Every year I choose a new project for the garden: one year I might focus on a particular family of plants, like roses or bulbs; the next year I might tackle a troublesome area, like the dark/wet/cold corner by the house (evil lives there, and little else.) I went into this winter planning to focus on herbs in 2010. I immersed myself in plant catalogs and herb guides and recipe books and spent countless hours studying leaf texture, fragrance, flowering potential, sun preference, size, uses outside the garden . . . but that wasn't enough. No, I got super ambitious. I decided to start the majority of my new 2010 plants from seed.
"Hey, baby, nice cotyledons.
Wanna set some roots together?"
It's a mighty endeavor but I'll never be good at it if I don't try, and I want to see if I can. Plus, all the time I spent plotting the new beds, researching what I would need and when I should start, and shopping for the seeds felt enough like gardening that it kept me from losing my cabin-fevered mind and robbing the 7-11. Well - that, the security cameras, and my fear of jail.
Last spring I worked Saturday mornings for a woman who runs a small nursery out of her basement. Miss V, a dynamic octogenarian, started her first plants from seed after her father-in-law told her she wouldn't be able to do it. She also backhanded me on my first day for referring to her expertly prepared soil as "dirt." To say I've learned a thing or two about starting plants from seed under the tutelage of Miss V is an understatement, it's just a matter of whether or not I can do it without her space and equipment and guidance.
Much of what I read this winter warned me to start small, to attempt no more than ten different types of seed. Last year I threw some dry seeding mix (no water + no nutrients = slim chance, dummy) into two trays, poked a seed into each slot without regard to size and set them in a window with southern exposure. I did okay: most seeds germinated; most of those plants made it outdoors; and most of those thrived all season. And since I started those seeds before I had been schooled by Miss V, I consider last year my "start small" year.
But this year I'm going large. In addition to the seeds I collected last fall but failed to tag (Trial and Error 2010: Lesson One), I bought lavender, bachelor's button, cosmos, white coneflower, strawflowers, chives, sweet cicely (myrrh), chinese lantern, 'cherry brandy' rudbeckia, 'bright lights' swiss chard, dichondra (for hanging baskets), and verbena.
I am particularly excited about the strawflowers. The strawflower isn't a fancy plant; it's hardy and laid-back and prolific (the proletariat of the flower kingdom, if you will) but it's one of my favorites. I think I was in first grade when my grandpa tilled a small, circular patch between his rose garden and my favorite tree and told me it was mine. He said I could plant anything I wanted in it but that it was my responsibility. I loved that patch of dirt (soil?) because I loved to be anywhere my grandpa was, and I grew strawflowers in it.
We're watching you.
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