Potting-up, Burlap Bags, and a Dearth of Perfect Love

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Notes from the Garden

Happy first birthday to my granddaughter, Edith (Stein . . . but she’s not Jewish). I’ll be growing pumpkins for the grandkids for however long my ghost breathes.

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The May Gardening Push continues. This unbelievable cold snap has pushed back growing and planting, forcing me to “pot-up” my tomato plants (a chore I enjoy “in the moment” but that seems like a waste of effort . . . if I could just “time” the initial planting with the passing of all frost).

For non-gardeners: The act of “potting-up” means taking plants from a smallish container and putting them into a bigger container, so you can later put them in yet a bigger container or the ground.

Like I said, a waste of time, but fairly important or the plants’ growth will be permanently stunted.

One thing I like about potting-up, though: I am occasionally able to salvage two or three plants from the same small plant, creating two or three large pots. Over the past few days, I have potted-up 30 tomato plants from about 20 small containers, and they all look vibrant and healthy.


I continue to plant potatoes like a mad-man, though I’m a bit concerned at how bad the (very) expensive seed potatoes look. They’re soft and the sprouts have black tips. Neither, apparently, are a cause of concern, though, based on what I could find on the Google Machine.

I planted ten seed potatoes in burlap bags last night. While at the coffee shop with Meg (of Hillsdale College), I saw they were selling their old coffee bean bags for $3. I searched the Internet and saw a lot of articles about growing vegetables, especially potatoes, in burlap bags, so I bought five.

The experience wasn’t as idyllic as I anticipated.

For starters, the bags are simply too big. They’re massive . . . hard to manipulate/form . . . and require a ton of growing medium. I got all five planted, but it was a chore and it depleted my surplus of forest-floor humus/soil that I haul from my woods (at great effort).

Secondly, I noticed later that Amazon sells actual potato bags, with nifty hatches at the bottom, for the same price (a little cheaper, actually, once you take out sales tax). That kind of took the exhilaration out of it.


What is it about gardening and saving a dollar? It’s a small dopamine rush, but I don’t fully “get it.” If I save $10 on gardening supplies, or sell $50 worth of plants/produce, I’m pleased, but my hourly rate as a lawyer far exceeds such proceeds and, by comparison, is a near-complete waste of time. I have various thoughts on the matter, but they exceed my time allocation this morning.

I’d also note, however, that I get a similar “charge” from helping others with their gardens or giving away the produce without charge, but by the same token, I’m very aware that the non-gardeners simply don’t really appreciate it. In this, it’s very similar to legal pro bono work: the client doesn’t appreciate it if he’s not paying anything for it, which takes the fun out of helping someone.

But is that just a sign that I lack “perfect love” (a recurring phrase from St. Maximus the Confessor’s First Century on Love that I’ve been pondering)? No doubt. But how serious of a defect is it in me? That’s really hard to say.