my tomato plants in late June
Could a voice actually matter in making plants grow? Most of the scientific-sounding explanations I’ve ever heard about response of plants to people have invoked the additional carbon dioxide in the plants’ vicinity. But over the weekend I heard about an unusual study carried out by The Royal Horticultural Society. The researchers played different voices through headphones to 10 different plants over a period of a month (mp3 through headphones), according to the BBC. The best growing plants were listening to Sarah Darwin, a botanist and descendant of Charles Darwin. She read from her famous forebear’s groundbreaking text, On the Origin of Species.
Of course, some outlets have taken this story to an extreme: Women’s voices ‘make plants grow faster.’
I can’t find the study, so I can’t see how it was constructed or how valid it is other than as an amusing anecdote with a connection to botany and Charles Darwin. My more skeptical side asks: Really? Headphones on plants? Where do you attach them? I’d really like to see a photo of a tomato plant with an iPod.
So I doubt that the study actually has much to say about how plants respond to human beings. However, if plants actually do like Sarah Darwin’s voice, I can understand why. Hear her melodious voice on the accompanying video from the BBC.
Although I now consider myself a urban gal and not necessarily a green thumb, my agrarian roots continue to tug on me. Last summer, I gave in to the gardening urge and our front porch erupted in a jungle of herbs and tomatoes– tasty grape ones and some marginal Early Girls– they worked for gazpacho, but not much else.
one of my 2008 tomatoes "the butt"
I don’t think there are gardening genes per se, but if they did exist, I’d have them, even if they didn’t come accompanied by any particular skill. My mother’s sister still lives on the land in Virginia that my grandfather farmed for decades and raises most of her own vegetables in a large garden plot. The other side of my family has a strong streak of cattle farming.
Summer 2009 garden, first plants
Eating locally and raising one’s own food has become popular again, in part for environmental reasons, for health reasons, and, in some cases, it’s even economically more practical. I can’t fairly trace my own urges to grand principles such as saving the planet or avoiding pesticides, though those are nice perks. Honestly, it’s just satisfying deep down to watch plants grow and feel that tangible goal– the sweetness of a tomato as it bursts in my mouth or the added zest that my herbs added to a dish I just cooked.
Now that it’s Memorial Day weekend, I’m starting round 2 of my urban gardening experiments– the grape tomatoes are back along with Ramapos– the Jersey tomato. Now, if I can just manage to wait until July to see how it all turns out. . . .
2009 Ramapo tomato plants