Russian Language Blog

A time to sow, a time to reap, a time to add fertilizer… Posted by on Nov 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

That Ecclesiastes quotation (minus the fertilizer part) is traditionally translated from Hebrew to Russian as время насаждать, и время вырывать посаженное (“a time to put in the ground, a time to tear up that which was planted”) — though the familiar English phrasing we all know from the Byrds song can be directly rendered as Время сеять, время собирать урожай (“A time to sow, a time to collect the harvest”).

Anyway, while late November isn’t generally considered “a time to sow” — at least not in the Russian climate! — there’s never a bad time to learn some new Russian vocabulary. Especially since lots of “sowing and reaping” can be done indoors, weather notwithstanding.

Generally, when the subject is gardening, Russian distinguishes between two types of “gardens” — depending on the type of plants that are grown. В саду (“in a fruit or flower garden”), one grows плодовые деревья (“fruit trees”), ягодные кустарники (“berry bushes”), or purely декоративные растения (“ornamental plants”), including цветы (“flowers”).

On the other hand, огород is defined as участок земли под овощами (“a piece of land [planted] with vegetables”).

Which means that if you’re growing апельсины, малину, или тюльпаны (“orange (trees), raspberries, or tulips”), then the word for “gardening” is садоводство, but if you’re growing тыквы, морковь, или горох (“pumpkins, carrots, or peas”), then “vegetable gardening” would be огородничество.

Instead of these specific words for “gardening,” you could also fall back on the more generic уход, “taking care of” — which, as I mentioned in my post on pets, is followed by за + instrumental. Thus, A Guide to Indoor Gardening could be rendered with справочник об уходе за комнатными растениями (“a handbook about the care of houseplants”).

No matter what type of gardening you’re interested in, the most important question, obviously, is “How do I make my plants grow?” And “grow” in the intransitive sense of “to mature, become bigger” is expressed with растиырасти. Here’s how the imperfective conjugates:

расти (“to grow, to get bigger” — intransitive)
Past рос, росла, росло, росли
sing. pl.
1st расту растём
2nd растёшь растёте
3rd растёт растут

The perfective вырасти conjugates identically, except that the stress stays on the prefix throughout the conjugation — e.g., мы вырастем.

But this intransitive pair above must not be confused with the transitive pair
выращивать/вырастить! The perfective of this one is a classic example of an и-type verb that has a consonant mutation in the 1st-person singular ONLY. Thus, it’s:

вырастить (“to grow/raise/cultivate [a plant]” — perfective)
Past вырастил, -а, -о, -и
sing. pl.
1st выращу вырастим
2nd вырастишь вырастите
3rd вырастит вырастят

And the imperfective выращивать is really easy — no mutations or shifting stress to worry about: я выращиваю, ты выращиваешь, and so on.

In short, we can compare these two different translations of the English verb “is growing”:

Он выращивает яблоню.
He is growing an apple tree. (transitive)

У него яблоня хорошо растёт.
His apple tree is growing well. (intransitive)

And now let’s return to that question: How do you ensure that your plants will grow, instead of turning brown?

A lot of inexperienced gardeners assume that поливка (“watering”) is sufficient. They think, «Листья у моего растения чуть-чуть желтеют — значит, пора полить его — “The leaves of my plant are getting a little yellow — must be time to water it!” (In fact, yellow leaves can be a признак, “symptom,” that the plant is already over-watered and the roots are drowning.)

It’s true that some houseplants like традескантия (“Wandering Jew”) and филодендрон (guess!) need practically zero care other than поливка — an occasional обрезка or прореживание (both words can mean “pruning”) is beneficial, but not totally mandatory. For which reason, these low-maintenance species are popular in bachelor apartments and doctor’s waiting rooms!

But with most plants, there are many other things to consider, especially if you’re hopeful that your растение расцветёт и принесёт плоды (“plant will come into bloom and yield fruit”).

Почва (“soil; earth”)

Healthy plants need healthy soil. So the proper подготовка почвы (“preparation of soil”) is essential. The very first step is обработать почву/землю (“to till the soil/earth”). This process of обработка (“tilling”) can be done with such hand-tools as the грабли (“rake”), лопатка (“shovel, spade”), and мотыга (“hoe”), and it serves to condition the soil and make it more рыхлый (“loose; not densely packed”). If your soil is very глинистый (“clayey”), you may want to add some песок (“sand”) and/or солома (“straw”).

