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Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.

Making 'Lemonade' from Seedling Failure

peas growing

I have been raising my garden from seedlings for a very long time. I normally have immense success and delight in watching my babies thrive from first emergence to harvest. Much of the time, my own homegrown seedlings rival their nursery-raised cousins.

So far this season, my outdoor babies are coming along famously. I’ll soon be updating you on those potatoes I decided to experiment with. Both the hops and the peas (latter pictured above) are reaching for the stars! I’m looking forward to munching on the peas in the not too distant future. The hops will end up in apple cider and mead later in the summer.

Enemy forces seemed to converge over my indoor green thumbs this year, resulting in a near complete seedling failure. I suspect it was a multi-level attack. Mixed in were a couple of deviations I made — including a new starter soil and a different location for their birthing. To top it off, we were cursed with a very late hard frost. I’m trying hard not to get too attached to those babies still limping along on life support, but it’s difficult not to since I was really looking forward to trying some new varieties this year.

As I always look for the silver lining and bright side, I think I may have found my lesson here — though it took me a couple of weeks to grasp it. I remembered spending sweet time with our youngest son and a friend of his at a local nursery a couple of Mother’s Days ago. I decided to see if the place was still in business. Happily they were and they didn’t disappoint.

This Secret Garden (about 20 minutes from my home) offers a wonderful selection of vegetables and perennials, many of them heirloom varieties. I’d remembered their vast selection of tomatoes in particular. I was thrilled they were continuing to present such a lovely bunch. I’m looking forward to making a lot more salsa than I was able to last year. I’m almost afraid to count how many tomato plants I came away with… it may be nearly 30. C’mon salsa!

purchased tomato and pepper seedlings

In filling my flats with most of my desired crops, I realized that finding such a special nursery might just be the perfect way for me to compromise on my usual approach to vegetable gardening. I’ll admit that I’m feeling my age (body-wise) as I approach the big 6-0, and I think scaling back on how many flats of seeds I start might be a smart thing to consider more in earnest.

To Grow or to Buy Seedlings?

In the past, I was skeptical about purchasing rather than raising my own because there aren’t a lot of places nearby that I trust to use the non-GMO, organic seeds that I prefer. The Secret Garden is a great match for my tastes in that regard, as well as having the wide choices. I figure I can start the few plants I can’t easily find, filling no more than one flat, and purchase the rest from the nursery. The time and resources this will save can free me up for more arting or other endeavors and will also cut back on our electric bill.

Not only was I able to purchase the veggies that I wanted, but I was also able to find a lovely variety of flowers for the Mom’s Altar in our garden honoring the mothers in our family. My husband came along with me to the nursery and chose some of the plants as well. I enjoyed blending our tastes in flowers and vegetables. We may actually make this an annual adventure. I’ve also asked my bestie to put it on her calendar for next year as she’s an avid gardener who I think will also love the variety of plants.

I’m very hopeful that this group of babies will find happiness in our garden and that they’ll be supplying us with delectable edibles later this season. Until the veggies are ready, the flowers will be a feast of color out our front window. Here’s to lemonade and lessons, along with gratitude for flexibility and shifting with the winds.

purchased flower and cabbage seedlings

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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