Thursday, January 8, 2009

To seed or not to seed?



There is no annual tradition of annuals in my family. My mother is a great rosarian and can talk hybrid teas and aged steer manure till the cows come home, but springtime seed trays were not a regular feature of my upbringing.

Should I be starting from seeds or not? I cannot rely on adopted lineage for guidance, as two of my favorite garden experts go opposite ways. Henry Mitchell waxed poetic about sowing seeds indoors (but this was a man who could make painting garden stakes in the basement sound like a numinous experience). 

The alternate point of view is from Dianne Benson, who draws a line in the sandy loam and refuses to cross over into propagation land. And she has a point--the trays, the lights, the schedules, the hassle. It's enough to make you wait until May and pay $10.95 for a moonflower in a one-gallon pot.

Also, there's the whole process of thinning that is so blithely discussed. Call me a wimp, but I think it's rather unkind to pull up a lot of plants just because they're smaller than their peers. A few weeks earlier one had prepared new abodes for them, invited them in, encouraged their growth with light and water--now if they lag behind a bit, YANK, they're dead. 

Seems a bit harsh.

But that is, in fact, how all those one-gallon moonflowers at the nursery were raised. And complaining about thinning them myself is like the time my 6 year-old granddaughter saw a fisherman with a live fish on his line and cried out, That's so mean! Why doesn't he just buy fish at the grocery store?

You can see the end of the story, can't you? I'll space the moonflower seeds far apart so I don't have to thin them, get them all safely into pots on the deck, enjoy them as they flourish in their viney way, and then knock them off because I'll forget to water them during a heat wave in August.

There's more than one way to be harsh to a plant. I'd better stay busy with the watering can this summer.

13 comments:

Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said...

If your posts are going to provide this kind of humor, you've got me coming back for more. I loved this post! Thanks for it:)
Jan

Daffodil Planter said...

Welcome Jan! Thanks for stopping by. Delighted that you liked the post. Are you an indoor sower or not?

susan (garden-chick) said...

Daffodil Planter,
I'm impressed with your go-for-it attitude. I confess that mere planting often seems like too much work for me (hence the nursery containers rooted to the ground because the plants got tired of waiting for me to get around to them) so propagating is not for me. Don't you wind up with a lot of extras? Some of my master gardener friends are serious propagators, and either belong to garden clubs with regular plant sale fund raisers, or constantly give plants to each other (often not gratefully received; it's a lot like giving away zucchini or fruitcake when you have your own plant addiction). Welcome to blotanical! Susan

Daffodil Planter said...

Welcome Susan! Thank you for your very funny observations! I will take it slowly this spring (I hope) and will bear in mind the images of zucchini and fruitcake.

Daphne said...

That was funny. In the last few years I've bought most of my transplants (translate that as gotten lazy), but this year I'm starting from seed again and raising transplants again (translate this as gone insane).

Daffodil Planter said...

Welcome Daphne! Thanks for visiting. I just looked at your new light system for seedlings--impressive! Intimidating! I will go for the "sunny window" approach here and see what happens. Will track your extensive vegetable garden plan with interest too!

Carol said...

For the record, when I thin seedlings, I never yank them. That might disturb the chosen few. Instead, I snip them off with some tiny scissors! But as you point out, there are many ways to kill a plant.

Pomona Belvedere said...

It's nice to know I'm not the only gardener who sighs before and after seeding. I've simplified my life by just sowing in little seed propagators outside: no lights, no indoors. Survival of the fittest. Thinning is so hard and so arbitrary, I feel like a fascist dictator when I do it. Who am I to say what lives and what dies? But it's the human condition.

Daffodil Planter said...

Welcome Carol, Thank you for visiting the Sierra Nevada foothills!

Daffodil Planter said...

Pomona, I am intrigued by your outdoor propagation strategy. We are so close in climate, I will be curious to hear when you start.

Wicked Gardener said...

I hate to yank seedlings. Come to think of it, I hate to yank weeds as well. . .

Daffodil Planter said...

Welcome Wicked! Well now that you mention it, I don't mind pulling weeds--except for the tiny cedar trees that are so cute and try hard to stay in the ground. That is to say, I don't feel tender-hearted about weeds; the actual work of pulling them does not appeal!

Carol said...

DP You are a genius at wit! I love Henry Mitchell and your writing would have him in stitches too. I love your metaphor of the fish. I feel the same way about having the power to say or pull who can live and who must die with exception to bishops weed (goutweed) and other tenacious plants thugs.