In the early winter, I look forward to the arrival of seed and plant catalogues that I keep for reference. I’m grateful for my computer still being on dial-up service and rue the day when the high-speed Internet comes my way. The slowness of service keeps me off the web in search of plants. I’m content to sit with catalogues in my lap instead, reading longingly of heirloom tomatoes, chickories from Italy, and sweet peas filled with scent. Some seeds I can’t resist and buy for the pleasure (and pain) of planting by seed. I’ve recently realized I can’t have it all, neither the mind nor body can consume so many plants. I’ll buy too many packets of flower and vegetable seeds and then find I don’t have space for all the seedlings and even if I did, where is the time for all the nurturing and care?
While the days are still gray and the snows receding there is great pleasure in opening colorfully illustrated packets of seed and placing, one by one, the tiny treasures found inside on soil pressed into pots. It is a wonder that something so small will later make a tomato plant that fills a space three feet wide and twice as tall. No matter how old I get I know I’ll always have the sense of wonder and joy when the seed sends out a shoot, breaking the soil’s surface, searching for light.
As for the “pain” of planting from seed, whether annual or perennial, it is discouraging when the seedlings tended through the first weeks of growth suddenly don’t make it. It is even worse when you have planted out your babies, watered them and fed them, and watched new growth only to return the following day and find broccoli bitten off at ground level, the plant now limp and helpless on the ground or beans and tomatillos chewed down to near death. Last year there were many tears when my 80 heirloom tomato plants got the Early Tomato Blight overnight and had to be destroyed. Destruction in the garden hurts, but it also inspires education so one may try to avoid a repetition in the following years.
When we are on the road and have the time I like searching out antique and junk stores for old garden tools, often sturdier than what is manufactured today. Though I have not been able to bring them into the garden, I just like looking at them and thinking about the hands that used them many years ago and the gardens they might have helped create. I also hunt for old terra cotta pots, especially small pots to start seeds in. They don’t retain moisture like plastic, but they look fantastic and you don’t toss them in the landfill when your plants have grown!