Planting New Ideas

Mum planting season was in full swing two weeks ago in our school greenhouse! Between holding down a part-time job, occasional construction projects, and resting; this summer has seemed to fly by. Yet, it has not dampened my dreaming up of ideas for the coming school year.

As I dug my hands into the fresh potting mix, stirring in water to keep it from drying prematurely with our new plants, my mind thought to ways we prepare the soil for our own new crop of ideas into the coming school year.

Regardless of whether we are teachers, administrators, support staff, parents, or students; whatever hats we wear, we each bring our own unique ideas for the places we live and work. Yet, as planting new and fragile mums we must take care to provide the right environment and care to nurture those ideas into bloom.

Planting mums is delicate business.

They arrive in a square box that is drop shipped overnight from their growing locations on the other side of the continent. They are tightly packed into plug trays with some roots venturing into adjacent plugs seeking water from their close neighbors.

When unpacking you have to be extra careful not to snap off the heads of the mums as they are removed from the packing sleeves. That’ll easily set us back a full-week’s worth of growth potential at a crucial time.

Prior to the arrival of the mums, pots would have already been sanitized and the right amount of potting mix would be available and on hand. The day the mums arrive the mix is prepared and proportioned with enough water, but NOT too much water. Enough to give the mix a little weight rather than the dry fluffy heap it had been.

Potting mix prepared for the Fall Mum Crop! 🙂 (Everything is hand mixed so both my arms are covered in wet potting mix!)

Then, we are ready to start planting. Slowly and delicately popping out the plugs from the bottom of the tray to ensure we don’t squeeze on the fragile stem. Accidentally squeezing the stem will kill the plant because that is how nutrients and water move through the plant from the roots to their growth points.

Popping out Mum plugs using a handy sharpie,  it is the best tool for softly pushing the plug out of its temporary home.

Next, we must remove the tight netting that keeps the roots bound. Failure to do so (as I experienced my first year with mums) will keep the roots bound together and they will never allow the plant to reach its fullest potential.

The netting wrap looks unassuming, yet failure to remove it will keep those little roots from branching out into the fresh potting mix. A plant will only grow to the size of its roots!

Finally, we are ready to let rubber meet the road and get some mums into the soil! We make little divots into the readied pots and place our mums in and cautiously, but with firm, light pressure pack the soil around the small plant. Give a little overhead water and we have successfully prepared a mum for success!!

Final stage of planting! These two pots of our Candy Corn Mumbos are done with a third one on the way!

Our ideas are worthy of as much care and intentional preparation if we are to see them last through the seasons. We can draw three powerful lessons from planting mums that directly connect with nurturing our new ideas!

  • Prepare the Soil!

If we want our ideas to take hold they need the proper environment to grow. Keeping an openness to new ideas and fresh perspectives as a school or community allows healthy dialogue and safe spaces to propose bold, needle shifting ideas.

The longer we are involved in an organization the harder it seems to welcome feedback and listen to new ideas. Often we view the status quo as a direct reflection of the work we have poured into the organization.

Yet, if we continue to invest in personal reflection by maintaining a positive growth mindset we can create a culture that welcomes fresh ideas. Doing so, will in turn, develop our own capacity for seeing potential ideas within our personal reflections!

  •  Ideas have Roots Too!

Just as the soil wrap on the mums kept the roots from growing to full maturity we can find ourselves placing a strangling wrap on the ideas we hope to plant! In many cases the greatest root restrictor of an idea is FEAR.

Fear of failure. Fear of unknown results. Fear of __(fill in the blank)____. Fear is paralyzing and can stop the fruition of an idea in its tracks. Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. Fear is an emotional manifestation of caring…we care about the organizations we serve and hope to see them grow ever successfully.

Therefore, we should not be ashamed of fear or denigrate it, but how do we not allow it to become overbearing and prevent us from taking action? Such times call for a team of supporters; a comforter, an encourager, and a mover.

We need someone who can comfort us when feel that sense of future failure that a new idea may bring. We need an encourager who can speak positive life into our idea and our person. Lastly, WE need a mover, someone who will push us towards action and keep us accountable to seeing an idea through. Moving ideas to action is a team sport, this is nonnegotiable.

  • Ideas Must Be Planted!

Finally, all our efforts in preparation for our mums would have been pointless if we didn’t actually plant the mums! As obvious as it may seem, too often we all do a great job at dreaming up ideas, but they often collect dust and never see the light of day!

Thomas Jefferson is an inspiring example of what it means to enact upon our ideas and visions. His example is most felt at his home of Monticello in Virginia. He called Monticello his “Essay on Architecture”. Jefferson took the architectural examples he had seen in his travels and learnings and sought to create something wholly unique and unprecedented. We can learn from Jefferson that ideas do not just belong on paper, written in words…for ideas to last they sometimes need brick, mortar, and courage.


When we look back on our lives what will we describe as our ‘Life’s Essay’?

What ideas are awaiting our actions now?

Who are our teammates for the ideas we want to move on?

Finally, have we nurtured the right environment and culture that welcomes ideas?

Yesterday, marked ONE full month before the official start of the new school year! I’m excited to get back in the swing of school and look forward to seeing the ideas generated on our upcoming officer retreat come alive!

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