And you should probably also add some удобрение (“fertilizer”), which provides your plants with various питательные вещества (“nutrients”), most importantly азот (“nitrogen”). For a large garden, навоз (“aged and processed manure”) is the most economical choice, or you can make your own компост (guess!). But if you have a small plant в горшке (“in a flowerpot”), you can purchase a жидкий раствор (“liquid solution”) in a bottle.

When the soil is finally ready, it’s time for…

Посадка (“planting”)

The basic verb for “planting a plant” is the pair сажать/посадить — which, as you may already know, also means “to put someone/something into a sitting position.” You can use this verb both in reference to a саженец (“seedling; immature plant”) or to an individual семя, “seed”. (And if you haven’t seen it, check out David Roberts’ excellent post on neuter nouns ending in -мя, including семя.)

But if you’re planting lots of семена by throwing/sprinkling handfuls of them, then you can use the already-mentioned verb (по)сеять (“to sow”). And you can “sow” either the seeds, or the plant itself:

Мы сеем семена арбузов.
We’re sowing the seeds of watermelons.

Мы сеем арбузы.
We’re sowing watermelons.

And with some plants, it’s common practice to “start the seeds” indoors during the winter, and then transplant the саженцы outside when the weather is warmer. Other plants are commonly “cloned” using a черенок (“cutting”) from a mature plant. Cuttings from a plant with сочные стебли (“soft, fleshy stems”) may spontaneously укорениться (“produce roots”) in a glass of plain tap-water, but древесные (“woody”) plants often require artificial hormones to induce укоренение.

But in either situation, the verb пересаживать/пересадить comes in handy:

Поздней весной я пересажу клубнику на двор.
In late spring I shall transplant/replant the strawberries outside.

And one final observation:

Каждый садовод (или огородник) постоянно занимается борьбой с болезнями и вредителями.
Every gardener (or vegetable-gardener) constantly wages a battle with diseases and pests!

That word вредитель is literally “one who harms,” so from a gardener’s standpoint, it can refer to everything from the тля (“aphid”) to the гусеница (“caterpillar”) to the воробей (“sparrow”) to the олень (“deer”). Still, Nature also gave the gardener a few allies, such as the aphid-eating божья коровка (“ladybug”) — so chemical пестициды can, in some cases, be avoided.

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  1. Fizmat:

    Minor corrections, as usual:
    > оващами

    >под овощами
    I’m not sure if “под овощами”/”под огурцами” etc. is used that often. Maybe professional farmers say that. I don’t know any farmers though, so my opinion here is pretty uninformed. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard or read this expression though.

    > огороды (“vegetable patches”).
    The patches under plants themselves are “грядки”. Огород is the whole bunch of them. (usually fenced (огороженный), hence the name).

    > малины
    If you mean raspberry plants, it’s “кусты малины”. If you mean raspberries, it’s “малину”.

    While we’re at it, usually you say “он выращивает апельсины”, “он выращивает яблоки”, “он выращивает малину”, not “он выращивает апельсиновые деревья”, “он выращивает яблони”. Unless a nursery (питомник) is literally growing apple tree saplings (“саженцы”) and selling them to farmers.

    When talking about the whole plant, usually the word of choice is “растут”, which can be omitted. “У него в саду растут три яблони и две груши. А у его соседа в саду только старая вишня.”

    When somebody has a small tree and is actively working on helping it grow big, I’m not sure how you’d convey that. Maybe “растит”, maybe really “выращивает”.

  2. Rob:

    I’m not sure if “под овощами”/”под огурцами” etc. is used that often

    Thanks, Fitzmat! In a Google search, “грядки под…” got more hits than “огород под…” or “сад под…”

    Also, there seems to be different opinions about whether под should take accusative or instrumental in this context. (In other words, should one say “грядка под огурцами” or “грядка под огурцы”? Presumably, there is an “understood but unspoken verb” at work here.)

  3. Rob:

    When somebody has a small tree and is actively working on helping it grow big, I’m not sure how you’d convey that. Maybe “растит”, maybe really “выращивает”.

    Perhaps in that situation you could use a construction with узаживать (“to take care of”)? Such as:

    Как правильно узаживать за молодой яблоней (чтобы она приносила много плодов)? (“How does one properly care for a young apple tree [so that it produces a lot of fruit]?”)