My gardening itch just keeps getting worse and worse. I’ve somewhat alleviated it by poking seeds into pots and trays and plastic cups with drain holes poked in the bottom.
My 3.5 cubic foot bale of ProMix potting media is almost exhausted, which means an immanent visit to the farm supply store to purchase another bale.
I’ve found that I use about two bales per year. Some of it goes to repotting houseplants, but the majority of it I use up starting seeds and transplanting seedlings to larger pots in an effort to keep them from becoming root bound before the last frost date, after which they can be transplanted to the garden.[i]
So what’s growing now? Well, I’m delighted to announce the discovery of three tomato seedlings in my granddaughter’s sand pile!
Hopefully there will be more to come as the seed packet she snitched contained about thirty-five seeds.
Of course, the way she digs and excavates it’s kind of a miracle that those three seedlings survived! She snagged a packet of sunflower seeds, too. She found seven of the seeds for me when I asked her about them; her sand pile had been dry for a while, so they hadn’t started germinating yet.
Then I opened the tub in which I have my dwindling supply of ProMix (moistened for ease of use), and right in the middle of my supposedly sterile potting media was a rather large sprout! Upon close examination it proved to be a sunflower seedling. Two more popped up in the sand pile after it rained. She was a busy, busy girl.
Of the seeds that I planted, so far I have three baby eggplant sprouts, quite a few basil seedlings, ditto cilantro and sage. None of my pepper seeds have deigned to sprout yet, be they hot or sweet. And I’m still waiting on the chives, dill, oregano and parsley.
And then there’s the mystery tray. A few weeks ago when it was drizzling out, I set up shop on the front porch. I got a bucket of ProMix out of my tub, a couple of trays and some cell packs for starting seeds. I took all this along with my box of seed packets around to the front porch where I could work without getting drenched. (I really need a potting shed!) One tray I filled with soil and divided it roughly into thirds which I proceeded to sow with a lettuce variety mix, a single type lettuce and thyme. The other tray I filled with the cell packs (four sections each). I carefully tagged each cell pack so that I would know what was planted in each. When I was done poking holes and planting seeds I went back in the house to grab a cup of coffee. I did not, at this time, take the planted trays back around the house to my nursery table. It was still drizzling and I was damp enough from gathering materials.
My daughter decided to take her girls out on the front porch to play. It’s a nice big country-style front porch, well covered by a roof. It spans the entire front of the house and is deep enough that one can sit on it in all but the wildest thunderstorms and remain dry. So it’s a great place to take the kids out to play and get some fresh air when it’s raining.
Now the five-year-old may snitch my seed packets, but she won’t mess with planted trays. The other one, however, is only 17 months old. Her grandfather refers to her as “the stealer.” This is because she has a tendency to sneak into our bedroom and remove things from his night stand. Things like his cell phone, his wallet, his….well, basically anything he might set on his night stand!
I’m sure you’ve already guessed where this is going….
Sure enough, “the stealer” zeroed in on my newly planted trays and removed all the tags! The tray with the lettuce and thyme wasn’t so bad, of course when something started sprouting, at first I thought it was thyme (the tag said it was), however, as the seedlings grew it became apparent that they were actually lettuce! (It seems someone ‘replaced’ the tags in that tray) The big mystery is the tray with the multiple cell packs. Things are beginning to come up, and I’m really not sure what I planted!
I think the first shoots could be cantaloupe, I may have decided to start some early, although usually I just plant cantaloupe seeds directly in the ground. I know that parsley is in one of those cell packs, but I’ll recognize it when it sprouts. In another I planted bird-house gourds, and as I’ve never grown them before I have no idea what they’re going to look like! Plus which I know that a number of the seeds that I planted were from several years ago, which means that they may or may not grow.
Seeds are mysterious little packages. Some of them are so fragile that they won’t grow after the first season, some of them need to be exposed to a freeze before they will germinate, some have such a hard hull that its recommended that they be slightly nicked to improve germination rates. Some seeds need to be soaked overnight before being planted. In rare instances a seed may need to be through a fire before it will grow! And some seeds can lie dormant in the ground for forty years or more until they’re dug up or turned over and exposed to a flash of light. Just one tiny flash of light and a seed two decades old can come to life!
The moral of this story is: keep a gardening notebook. I used to be meticulous about keeping one. I would write down the plants that I was going to grow and I would draw a diagram of the garden and mark what was going to go where. As I started seeds I would write down what they were and the date that I put them in the soil. (If I had done this I would know what was in that mystery tray, if not precisely where it was planted!) I used to note when my seeds germinated and when I transplanted them to the garden. I recorded everything from the first bud to the first thing that I could harvest. I noted fertilization dates and pest problems. But over the years I slacked off on the paperwork, it’s not nearly as much fun as the actual gardening!
Don’t be like me! Keep a gardening notebook. You don’t have to be overly precise, but you should at least note when and what you plant, and towards the end of the season note how that particular species or variety worked out for you. If you don’t have much luck with something, you may not want to repeat your mistake. I love corn, but I don’t grow it well. It takes up a lot of space in the garden, and in my garden I don’t get very much yield, so it’s kind of a waste of good garden space. I tried artichokes once, but they grow best as perennials in climates that stay warm. I’d read that it was possible to grow them as annuals in my climate, but it didn’t work out for me.
Your gardening notebook should record your triumphs as well. Things that meet or exceed your expectations are things that you may want to repeat. And if you’ve done something well, you may want to have a record of just how you did it!
And now I’m going to go outside and stare at that “mystery” tray for a bit. Maybe something else has sprouted, maybe I’ll remember just what I planted (doubtful!). Then I’ll take a slow turn around my granddaughter’s sand pile. Maybe I’ll find another tomato seedling or two!
Wish me luck folks! Happy gardening and y’all come on back and see me, ya hear?
[i] If a seedling becomes root bound this can stunt its growth, some plants are more susceptible to this than others, but its better to be safe than sorry, in my opinion. So I start seeds in trays, transplant the seedlings to small individual containers, then a little larger containers and so on until it is ultimately time to plant them in the ground (after all danger of frost is past). When I shop for baby plants for my garden I keep this in mind and I am more likely to choose the smaller plants. For instance, if I am looking at a selection of Amish paste tomato plants in four packs, and some of the four packs have plants that are four inches tall, and some of the four packs contain plants that are six or eight inches tall, I will generally choose the four inch plants (provided they’re healthy looking) as these are less likely than their taller counter-parts to be root bound. The larger the plant is above the soil, the larger the root system under the soil will be.