THE FUNNY FARMER: An astonishingly boring, painful, humorous and occasionally insightful approach to gardening and life as amom, a former psychotherapist, and apparently a life-long patient.


My name is Cherie and I live in Southern Maine with my husband and two young children. I have a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology and still have about 10k in remaining student loans to prove it. I left the field of practice three years ago, so this is not the place to be posting any suicide notes, okay? But if you want to hear about my garden and my gremlins, my pests and my problems, well then you just sit right down and read on!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Companion Planting

The Vegetable Gardner's Bible by Edward C. Smith talks about garden planning as being time well spent and I couldn't agree more. For me, garden planning is one of the few highlights of winter in Maine!  My visioning often coincides with some big football event.  The Superbowl perhaps?  I don't know for sure.  I'm too busy with my nose in gardening books, catalogs, and magazines.  I grab a pile of my favorites, kiss my husband goodnight, and head for the bedroom.  He calls it my "housewife porn," but I'm pretty sure don't have a problem.  It's not hurting anyone, right?

So back to garden planning... part of the planning that Smith's 'Bible' discusses is the "buddy system" for plants.  "Some plants have a synergistic relationship with certain other plants.  One or both of them grow better, yield more, and sometimes even taste better when they grow near one another.  These are often called 'companion plants'." 

Now isn't that just the coolest thing?  Beets simply thrive in the presence of bush beans, cabbage, corn, leek, lettuce, lima beans, onion, and radish.  Eggplant may be finicky wallfowers, but they do enjoy spending time with bush bean, peas, pepper,and potato.  And the uber-extraverted tomatoes are psyched to hang out with asparagus, basil, bee balm, bush bean, cabbage, carrot, celery, chive, cucumber, garlic, head lettuce, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, parsley, pepper, and pot marigold.

So I assume you know where I'm going to go with this one.  People too can have synergistic relationships in various arenas:  romantically, artistically, professinally, and so on.  But just like plants, the presence of certain others may be merely neutral, while some are downright aversive.  I know that there are some folks with whom I thrive and blossom, whereas with others I feel like withering. You know what I'm talking about here, right?

Synergistic relationships can lead to prolific growth and blossoming.  I recently heard an interview with the creators of South Park and they are a great example of long-term, mutually thriving relationship with great productivity.  How about The Beatles?  Abigail and John Adams?  I remember the very moment I first locked eyes with the man who is now my husband.  There was just something familiar in his smile, soothing in his voice, and comforting in his presence.  After nine years, I would say that our companionship has been pretty bountiful.  We certainly have healthy, colorful, and vibrant offshoots!

In On Narcissism Freud's "On Narcissism: An Introduction" (Contemporary Freud Series),  Freud theorizes that the idealization of love objects often has to do with the deficits in our ego.  In some cases, a "Cure By Love" is successful and other times it can lead to an excessive dependence on the partner.  Making sure you are the healthiest specimen you can be precipitates finding a healthy companion and bountiful harvest.  What are the deficits in your ego?  What can you do to become healthier?  Psychotherapy can be very helpful (see how to find the right therapist link below).  Examine your deficits, where they originated, and what you can do to heal them to be a Super Seeding, cape and all.

Back to the Garden Bible, Smith's first step in planning is to "eliminate antagonistic relationships" or the "inhibitors":  His terms, not mine!  Once again gardening, interpersonal relationships, and mental health are marvelously analagous!  There are some amazon links I attached below to books that have great insights and tips in identifying and weeding out the inhibitors in your life.  Again, psychotherapy be very helplful with this.  You get to talk about your unhealthy relationships for an entire hour, hear yourself as you define these problems, acknowledge your participation with a supportive person, and get some unbiased feeback from a trained professional.  Al Anon groups are also a great option.  They are free, confidential, you don't have to talk if you don't want to, listen to and learn from other people's experiences, and the meetings addess codependence and establishing boundaries in toxic relationships.

So a carrot walks into my therapy office...... (no, not the setup for a joke).  Presumably said carrot's primary complaint is resulting in a failure to thrive in some way.  A la Freud, we might explore things like the carrot's early germination, growing environment, soil and weather conditions.  We would discuss how that has shaped her thoughts, beliefs, self-concept, behaviors, and of course her relaionships.  During this process we would look at what things are within this carrot's control.  Might she re-evaluate some of her thoughts and behaviors that are not serving her well?  In examining relationships, we would likely discover that celery, dill, and parsnip are stunting her growth.  So can she limit her exposure them somehow?  Will she choose to move to a different garden?   Are there other ways to increase her nutrients, rain, and sun?

Way back in my hipster Boston days I went to a party thrown by a cool, artsy couple who were, by the way, synergistic blossomers.  At the door entrance there was a table for what looked like name tags.  But tnstead of "hello my name is" stickies, they were typed quotes for you to choose from and wear.  I chose a quote that said, "Surround yourself with people who respect and treat you well."  That piece of paper has been long since misplaced and I can't seem to find the author, but I loved that quote!  It has come to mind many times in my contemplations about friendships, relationships, and family. 

Now 41, much less hip but a whole lot wiser (subjective opinion), I look back with a little embarassment and humility at my poor companion choices and wasted time, even with marvelous quote in hand.  I suppose with gardening, there is a rigorous process performed by the brightest of horticulturalists and master gardeners to discover which plants work best with which.  So I'll chalk up some of my past to... well.... research I guess.

Regardless of your past and present, it is always important to plan for your future garden.  Remember that you deserve to thive and blossom - true that!  Take good care and choose your companions well!

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