Seed Starting Confessions: My Little Secret

Reader Contribution by Shawn
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I am so excited. This year’s garden is off to the best start ever for us. The weather has been reasonably dry and the temperatures are way above normal. What a sharp contrast to last year. We were knee deep in rain and the temperatures were below normal for all of last spring and summer.

The weather was so bad the last growing season that our tomatoes suffered the dreaded blight. Every plant was gone overnight. Literally. The tops of the plants had the look of a line of rhododendrons suffering from the extensive damage of deer browse. You know the look. You stand back and look across a yard and see what looks like a perfectly painted line about three quarters up on the bushes. The top third of the bush is dark green and lush, with the bottom two thirds looking brownish gray and barren.

However, the reason for most of my excitement is that this is only the third year we have been growing almost exclusively from seed. For eighteen years I went to the local garden center and bought our transplants. It made things easier, and with everything else going on this time of year, it made scheduling sense, too. We have been determined to do everything from seed the last few years though. Between my niece Siri needing things to do in the winter (not to mention her green thumb) and me getting the survival bug a few years back, we can only proceed to grow veggies from seed from now on.

And now for my little secret …

This is not officially the third year of planting from seed. No, no, no. This is the first year of planting from seed with any success. That’s right. I was failing at seedlings and transplanting. My Siri was planting with me in the basement every year in February. We would water every day and keep shop lights over all of the plants. Most everything would come up well. Some things would give us a hard time, but we would fertilize, adjust the PH, or just start over if it was early enough.

Once it was safe to do so, we would put the plants in the greenhouse. I would tend to the plants in the greenhouse every day. I was using clear covers for some flats. I would start more seeds out there like lettuce, cabbage, spinach, etc. The cold weather things we all can’t wait to get at in the early season. Some plants would go outside during the day and back in the green house at night, avoiding the frost. Others would go in the house on real cold nights. I was real diligent.

Every April I would start working the soil with the tiller. Then, once the frost warnings were gone, the beds would be raised and the transplanting would begin. Everything would be planted according to climate conditions and harvest dates. Siri would be so excited.

Then after a week or two she would get bored with doing the garden every day. She’s only nine so it was expected. Sometimes it would bother me. You know, you want your kids to follow through on projects, and see things to the end. She also enters the ribbon competitions at all the fairs, so we want her to actually earn her awards.

Thank goodness for her attention span!

The first two years things were not going good with the transplanting, so, I would pull the plants out as they were dying off and go back to the garden center and buy plants! Tami would be at work. Siri would be at school, and I would wait for Mom and Kim to go shopping or run errands. Then I would plant the store plants.

It didn’t bother me that I was struggling with starting from seed. I had been doing it this way for eighteen years. But to see Siri fail at starting from seed would really torment me. She was so young, and she was so proud of those seedlings. She has been in the garden with me since she was three. I didn’t want her to think she was bad at gardening. So I would cheat.

Well, there it is. My little secret has been exposed! But that’s OK. Everything has really taken off this year. I may not get into garden heaven because of my little secret, but Siri is a three-year seed veteran, and we are all going to be eating our harvest from what we started in the basement all those months ago when it was still snowing.

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