despite being born at opposite ends of the earth, we found ourselves in the same place and time at a random event that saw two worlds collide?
I think it is, because no event is a result of just one other event. It is always a combination of physical law and in our minds at least, mysterious circumstances.
So is it so surprising that since time began, people have devised ways whereby they believe we can divine mysterious things in our gardens?
Take the case of companion planting, particularly in a vegetable garden. Companion planting is when the health and yields of particular plants can be improved by planting specific other plants near them.
For instance, peas love being near beans, corn, carrots and cucumbers, but really hate being near onions. Potatoes enjoy the company of beans, peas and cabbage but are unhappy near tomatoes.
Any number of botanists will tell you that there are valid reasons for this. Some plants attract the sort of bugs another needs, some have a scent that disturbs the progress of others. But wait a second...doesn't this sound just a little bit like personality?
Is it not possible that some plants just generally get along better with others because... what? They get what they need from them?
They enjoy their company? Sound like another species you might be familiar with?
Companion planting is not considered completely scientific because the results are not consistent and not always provable. They are based on observation and anecdote. Some combinations work better in the northern hemisphere than the southern hemisphere (True! Well, at least, anecdotally it's true).
Some plants react contrary to expectations. But could that be due to something else?
The health and yield difference between male, female and neutral plants can be startling. You will know yourself that sometimes, two plants started at the same time or from the same magnificent parent plant will turn out completely differently.
So now, not only do we have to contend with personality, we have to contend with the sex of a plant.
I know what you're thinking. Well, I think I know what you're thinking...how do you tell the sex of a plant? It's very unscientific, but so far, according to the magic and mystery believers, it's pretty interesting in its results.
Hold a pendulum over the plant they say... and they do. This can be a needle on a thread, a seashell on fishing tackle, a necklace, whatever. The pendulum will move of its own accord to indicate the sex of the plant.
Try it, no harm done and supposedly, the really healthy plants will be female (positive). They will make the pendulum move in a clockwise circle over the top of it.
The male (negative) plant will make the pendulum move from side to side. If the pendulum doesn't move at all, the plant is neutral or the soil is lifeless. Forget it. Nothing is going to come out of that.
It's called dowsing and is the same method that has people finding water using a Y shaped pointed stick. Scientific? Nope. Does that mean it doesn't work? Depends who is doing the dowsing! It's a case of 'If you believe it to work, it will.' Who's to prove that the person hasn't manipulated the implement, be it stick or pendulum?
So totally unscientifically and completely irrationally, here we are with two startling propositions. That your vegetable plants have both a sex and a personality that will determine at least in part, how they turn out despite your input.
Geez, that's starting to sound a lot like my kids! (who will turn out very different from me, despite the magnificent parenting stock!!)
What does it mean for you as a gardener? The same thing it means for you as a parent.
Putting aside the science now, you must nurture your plants. Give them everything you think they will need to succeed.
Read advice books as required, but understand that observation on your part will still be needed as a useful guide.
Do not despair. Do not give up. To begin with, it's about the journey, not the destination.
Understand that not all things can be understood immediately. Sometimes, put it down to the wonder of nature. And for me at least, that word 'wonder' doesn't mean hocus pocus, it's just a great descriptive word, and it means nature truly is amazingly wondrous!Enjoy yourself.