Seeds and Scraps of Hope

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Seeds and Scraps of Hope

Spring’s kind of a hard time of year for me. Surprised?

It hasn’t always been that way. Just the last few years.

Since both my mom and dad transitioned from this life in the spring season, I find myself becoming very self-reflective right about now. In between the grieving, I re-evaluate things. I examine details of my life from different angles, deciding what to start, what to keep, and what to let go. I keep moving but, gosh, all this emotional wrestling wears me out.

This year, I thought it might help to have something to look forward to as I go through all of this grieving, self-reflection, and re-evaluation.

I thought I’d try my hand at starting plants from seeds for my garden. I got the grandkids involved, and we emphatically agreed to track the progress.

We planted Dahlias, Gaillardias, and Hollyhocks, three perennials that I know nothing more about than that the pictures looked pretty on the seed packets. I have no idea where I’ll put them, assuming the plants actually make it outside, but I’ll worry about that later. I’m supposed to harden the plants off for a week before I plant them…? Another mystery that I’ll have to unravel as the time draws nearer.

The kids were psyched watching the peat moss pellets grow as we added the water. Have you ever tried this? You can buy self-contained flat-type boxes with clear lids to help with germination. You can find them at any big-box gardening center. I bought an entire 72-pellet flat along with four packets of seeds. Just add a little water…well kind of a lot of water…and the pellets grow right before your eyes, from about a quarter inch tall to about two inches.

I gave strict instructions to my four- and two-year-old helpers to only put three seeds into each expanded peat pellet. The older one was especially vigilant, counting them out and reprimanding his brother the way only bossy first-borns can.  In the end, their pudgy little fingers struggled with the assignment. Seeds kept sticking to the pads of their forefingers and thumbs. With a collective sigh, they flung the rest of the seeds on top of the flat, trusting that they would fall in the right places, before asking if they could please get the Play-Doh out now. I would need to reorganize everything a little after the kids went to bed, but I could handle that, right?

Okay, now to label the seeds. I had three kinds after all, and the mature plant heights were predicted to range anywhere from 18 inches to four-and-a-half feet…kind of important to know which plants were which.

The little label stakes were plentiful, but they were also thickly coated in wax. No matter how hard I tried to record the plant types, I just became more and more frustrated. No problem, I thought. Look how different the seeds are. Some are kind of fuzzy, some are really small and hard, and some look almost like you could eat them…I’ll have no trouble telling them apart.

I covered them all with some of the peat moss and went to bed myself before I realized that I could no longer tell the seeds apart since they were now covered! Wow. Okay, so I’m not a farmer’s daughter. I can only hope that I can tell the difference in the plants based on their size before I put them in the ground.

We began seeing changes the very next day. Literally little bits of green and white could already be seen in some of the pellets. We were all amazed at the daily growth. When we began to see the leaves, the kids petted the plants adoringly, dreaming aloud about what it would be like to find homes for them in the yard.

After awhile, the newness wore off. The kids aren’t checking the little seedlings anymore unless I remind them. We’re still watering and keeping them in the sun just like we’re supposed to, but I’m really not noticing a lot of change at this point. Since they’re not dying, though, I have to say that I’m doing something right. Some of the pellets never germinated, but my guess is that 80% of them did. At this point, I should be cutting back all but the strongest shoots, but I don’t have the heart.

I began to search the internet, looking for trouble-shooting techniques to assure this project’s success. Before I could find what I needed on seedlings, I found some really cool information about using kitchen scraps to grow plants. “Kitchen scraps,” I say. Can you believe it?

My online sources tell me that you can grow celery from the stalk stub, garlic from a clove, romaine lettuce from the stump, ginger root from…um…ginger root, green onions from the white ends, and potatoes from the eyes. The list goes on.

From what I understand, there are five basic methods of starting vegetable plants: water, sphagnum bags, pebbles, soil, and seed. Each method has its advantages.

Starting plants in water is an excellent way to coax roots from potatoes, other tuberous plants, and plants with large pits. However, a sphagnum-filled plastic bag is the perfect environment – moist and humid – for tropical plants.

Pebbles work well for garlic and carrots. Some plants such as onions and radishes can go directly into soil.

Seeds can be removed from a variety of common household vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, and peas. You just need to wash the seeds before sprouting them in either a clear glass of water or a moist paper towel in a sunny window.

Will I try this kitchen scrap growing? Probably not this year, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind for next year, especially if these little seeds that I already planted take off for me.

I have to say, these plants are doing their jobs, pulling me through this oh-so-difficult time of year. Just knowing that these little critters are relying on me for their very life gives me a reason to hope for a better tomorrow.

So, what’d I miss? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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