Thursday, April 02, 2009

Adventures in Planting Seeds

“There was a small girl of Leeds
Who planted what she thought were seeds,
These she watered each day
But I’m sorry to say,
They never came up, they were beads!”
- Louise Seymour Jones, Who Loves a Garden

Failure already? Four entire seed packets (2 eggplant and 2 peppers), planted March 4 and nothing to show. How is this fair? Then there’s the thunbergia and sacred lotus, planted a mere week ago, and still nothing. I soaked the thunbergia and lotus seeds overnight in water with a little inoculant added. I even drilled tiny holes in the lotus seeds: shaped like black marbles and let them soak overnight before planting. I did the same with some seeds of Kapok (Ceiba pentandra) a friend liberated from the specimen adjacent to the Huntington Garden mansion. I expect the big and/or thick shelled seeds will take more patience, but it’s still discouraging to see several trays of peat pots looking empty as the day they were planted.

My home-made potting mix was probably infected with damping off. Or despite being covered with a plastic shower curtain on cold nights, the warm-season seeds were probably scared to death of the cold. Or perhaps I planted beads. I might as well have for all I have to show.

I’m having more luck in the real garden, where mustard seed sprouts already fill a large pot. I’ve got sprouts in the herb garden, but won’t know what they are until they’re a bit more grown-up. I think one of my hop vines is sprouting, but it could be a purple hyacinth bean, put in the same place at the same time.

I make no pretense of having a green thumb. Just because I like to garden doesn’t mean I’m any good at it. I can’t cultivate lush tropicals because I’m just too negligent. Exotic flowers don’t survive my benign neglect. While I no longer murder plants that don’t belong in my Zone 9 yard, I tend to push the envelope, with the degree of success a 15year old with a learner's permit would have in trying to jump their car over 6 school buses. I don’t have tall shade trees beneath which I can plant understory forest plants of my childhood: violets and lilies of the valley. I tend to (un-humbly) blame my environment for my gardening failures, making me slower to learn the horticultural lessons I most need to master.

Enthusiasm takes a gardener only so far. Cultivating patience probably takes one a baby step farther down the garden path. After that, a certain amount of skill is required – or at least a minimum of horticultural knowledge, and humility in the face of Nature. I expect I’ve got more in common with the small girl of Leeds when it comes to gardening savvy than I do with a genuine gardener. Now that I think about it, those lotus seeds did look an awful lot like beads…


walk2write said...

Don't feel too bad. I saw P. Allen Smith look foolish the other day on a national morning news show. He was putting seeds in those little peat pots that expand after you water them. Only his weren't expanded. He suddenly remembered and said but of course you must water them first! Experts! Should we trust them? Maybe you should have really scarified the seeds by telling them they were screw-ups. Show 'em you mean business.

colleen said...

Isn't the unpredictability of seed sowing one of its pleasures? Every now and then that pushing against the boundaries works out; and following the rules doesn't. Amen to that.

tina said...

They were beads huh? Maybe that's why my durned ole peas did not come up!:)

greeny said...

Impatience isn't a gardener's friend. I have done the same with my mixed flat of pepper and tomato seeds. The tomatoes shot up but the peppers have taken their own sweet time and still one variety is not up. The tomato sprouts need to be outside every day to keep from getting leggy before I can transplant but them. That's what I get for squishing them together in one flat because I was out of potting soil.
I just reread your profile and found myself ever so much closer to you then with all our other exchanges put together. I have the success I have because I have a hospitable climate, not because I know what I am doing. But let's call ourselves brave mavericks for planting outside the box. How boring is it to follow the rules?
Im waiting to hear if it was purple hyacinth bean or hops...

TC said...

Sorry to hear of your "unsuccess." Don't fret, you'll grow into it. Read this post, with one of my poems:

Mildred said...

Nice to know I am not the only one fumbling with seeds :-)

Annie in Austin said...

A very experienced Austin gardenblogger with a small greenhouse blames our similar seedling problems on loss of brands of seed starting mixes we used to like. Thinks available mixes are crap.

Whether she's right or not, it's good to have something to blame.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose