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The joy of seedlings

The rolling-pin treatment didn't help my beets germinate. But soaking them overnight sure did! Now I have enough plants to eat some as sprouts. With flowering okra, the nail file did the trick: 92% germination, as opposed to 63% with sandpaper. I guess those seeds weren't too old after all.

To see all these babies gave me such a rush, I cleaned out a ziploc bag I'd had in the freezer, of even older seeds: a pink Maltese cross (Lychnis chalcedonica), creamy-white 'Snowdrift' marigold, and a non-trailing nasturtium called 'Peach Melba Superior,' which is soft yellow with maroon blotches. I put them all between damp paper towels for a few days, and then carefully planted the ones that sprouted. The tiny lychnis seeds had grown into the paper towel so far I had to tear the towel away from them with my tweezers, and I must have damaged microscopic feeder hairs on their single new roots. But more lychnis emerged from the soil than marigolds.

Among the beets, damping-off disease has struck, though I thought outdoors the fresh air and sun would prevent it. When some of the seeds sprouted quickly from the soil, but others still had not come up, I used a mister to keep the soil damp (and all this rain helped, too). Then when some of the new sprouts keeled over with that characteristic pinched stem, I cut their cells out of the sixpacks — and the still-blank ones too, giving up on plants belowground in order to save the sturdy early-risers.

But I'm happy with whatever grows. And so far, it's so much! Trays of seedlings crowd the porch. I feel wealthy. Also captivated: the drama of life rising in such tiny things ... fills me with wonder. Right outside my kitchen door, so much is happening.

The beets have crimson stems so bright they look illuminated from within; this color grows into the veins of the leaves, which are otherwise a sharply contrasting bright green. The nasturtium sprouts start off a maroon so dark it's hard to see them against the soil; such a different kind of red! As the three-lobed cotyledons open, their amazing color takes on blue, and then green hues too. These nasturtium sprouts are husky, growing fast. The lychnis are so tiny I feel like holding my breath.

I walk out there twenty times a day, to watch all this.

Photo by C.H. Clark - 26 June: The claytonia has bolted; behind it the first crop of beet greens are getting tall. Some malva in pots need bigger ones; and seedlings galore are coming along.

Text and photos © Copyright 2006 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 16 June 2006

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