What happened is that yesterday Max and I got out the garden seeds and went to work with the outcome being a few little hopeful pots on heat in the greenhouse and a couple rows of peas in the ground unless the birds have already eaten them.
This exciting day of seed-burying made me think that I might ambush you now with a bit of wisdom from my in-process gardening book, a reading experience which goes well with quite a lot of beer or possibly some straight whiskey. (The book does have a working title but with a four-letter word in it so today I’ll just call it my gardening book.)
Okay here we go-
HOW PLANTS DO IT
Of course plants have their own ways of making more plants. Without putting too fine a point on the issue let me just say that you should think back to your childhood and that birds and bees discussion you saw on Leave It To Beaver or some other science documentary. Really plant sex is more like bug footprints or maybe like dusting furniture than it is like real sex but plants don’t know what they’re missing so they don’t whine about it plus what they do works, seedwise, and also gives us a lot of pretty flowers.
BUY SEEDS IN ITTY BITTY QUANTITIES
If your stock portfolio is doing well or you are a member of that family who owns Walmart, why then you might want to order lots of flower seeds from a catalog. I actually did this recently to test drive a new VISA card (which is a lot like the situations above except you have to pay it back) and when I went to plant the seeds I was so impressed with how there could be only 7 seeds in a packet and most of them could be hopelessly stuck in the folds of the envelope and not come out even in the face of my normally powerfully-magical profanities.
GET YOUR FREE SEEDS IN STUPIDLY LARGE QUANTITIES
Plan B: Every summer your already-established purchased (or possibly stolen) garden plants bloom and have pathetic plant sex and then in about late summer the result will be free seeds everywhere, waiting for you, in tidy little packets that look like suitcases or hatboxes, and all you have to do is get out of your La-Z-Boy and collect them.
Not that you can just get up one Saturday morning after sleeping until ten and having your coffee and maybe a croissant or two in your jammies and then announce to the dog, “I guess I’ll gather all the seeds today from every plant I’ve grown all summer.” This will not work. Instead you must become the air traffic controller of seed pods and monitor their development from day one. It’s tricky. They can be early and blew away weeks ago or they can be late and still green at Christmas or they can be never if you mindlessly cut off every last dead bloom.
But when it goes well it is difficult to convey the sense of treasure a gardener experiences as she gathers free ripe seeds into little carefully labeled envelopes to be nurtured the next year into vivacious new plants.
It is a teensy bit addictive, and eventually you may find you own billions of tiny nicotiana seeds, from every year for the past five seasons, and there are rooms full of jars that are all full of little envelopes that is each full of seeds, so handy–and it’s even better if you didn’t get confused and put the wrong names on the labels. (Trust me I know.)
A time comes, like about now, when you have endured miserable winter for some months and you wonder if you will ever again see anything but mud and dead sticks in your garden. This is the time to go to your greenhouse or to your window greenhouse or to your actual window and get some seeds started there. (If for any reason you happen to have some grow-lights in your attic or basement well you can use those too.)
You will need small containers that can function like little plastic pots. (I use little plastic pots.) There are all kinds of packaging you can recycle for this use but egg cartons and paper cups from a good espresso café are the best because I love omelets and coffee. (You keep forgetting this is my blog.)
So you make little holes in the bottoms of the egg cartons and cups and you put about 25 cents worth of a bag of fancy potting soil in each container. Then you put in the seeds following instructions on the seed envelope…But of course if you are planting seeds that you collected yourself well then there will BE no instructions on the envelope unless it was an old AT&T billing envelope that you reused in which case maybe there’s a tiny ad, perhaps “Get a new phone right away because your friends are starting to make fun of that thing you are using.” But this doesn’t help you know how deep to plant the petunia seeds does it?
At times like this it is important to have a gardening resource library of several hundred volumes to thumb through all afternoon or alternatively to have a smart phone so you can search and find the information in maybe twenty seconds and in which case the only gardening book you need is this one I’m writing.
Now I will confess that even I, the Garden Queen of All Knowing (as I sometimes call me), even I once thought that no matter what you were planting the process was always the same: sprinkle the seeds, put soil on top of them, water, sit pot in window or on heat mat in greenhouse. But I am here to tell you that this process is only good 99.9% of the time. Because some seeds make strange and ridiculous demands upon you: they desire six weeks in a dark, cold refrigerator, or to be planted without being covered at all, or to be abused with a knife and then drowned in a glass of water for 24 hours. [In professional plant nursery jargon these requirements are termed the 'Red Room of Propagation' and are not often discussed in polite company.]
Some kinds of seed simply prefer to be carried over to someone else’s house and grown there for you by a person who actually knows what to do and which, in my experience, is a very workable seeding process and it also leaves quite a lot of time for watching The Walking Dead or other educational tv.
So you’ve planted the seeds and then in a week or two or three or in some cases in six months or five years you are thrilled to notice that the world’s tiniest plants have grown in your little pot! You watch them for a few days and then you must toss most of them out.
This need to be selective with seedlings is a common source of stress for the gardener, because typically the seeds will grow like grass and result in a pot filled with maybe 75-1000 little seedlings of for example hollyhocks, when you wanted just three plants to grow by the kitchen door. This can be a terrible moral dilemma for the gardener as she tips up the pot and has to select and transplant the three who shall be allowed to live. This is not as fun as being the Rain Goddess at watering time, no it’s more like being Death Incarnate.
But if you can get beyond apologizing to each discarded seedling, which in itself is progress from the stage where you cry and perform tiny funeral rituals, then you are doing well. If after two planting seasons you are still lighting candles and humming dirges well you might need some professional help on this, or alternatively you could nurture every last seedling and then go into the staggeringly lucrative business of selling your extra plants at outdoor markets. (Hahaha.)
See, you learn stuff here.