Here’ s another edition of my posts through the years in my series ‘ The Scientist in the Garden’.

Can gardening teach us some important things regarding stem cells and about doing science more generally?

Regular readers of this blog know that I am actually into gardening and especially during the last 5 or so years  I’ ve been growing many kinds of unusual tomatoes. These people like it here in the Sacramento region a lot more than they do in my previous city of Seattle, WA. This year I’ ve planted more types of tomatoes than ever.

It’ s probably not surprising to you that I see parallels since someone who is really into stem cells and into growing plants.

One particular plate of more than 50 lbs of tomatoes grown within the Knoepfler garden in 2016

Know your seeds and cells. If you feel of stem cells as akin to seeds, what goes on within the tomato garden has some lessons for the stem cell plus regenerative medicine field. For instance, the source of stem cellular material makes all the difference and the same goes for seeds and vegetation. I have planted either seeds or plants in the past learn a few times that they weren’ t what the place who offered them said they were. The lesson there for the laboratory is “ know your stem cells” and confirm them. They might not be what you think…. even if you yourself founded them they can drift or get contaminated. We need to look at. It’ s odd to expect a yellow tomato and also have a red one grow, but it’ s a lot worse to think you are using one type of stem cells for the paper or your clinical trial only to find it wasn’ t what you thought. Also, if a plant or seed products or cells are struggling, it’ s probably preferable to start over (see more below on stuff will go wrong) rather than try to rescue something that isn’ t working.

The bed and niche can make all the distinction. The last few years I’ ve been placing energy into improving the soil in my garden bed frames by growing cover crops, adding mulch, and even including worms. If you think of a garden bed and its soil, sunlight, etc . as a plant niche akin to the stem cellular niche, both have big impact for better or even worse.

Stuff will go wrong. Expect setbacks and problems. Last year in my tomato backyard there were two problems. One was rampant slime conforms, most likely from some wood chips I used included in my compost. I had to change how I watered and mainly I got things under control. Roly-poly bugs even ate a few of the slime mold (see below). Gross but interesting, correct? Then there was the leaf-footed bug attack .   This year it is, perhaps due to the wet winter season or the past year’ s slime molds, a people explosion of roly-poly bugs in the  Armadillidiidae family members, those funny terrestrial crustaceans of the garden. I’ lmost all do a future post on how I tackled this 2017 garden problem. roly-poly slime mold

Apparently in the Sacramento area a little slime mold in the garden isn’ t unusual, but it becomes a problem if it is all over the garden beds so when it dries it gives off spores that are probably not excellent to breathe. Same
with roly-poly insects. In moderation they are helpers in the garden by recycling previous plant waste as they’ ll eat just about anything also slime mold, but if they show up in the 1000s in a single area then some of them start eating living plants such as happened with my cucumber and tomatillo plants.

You can expect occasional problems in the lab with your come cells too. Maybe the cultures get contaminated. Probably they stop growing. Don’ t panic. Think this through and try some different solutions. When uncertain, start anew with fresh cells and media. This is how when it comes to stem cells having a large, dedicated bank associated with early passage cells is crucial so that you can go back to them plus start  from the beginning.

Patience . I’ m not a super patient person, but gardening plus science both demand patience. The fun I’ mirielle having now watching my big tomato plants expanding, setting fruit, and some even ripening (we’ ve consumed four small tomatoes so far)   all started a long time ago. As I mentioned above, I put work into the ground and planning. I even keep notes from previous years’ of gardening and refer to them. I haven’ t yet grown tomatoes much from seed therefore i use seedlings and someone started those probably weeks before I planted them. It’ s the same along with stem cells and other kinds of experiments. Sure we all are usually understandably in a hurry to publish, get data for grants, and so on, but also keep an eye on the big picture and try having a specific patience for science.

If you are a man of science and you’ ve never gardened, you should give it a try. I actually bet you’ ll see the parallels and unlike many science, you can eat the results. It can even be as easy as a couple potted tomatoes or one small wood planter.

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