We almost didn’t go to the seed-starting workshop put on by the Cape Cod Organic Gardeners. I mean, really, you put the seed in the little pot, and give it some water and sunlight. It’s the stuff kindergarten projects are made of.
But we were willing to acknowledge that there might have been agricultural innovations since our kindergarten days, so on a recent Sunday we headed out to the Kelly Farm, where its owner, the venerable Jean Iverson, was going to teach us how to start seeds.
We learned a lot. We learned that it’s important to use a soil mix designed to start seeds. We learned to keep seeds moist but not wet. We learned to keep them warm and dark until they sprouted, and warm and light thereafter. We learned to be ruthless in our culling. We learned that a cold frame could extend our growing system, and how to build one.
We went home empowered, and started our seeds. Kevin built our cold frame. Everything sprouted just fine. When it looked like freezing nights were behind us, we moved our seedlings into the cold frame. And that’s when the trouble started.
At least I thought that’s where the trouble started. I learned later that the trouble started when I decided to start cucumbers so early in the spring.
“Oh, no! You can’t start delicate plants like cucumbers this early,” said my friend Christl, whose gardening skills border on the mystical.
As tragedies go, the Great Cucumber Die-Off doesn’t hold a candle to, say, the Spanish Flu of 1918, but it’s notable for its 100% success rate. Every seedling succumbed.
Not all is well in other parts of the cold frame. The fennel looks like it’s going to go the way of the cucumbers, and the beets are barely hanging on. In fact, many of the plants in our cold frame seem to be afflicted by Failure to Thrive. They’re not dropping dead, but there are way too many yellowish leaves and leggy stems for me to be optimistic. There’s also a general air of dispiritedness, which I’m convinced is contagious.
Last year, we didn’t bother with seeds. We simply waited for June and bought plants from local farm stands and garden stores. We put the plants in the ground, made sure they got water and sunlight, and they rewarded us amply. Remind me – what’s wrong with that?