Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

You Can’t Grow Watermelon in Seattle

Posted by BrianJ on July 5, 2009

“You can’t grow watermelon in Seattle.”

That’s what we were told last year by every gardening expert or aficionado who heard what we planted. Followed by, “You should try broccoli instead; it grows great out here.”We planted our third garden this year. We first tried gardening in Rochester, NY, where heavy rains, clay soil, and a typically cold Spring decided we should grow mildew instead of tomatoes. We only tried once out there.

We moved to Seattle last year and planted a grow box in late May—pole beans, cilantro, parsley, zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli and…watermelon. The beans produced lots of pods, we enjoyed a few dozen tomatoes, and we even got a couple squash—but no broccoli or watermelon. The watermelon took forever to germinate and after a few short inches of growth just sort of sat there until it was picked apart by some birds.

Happy with our moderate success last year, we planted a second box—bringing us to 44 sq ft—and several more plants: five types of squash, four tomato plants, cilantro (which came back from last year), parsley, green and red pepper, two kinds of basil, five broccoli, carrots, beans, peas, lettuce, spinach, and…watermelon. Almost everything looks fantastic: we harvested zucchini last week (and grilled it tonight…mmmm), the cilantro comes faster than we can harvest, and the tomatoes are ripening on plants over five feet tall! But the watermelon just sprouted and stopped.

Alma 32

When Alma compared the word to a seed, was he talking to experienced gardeners or amateurs like me? According to Alma, the seed proves good once it “swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow,” but what about a good seed in the hands of an incompetent gardener?

A trip to a garden center and quickly shows that there’s more to gardening than just tossing a good seed into the ground. One must consider fertilizer, mulch, climate zones, watering schedules, aphids, fungus, crop rotation, etc. Alma doesn’t entirely neglect this side of his analogy:

And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit. But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root…and ye pluck it up and cast it out. Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.

Note, however, that Alma assumes that any failure to grow the seed is due to either barren ground or a bad seed. Just to press this point, let me quote his promise:

But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.

Yes, Alma demands that one be “diligent”—even greatly so—but I ask: what about diligent incompetence or patient ignorance? Either would surely produce no fruit from even the best seed planted in the most fertile (i.e., desirous, Cf Alma 32:27) ground.

D&C 46

Elsewhere we are told that everyone has different spiritual gifts:

For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.

From this scripture, can we analogize that some can grow tomatoes, others corn, and still others excel at watermelon? (And perhaps some haven’t an ounce of green in their thumb at all?!) If so, it is misguided to expect everyone to have a testimony of everything, and more importantly, it’s especially unrealistic and unhelpful to assume that a given word/seed can be grown by every honest person just because it grew for me.


Frankly, I don’t care about the broccoli, but next year I swear I’m gonna grow a watermelon.

7 Responses to “You Can’t Grow Watermelon in Seattle”

  1. I just came in from watering my four-square-foot porch container garden, hovering over every tomato and basil and pepper plant with both diligent incompetence and patient ignorance — will it be like the first year when the tomatoes didn’t produce a single blossom? or like last year when the squashes produced blossoms but none set into fruit?

    Anyway, I was especially primed by that for this post. Yours is the best, most original and thought-provoking discussions of Alma 32 that I have ever read. Thanks.

  2. BrianJ said

    You’re very kind, Ardis—you’re not just fishing for Niblet votes are you? ;)

    Best of luck with your garden this year!

  3. No wonder comments are down everywhere, if ulterior motives are suspected! Naw, I am so serious about liking your twist on the usual Alma 32 lesson that I’ve filed it away in memory to steal and use as my own at the next suitable moment.

  4. NathanG said

    If I may, can we make this a more specific question that many have probably run into. As missionaries we talk about the Book of Mormmon as the key to conversion. If the Book of Mormon is true then…. I would imagine most people have run into or at least heard of the person who claims to have read and prayed about the Book of Mormon and that they didn’t receive a confirming answer “yes,” to which the natural impulse is to tell that person they must not have prayed with faith or whatever justification they can come with.

    So, your last comment first “it’s especially unrealistic and unhelpful to assume that a given word/seed can be grown by every honest person just because it grew for me.” Does this apply here, and if so, how can we get around this? Is the Book of Mormon “the” key to conversion? Are there other things similarly effective in conversion?

    As for nourishing the ground, is the responsibility only on the person receiving the seed to nourish the ground and be patient? The olive tree allegory calls on servants to assist the Lord of the vineyard in nourishing the ground (here the people converted to the gospel seem to be the fruit of the tree sealed up to God) while Alma uses the tree and fruit as the evidence for and outcomes of gaining the testimony, so maybe crossing analogies isn’t appropriate. However, the mission of the church is to bring souls unto Christ, and as a member of the church I have made a covenant to take on this task in many forms. Certainly this mission we must take upon ourselves is not so far removed from another individual’s conversion process to give us no place in helping to prepare the ground and nourish it.

    Back to missionaries. Is it realistic for missionaries to think they can get through the lessons without inspiring enough desire for the investigator to really dig into the scriptures and gain that testimony? If the missionary is not diligent and patient should we be surprised if the investigator acts as the inexperienced gardener unable to grow the seed, even if it’s good?

    Sorry if I seem to ramble. I think there are many 19-21 year olds (and others) struggling with this on a daily basis and are at risk of spoiling any good ground or tender roots by a careless comment about another persons experience.

  5. Ben Pratt said

    Brian, I’m with Ardis. This is very simple and yet so thoughtful. It also reminds me of my little broccoli plants here in Renton, just south of you.

    NathanG, I had the same thought about differences in experiences with the Book of Mormon. I’m hesitant to tell someone that because they didn’t get the same result I did they must have messed it up somehow, but if it is true that that particular word/seed doesn’t grow for some sincere seekers, I have to believe that there is another word/seed (e.g., D&C, PoGP, LDS blogs?) that is better suited to the conditions of each such heart.

  6. BrianJ said

    Nathan: I was thinking a bit about missionaries but mostly about recent converts when I wrote this. My garden is doing okay this year, but we’re starting to notice some problems on the squash plants and we really have no idea what to do about them (or even what the cause is). We could use some expert advice from a real gardener, but none of our neighbors fit that description. Thus, we’re sort of on our own and our garden is going to suffer a bit because of it. That’s what I think happens to new members: they have a few testimonies going reasonably well, but they struggle to keep those testimonies strong, free from “disease,” etc. during their first months or year in the Church. They need expert advice, but too often they’re just handed a packet of assorted seeds or seedling and sent on their way. And as you point out, when such people fail we too often turn our backs and say, “They didn’t try hard enough.”

    Ben: thanks! That’s part of what I was thinking: most people shouldn’t expect to grow every kind of fruit and vegetable. They should learn to grow a few really well, then experiment with others from year to year. And if they really want broccoli they can trade for it—I’m picturing a Church where we come together and trade the fruit of our testimonies, not one where everyone produces everything and we just come together to show off. And good luck with that broccoli!

  7. tj said

    I live in Rochester NY

    Never could grow water melon

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