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Delusions of Gardening Grandeur

September 28, 2011

I started this summer with the hope that I would be able to not only fill my garden with beautiful plants, but that I would be able to grow many of them from seed. Starting in early spring, I scoured the racks of seeds for beautiful perennials, herbs and vegetables. I bought special soils for seedlings, as well as seedling trays and lids. The first sprouts came quickly, but then seemed to quit growing. I returned to the nursery, seeking advice. By the time I’d returned, I had invested in more seeds, more trays and a grow light.

With the grow light, the seedlings thrived. As the tiny shoots burst through the soil and grew a little more each day, I envisioned land filled with an unending bounty of tomatoes and peppers and basil and flowers.

Yeah … not so much …

Instead, Oregon’s stormy summer delayed the critical step of transferring the plants outside. Rains were so intense and overnight temperatures were so low that people were warned to put off planting until at least June when we would normally be able to tend the soil as early as April. As each day passed and we transitioned from May to June, I watched my plants begin to stagnate and weaken in the house, where conditions were too steady — too perfect — for them to grow strong and healthy.

So, I returned to the nursery for advice. This time I returned home with a little greenhouse designed to allow the plants to slowly acclimate to being outdoors. Unfortunately, Oregon’s weird weather and my inexperience as a gardener combined to give me tray after tray of dying seedlings.

My herbs went first, followed quickly by the decorative grass and most of the flowers — all burned under a short, but intense round of sunshine. The tomatoes went next. While I was disappointed, I later discovered that many local seasoned gardeners refused to even try to grow tomatoes from seed because the plants were so temperamental. I finally managed to plant the bell pepper plants, but the continued cold weather stunted their growth and kept them from putting on any fruit.

Then, one day in mid August as the days finally grew hot, I realized that one plant not only managed to survive, but it was actually thriving. My Indian Springs hollyhock suddenly exploded with large green leaves and a couple dozen buds about the size of a brussel sprout. When I planted the seedling, I had no idea that it would eventually grow taller than my fence. Or that a second hollyhock seedling would grow so large that it would start crowding out one of my rose bushes.

While I may not have been as successful as I wanted this summer, this little triumph has given me hope that I can plant an even stronger garden next year.

From → Balance

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