Monday, 15 March 2010

Planting seeds ...

This is our garden, looking messy. It isn't messy now though, because I tidied it. Now it's looking lovely.

It's surprising to me that planting seeds is one of the few things that I don't feel the need to do 'properly'. By that, I mean that I don't have any little OCDs about it. I don't actually have OCD, of course, but like many perfectly sane people, I do have little quirks and rituals that accompany many of the things I do day to day. For example, I like the washing to be folded neatly, and for every item to be turned over in exactly the right ways - this obsession has its roots in practicality: clothes have less creases when they are taken from the pile to be worn if they have been folded correctly in the first place. Another one of my 'things' is that I can only have the volume on the telly adjusted to a multiple of two or five; so for example, I might turn it up to 22, 35, 40, but never 31, 27 - those odd numbers are just too untidy, and I know that they're there, so my viewing is disturbed if I know the volume is on 33 etc.. I don't know where the roots of this one are, it's just something I do!
Anyway, I was saying about seeds. I'm not like this with seeds, and I'm not sure why. My dad bought bedding plants last year, many of them. They arrived from a site on the internet, all tiny little plugs in tiny little trays. He lovingly transplanted them into small pots, labelled them, lined them up in species and colour order, in full view of the sunshine, just inside his patio doors. He watered them, tended them, watched them, waited with them, until they were ready to go outside. Then he repeated the process of transplanting, into the carefully prepared bed in his back garden. There were the little plants, all in neat rows, every one equidistant from its neighbours. He weeded, watered, watched and waited again. And he was rewarded with a feast of colour and perfume, when his carefully cultivated meadow flowers bloomed spectacularly. He planted these flowers specifically to attract butterflies and lacewings and ladybirds, and attract them he did. A victory for the aphid-eaters!
I look at my dad's regimented rows of splendid green shoots, and I am filled with a jealous longing. I want to have tiny little pots with little plant plugs in them in my dining room, all looking out of the patio doors, waiting to be allowed to play in the borders in the sun and fresh air. But it cannot be. My boys would not mean to crush the shoots, but crush them they would. It would be impossible to keep them safe in our house, there is just not enough room for them. But we do our best. We did our little bit of planting yesterday. I have a new seed box in which I keep all my packets of seeds, all in the correct order so that I can see what needs to be planted in which month. This is the only OCD bit of the process. Once the seeds leave the box, order plays no part. Compost is chucked into pots, willy-nilly. I have not sorted out my pots. I have only large pots - pots far too big for germinating. But I use what I have because I always forget to prepare properly and never remember to buy seed trays. I could wait until the next weekend, and buy the seed trays during the week - but I just don't. Once I've decided that I'm doing the seeds, then the seeds just have to be done. So, the compost is in the pots. There's also quite a lot of compost on the table, on the patio, on the soles of shoes, being walked into the house. But the boys are having fun and getting messy, and at this stage of our lives this is what it's all about. Then the seed packets are opened. Many of the seeds are spilled onto the floor and then blown who-knows-where about the garden. The birds will enjoy them. But we still have plenty of seeds for planting. I have a dibber, but since I don't have seed trays I figure that there's not much point in using it; I'll get it out next year when I do have seed trays. Instead we just sprinkle a generous handful of seeds on top of the compost in each pot. We know that there is very little hope of producing good and healthy plants this way, but this is what we do. Then we cover up the seeds with another layer of compost, squash it down, water in and that's it. That is our planting of seeds. It takes about ten minutes. This we do most years, in exactly this way. Have I ever grown anything by this method? No. I have not. I did grow some tomato plants once, in grow bags - they were looking great, right up until the point when they had to be moved because we were getting a new shed and they were in the way: then they died.
I'm not a gardener, but I have a go. My garden is a lovely place to be. It has lovely borders (although I've just pruned several shrubs to almost the point of death!), and I do take care of them in Summer. But all of my plants are very hardy and all I really have to do is weed. But I LOVE it, I really do, and isn't that the most important part? I think I could probably experiment with a few plants that are more difficult to grow - I have common sense when it comes to gardening, and know a few things and am interested enough to learn more. But I'm just not quite committed enough at the moment, with so many other things that I want to be doing. But I will try harder. I WILL buy seed trays, and I will germinate and transplant and do all of those things properly one year. Just not this year :)

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