April 10, 2013 - Hey, my plants are growing!
Yep, it is true. Last year I had this wild idea to save some seeds from a Brandywine tomato to plant 'em and grow 'em again this year.
I saved the seeds, dried the seeds and stowed them away out on the porch until three weeks ago. Then I constructed an inside green house, set up a grow light, planted said seeds in egg cartons covered in plastic wrap and . . .
. . . VIOLA!
I have little baby heirloom tomatoes growing.
I was so geeked I planted some pole bean seeds this past week from seeds I saved in the fall 2011 and some hot pepper seeds, too. You could start calling me Donny Green Thumbs, except for...
Uhm? What do I do with these cute little, itty-bitty seedlings. Keeping 'em watered is a given, but what else do I do to make them grow up to be strong, healthy tomato plants?
Okay my gardening buddies and buddettes, I will admit it: I am used to cheating in the garden. Year in and year out I buy the plants already started, which means they've already been toughened up. I spend 40 minutes trying to start the rototiller (take out the spark plug, sand it a little, spray ether in the carburetor, and then pull like a good little puller should); an hour rototilling and raking; an hour looking at plants at the nursery; 15 minutes standing in line to pay for said plants and about seven minutes to plant everything.
Hmmmm? Maybe I asked the wrong question a paragraph or so ago. Maybe I shoulda asked, "What shouldn't I do to make them strong, healthy tomato plants?" Like, don't forget to water them, or don't feed them solid foods until they are two months old. You know, that sorta thing.
Are they like kids? Do you touch 'em a lot and speak encouragingly? And, speaking of seedlings, I have more than one seedling in each of the little egg holders in the egg cartons. Do I just let them all grow and let the strongest survive? Do I split them and replant the ones I take out or do I just rip out the scrawny ones in favor of the stronger ones?
Let me state for the record, that that doesn't sound very nice or humane -- it sounds down right Darwinian. I mean everything needs a chance to grow and meet its full potential, don't they?
It seems a waste to raise all these little life forms past the seed stage only to terminate the weaker ones. I don't see the justice in that. Which, gardening fans is probably one reason my 12-foot by eight garden look less formal and more -- uhm -- jungly. Each year "volunteer" plants who have struggled to survived the cold winter, bugs, critters and both my fall and spring rototillings pop up and each year I have the same moral dilemma.
Pull 'em or let 'em live?
It's not much of a problem when a tomato plant or two sprouts up. Or a potato or a pepper plant. I let them live as long as they can. It's much more of an issue when "last year's" Halloween pumpkin seeds pop up and grow. I have spent a lot of time trying to train pumpkin vines through rows and around planted plants to make sure everybody in the garden has a shot of making fruit.
It gets tricky sometimes.
Speaking of the garden, this year I was thinking of making toad homes. I got this idea that if I invite and make living conditions good for toads that they will come in and eat earwigs and slugs. I hate earwigs and slugs. And for the record, I don't care if it is not humane for toads to eat earwigs or slugs. I say, bon appetit, Mr. & Mrs Toad and I hope you come back again!
So much for the Zen Don, let 'em all live outlook on life.
But, back to the reason for this week's "gem" of a column: What do I do now with my wee, little seedlings? Let me know! If you don't they may die and you wouldn't want that on your conscience! E-mail me, Don@ShermanPublications.org.
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org