Monday, 25 March 2013

The Grow Write Guild: My First Plant

Gayla Trail at You Grow Girl has started a creative writing club for gardeners called The Grow Write Guild.

Every fortnight she's publishing a prompt. It's up to the reader to choose the medium in which to respond: writing, photography, artwork, a poem. Anything goes. The idea is to tell stories in some way, and that's great.

The first one was posted a few days ago: My First Plant. I can't remember mine, but that's fine. It's OK to relate the story of the first plant which resonated with you, so that's what I'll do...

My first plant... was the humble radish at the age of 17. I know I was aware of and grew plants before then, but coming from a family of non-gardeners, not a single one has stuck in my mind. The radish was the first plant I chose to grow and I grew it at school for my A level Biology practical project.

The Nuffield biology syllabus I studied placed a great emphasis on practical learning (e.g. we looked at Mendel's original experimental data to draw the same conclusions as he regarding genetics), so the choice of project and its execution was a big deal in getting a good grade. Most of my classmates struggled to think up a topic - and most eventually were handed something to investigate by our teacher - but I was bursting with ideas.

I finally settled on The Effect of Insecticides on Plants, much to the amusement of my peers. "Insecticides?", they guffawed, "on plants? You must be mad!". But I stuck to my guns and was duly allocated some precious space in the crammed school greenhouse to house my experiments.

There was just enough room for 3x24 cell growing trays and I had just 2 terms to complete everything, so my experimental material needed to be small, quick growing and hopefully not keel over in the winter. It also needed to have a fairly long growing period so the insecticide could be applied several times. Just like most researchers, I had a tiny budget, so my plants needed to be cheap too. There was really only one solution: radishes and "French Breakfast" gave me the most seeds for my pennies.

So, I started my growing and turned my attention to a literature review - no internet back then - so I spent a lot of time in Birmingham's Central Library. Of course, I found quite a lot on the effects on insects and animals (especially on their nervous systems), but a big fat zero on plants. Oh, how my friends laughed.

But then things changed. I arranged with a friend to visit an open day at the [then] National Vegetable Research Station at Wellesbourne. I took my ideas, screwed up my courage and spoke at length to the researchers there. Not only were they interested, they said they knew of no literature on the subject either and could they see my results? My previously critical friends were impressed!

It was a defining moment. I decided to study Agricultural and Environmental Science at university and whilst it didn't turn into the career I'd imagined for myself, I'm sure you'll recognise the seeds of that study are still flourishing here on this blog. Things have definitely come full circle over 30 years later - guess what was the first RHS trial I joined soon after starting Veg Plotting?

Yes, you're right. It was radishes.

If you'd like to join Gayla's Grow Write Guild, you'll find all the information you need in the link. You don't need to respond to every prompt and it's entirely up to you to decide how you want to respond. It doesn't even have to be on a computer, or made public :)

12 comments:

  1. In case you were wondering, I did find an impact - on the size of the plant cells.

    This article from Wikipedia also refers to a study where insecticides had an impact on nitrogen fixation in legumes and hence crop production.

    So, even the most stupid sounding of research questions, can yield interesting results :)

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  2. How exciting! I love it when things I love (Science and Gardening) come together. Great post!

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  3. Carlee - welcome :) I love it when science and gardening come together too!

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  4. How to you join? I clicked on the link but there is no place to put comments, sign up etc? i put the log on my page...thanks.

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  5. Motormouth - hello! You either join by writing about one of the prompts and commenting on Gayla's post with that prompt or via signing up for her general newsletter which will also have details of each prompt. You'll also find her on twitter as @yougrowgirl - that's how I found out about it and joined in.

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  6. Nice post, quite interesting to see how these two (science and gardening) come together and what happens. Look forward to more.

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  7. What a great story, and now like your school chums I'm very impressed.

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  8. This is really impressive! As a teacher I am truly inspired by your motivation and tenacity in the face of your peers' jeers, especially as it put you on a path for life. I'm loving reading these responses to the first prompt; you'll find mine here: http://whenitsathome.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/choose-your-own-adventure/

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  9. Very cool! Impressive for a 17 year old. Thought I’d share my post from the Grow Write Guild exercise… My First Plant

    Amy

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  10. Flor, siobhan and Amy - welcome!

    Helen - I loved your tomato story :)

    Siobhan and Amy - on my way over...

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  11. I love this! I've read a lot a lot of Grow Write Guild stories about early experiences with plants in school, but nothing quite this ambitious.

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  12. LeafStemandThorn - hello! Thanks - I like Helen's tale of her growing tomatoes. She started much earlier than I did :)

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