Tuesday, March 22

i'm a mama!

I planted seeds for the first time ever this spring, and it's been quite the journey so far. 

I planted seeds for eggplant, collards, spinach, basil, Roma tomatoes, Brandywine tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, tomatillos, Guajillo chiles, green bell peppers, and jalapenos.  I know!  I was excited too!  I was all like, OMG, I can't wait for everything to come up so I can find out what the hell a tomatillo is

According to the backs of the seed packets and to various commercials for fertilizers and cat food, within a week or two, hundreds of seedlings would joyously spring up and leaf out and burst into bloom, and birds would flutter down, and there would be salmon splashing around and ladybugs and singing.  And I felt confident that I could facilitate all this.  I watered and picked fallen leaves from the soil.  I talked to the seeds the way the back of the Happy Frog Organic Vegetable Fertilizer bag says to.  I faithfully moved the pots inside in the evenings since it was still cold at night, and outside into the sun during the day.  Except for the leafy greens which were in a box garden and so on their own when it came to surviving the elements. 

I tried to do everything the seed packets told me to, and I felt that things were probably progressing well, although there was no clear proof that anything was happening in the pots.  And then came the Big Freeze.  After that, I re-checked the seed packets.   But they never said a word about what happens if you have a Big Freeze shortly after you do all your planting.  Or at what point to give up all hope of ever seeing a collard with your own eyes.  Or what to do about it if nothing happens.  (Panic, I assume.) 

Frankly, without the seed packets telling me what to do, I was kind of at a loss.

What I wound up doing, as per my usual strategy, is waiting around for awhile.  During this period, I wandered around the house in my fuzzy socks with my brow furrowed in a thoughtful manner, making firm statements such as, "I've decided to wait until the third weekend in March to plant any more seeds."  As if I know Thing One about seeds.  Or, for that matter, March in Tucson.  Like, for example, it's raining tonight. I seriously never saw that coming.

The weather eventually began to warm up for reals and still nothing sprouted.  Assuming the worst, I went ahead and dropped a few more seeds into the barren pots.  I gently watered all the pots and left them in the sun so the magic promised by the cat food commercials could happen. 

Every day I came home from work and went right out back to examine my pots for seedlings.  Having weathered (so to speak) the Big Freeze and finally made it to spring, I felt I could breathe easier.  We're on Easy Street now, baby, I told myself smugly.  I hadn't counted on predators, however, or I wouldn't have been so smug about it.

People complain about deer and rabbits and ground squirrels destroying their gardens, but the worst predator of all is my dog Lila. It wasn't long before she discovered that there was new soil in those pots.  I began coming home to find that Lila had pawed the top layer of soil out of four or five of the biggest pots.  How wonderful it must have felt between her toes!  How soft against her tender nose as she buried her snout deeply and inhaled its rich, loamy scent!  How like a gentle spring rain as she flung it up into the air and let it spill down upon her!  For days this happened.  I felt sure my seeds were doomed and wondered briefly if the dog was incubating any of them in her stomach and how much a thing like that might come to in vet bills. 

The seeds, I figured, were either dried up and lost in the wind, digested, or will eventually sprout next to the patio and then perish in the foot traffic there.  You might think I would be discouraged.  But no!  I scooped all the dirt up off the ground and refilled the pots anyway and patted it down and spent the next few days wandering around the house in my lighter-weight spring socks making firm statements such as, "She won't do it again."  Finally I got smart and stuck some rocks in the pots which proved to be a much more effective method of stopping the pawing than just fervently hoping she'd quit.

Baby Mystery Plants #'s 2 - 7
And finally, this past weekend, just when it was looking like I would have to sprinkle more seeds in more pots - and then build a greenhouse and exchange Lila for a gerbil - things started sprouting.  It was like magic had ensued!  I may actually have clasped my hands together and said, "AWWW" and then performed a small dance when I saw the first little sproutlings.  May have.  Okay, did.

And then I realized that nothing is labeled anymore because when I was labeling everything the first time around, I ran out of toothpicks and couldn't be bothered to get back into the random kitchen implement drawer for more (it's just so deep and frightening in there) and for some reason it had seemed reasonable to believe that memory would suffice once things started popping up.  Ah, yes, I would say at the first pale curl of tender baby leaflet, it is obvious from the pseudo- terminal counterclockwise whorl of the supernumerary bud that this is an eggplant. 

I guess "nothing is labeled anymore" is not really the right term here.  What I mean is "half of them never got labeled at all because I was simply to lazy to mess with it and now I regret that because, my god, even if these things fruit, I'm still not going to know a tomatillo from a ground squirrel which I don't think I planted, but really, without labels, how would I know?!"

So, this year's going to be even more fun than last year because it's Mystery Plant Year!  Tomatoes?  Eggplants?  Basil?  Tomatillos?   More importantly, how much water are they going to take and do they prefer sun or partial shade and how long are they going to live until I inadvertently kill them?  Who knows?  Regardless of the answers to these timeless questions, I finally have baby plants and I'm very pleased about it. 
Baby Mystery Plant #1
Update!  Not half-an-hour after publishing this, Lila decimated Mystery Plants #'s 2 - 7.  Two of the six were pawed up.  I managed to rescue four of them with some careful pushing around of loosened dirt.  They're still upright, at least.  I'm scrapping the rock idea and have now piled furniture around the pots.

No comments: