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Awake at the Whisk: Seed Madness

Monday, May 18, 2009


Seed Madness

My friend just asked me, “Amber, do you do anything small?”

I believe I responded, “Yeah, I get a little obsessed.”

And I do. Let’s take my seed love for example. This winter, feeling blah from the cold and grey, I turned to the pages of the Seed Savers catalog. Filled with all sorts of summer promise, the pages called to me. I read that publication from cover-to-cover as my husband watched on in amazement. After reading aloud three descriptions of eggplants to him, he gave up and walked away. They all sounded the same to him. But to me, each one offered a nuance that I wished to experience.

Choosing seeds was hard enough. When they arrived, planting them seemed the easy part. Of course, every seed packet recommended you plant two or three seeds in case a few of them never sprouted. I carefully followed the instructions, set my many trays of seeds in nearly every available window of my house, and misted them gently with water from a spray bottle every day. My morning routine now had one more critical component.

When each tiny seed began to sprout, I experienced the joy of a child seeing her first kitten. I would squeal with delight, clap my hands, and run to find my husband to share the news. If he was at work, I would call him, sometimes five times a day, with updates. At breakfast time, the purple bell peppers might have yielded one new sprout. By lunchtime, a tomato and three cucumbers might have joined them. Each sighting felt as rare as spotting a bald eagle in the forest. Joy and elation can hardly express it.

As my seedlings grew, I realized the folly of my ways. Not only did I plant two or three seeds in each tiny container, but I planted at least nine containers for each type of plant. When it was all said and done, and every last seedling had sprouted, I was the proud parent of about 200 vegetable plants! And as a beaming mother, I could not yank a single species from its roots and let it die.

Thus, as winter turned to spring and I anxiously awaited my garden soil warming, I spent weekends outside repotting my tiny seedlings into somewhat larger peat pots, carefully labeling each one with a marker. Before I realized, I was hauling card tables in from the garage, plopping them in front of windows and covering every spare inch with seedlings. Instead of taking me a few minutes to mist them all in the morning, it now took about 20 minutes. As my summer dreams (plotted out in winter) stretched higher and higher, my life became intertwined with my plants.

I began my plea to friends, offering up free plants. I must have filled two dozen six-packs with nature’s bounty (great transporting containers for tiny pots!). Friends new and old made the trek to my house. With each visit, I thought my crop would surely be depleted. Yet, with each guest’s departure, my tables full of seedlings looked as crowded as ever. Dozens of gardens in town must now bear my vegetables, but I still have dozens left. I have planted my own garden, packing each veggie as close together as I dare. Yet, my bounty still overcrowds me.

My garden beds now full, I have started filling terra cotta pots on the back porch. Perhaps some peppers will sprout from there? I simply cannot bear to walk away and let them droop and shrivel.

Next year, I think I’ll plant only what I need. Then again, my husband will probably have to make me re-read this come winter. I’m sure I’ll be seed-crazy again by then!

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