Sprout, Dang It! When Seeds Forget to Read Instructions

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There will be times you’ll wish that seeds would just get on with it and sprout, dang it!

Sprout, dang it!

Sprout, dang it!

You’ll start to crave the sight of green, the delicate hesitant shoots of a seedling peeping out of a peat pot’s soil.

You’ll begin swearing at the fine print on seed packets. “But the package says ‘Seeds will germinate in 1 to 3 weeks’ – it’s been TWENTY-TWO DAYS!”

You’ll be tempted to call up the seed company and point out the misleading “Guaranteed to Grow” stamp on the back: “But you PROMISED!!”

Best Lesson: Nobody told the seeds when to sprout

99% of the time, the expectations that need to be adjusted are our own, not those of the seed.

Seeds are very poor readers. Sure, the package says one to three weeks. But the seed is on the INSIDE of the package, where no instructions are printed.

Seeds don’t sprout overnight (in most cases). If the package says one to three weeks, don’t fret when nothing happens in one to three days.

Seeds don’t sprout just anywhere (in most cases). Does that particular seed crave 99% humidity and deep shade? Do you live in a suburb of Las Vegas? Maybe it’s safer to gamble on something else sprouting, like sagebrush or salt cedar.

Seeds don’t sprout under every condition (in almost all cases). It’s critical to know your hardiness zone – and know what hardiness zones are about.

Sometimes seeds don’t sprout, period. That’s what happened in my ventures with cardboard palms and eucalyptus seed. After over a year of waiting, I had to just admit that basking in the shade of my very own cardboard palm wasn’t in my future (and not just because the pictures that I found of cardboard palms show them growing very low to the ground).

Next Best Lesson: Ask for help – wisely and armed to the teeth

Ginger and basil working together with astonishing results

Ginger and basil working together with astonishing results

I will keep repeating this until you are muttering it in your sleep: Know Your Hardiness Zone.

When asked for help, most people are going to lead with “Where do you live?” — that determines what advice they give you or where they point you for more information. If you live in Miami, the advice will be different from what you’ll receive if you live in Seattle or Bangor, Maine.

When something fails to happen according to my own imperfect expectations, sometimes I call my friendly Master Gardener and sob on her shoulder. She’ll sympathize and not laugh too loud, remind me that we live in a hot dry desert in temperatures akin to the surface of the sun (see above regarding Know Your Hardiness Zone),

… then she’ll cheer me up by pointing out that hardly anyone living on the surface of the sun gets XYZ to sprout without first soaking the seeds in hot magma at 40,000 degrees Fahrenheit and dedicating the burnt seed packet to Aphidistracia, pagan goddess of annoying insects that chirp and eat concrete.

(Sorry, Mia. I know you wouldn’t use those exact words!)

… then I point out that, even though it’s 127F outside, I garden indoors mainly because we live in a hot dry desert in temperatures that make the surface of the sun jealous.

I hop on the Internet and search for “how to get eucalyptus seeds to germinate without moving to Melbourne for the winter.” Sometimes the results are amazingly informative. Sometimes, though, I have to remind myself that not everything on the Internet is gospel or even anywhere near true, and that soaking seeds in hot magma at 40,000 degrees Fahrenheit is total fiction. Please don’t try this at home or on the surface of your nearby sun.

I visit two of the behemoths of gardening lore: Wikipedia and Dave’s Garden. Dave’s Garden is a lot easier to navigate than when I first visited a few years ago. Both are packed full of advice and knowledgeable people. Check out the Dave’s Garden Community, and dive in.

Next Best Lesson: Fail gracefully and go plant something else.

Sometimes the best lesson is the one learned by knowing when to go do something else. If that eucalyptus seed is not sprouting in your garden in Juneau in March, there’s probably a pretty good reason. (Hint: see above advice – Know Your Hardiness Zone)

I’ve got no problem at all admitting that something just ain’t gonna. If nothing happens after I’ve followed the instructions to the letter, I don’t mind ditching the whole project into the drum compost bin and trying something else.

I keep my failures —or at least photographic evidence— to remind me what works and what didn’t. It helps keep the successes in perspective.

Failure only happens if you try. When you’re facing a failure, remember that it’s a sure sign that you’re trying!

To your garden success!
Casey – the Garden Lass

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